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Staff and Campers joining in worship!

Camp catalogs are out and it’s time to start thinking about summer plans and making choices about what to do and not.  The competition for time in the lives of young people is unbelievable. So many youth and children have to choose to be a part of so many different things and select what’s important at an ever younger age. I remember back in the day (insert Deke you are old joke here!) when there were sports camps that coaches suggested, but it was our choice. I chose to go to track & basketball camps.  I enjoyed them and loved meeting the coaches that were there and had fun learning more. They improved me as an individual but I am still trying to figure how much they impacted who I am today.

I can’t believe the pressure to do things like this now. It’s almost a go or you won’t play kind of situation in some AAU and schools.  The pressure seems to be ever growing on young people to specialize and focus on things at an even younger age than ever before. This transition has been something that has impacted us in church camping and it makes me sad. Families fell they have to choose between the sports, band or drama camps and sending kids to Wesley Woods because of the financial costs of multiple experiences and time issues.

If you are in this situation please don’t let financial concerns keep you from sending your young people to church camp. There are so many stories about the positive impact an experience at church camp can have on the life of a young person.  As I interview young people to be on staff this summer so many of them identify the “change of pace and place” impact that camp had on them. They had strong foundations in their faith and local congregations that encouraged them to grow, but they found in coming to Wesley Woods a chance to evaluate priorities and to grow faithfully in a different way.

If you want suggestions on how to raise funds to pay for a Wesley Woods experience, assistance in obtaining a scholarship or help with selecting an event call, email or stop by!

Invest today in the future faith of your children and grandchildren. We believe in sharing with young people the

Campers having fun at Adventureland!

presence of God’s love all around them. We share the stories from the bible and our personal faith journeys as we encourage young people to ask themselves what they think and discover more about who God has created them to be.

If you or your young person have been coming to camp and been touched by it share your story here as a comment, host a camp informational party in your home or ask to leave a couple of catalogs at the local dentist or doctors office. We live in a world that could be a lot better if there was just a little more love and forgiveness in it. Help us to share God’s love with the world by sending kids to camp and telling your friends about the difference an experience can make!

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A life Changing Summer!

Summer Staff Chicken Noodle Cook Off


Wow it is hard to believe that January has come and is almost half over. When the first of the year comes I start to get really excited.  Because as January flies by we start the process of getting ready for camp. Summer Staff applications are distributed, we begin interviews and even start to hire the staff.  It is always refreshing to see the excitement young people have as they talk about why they want to be a camp counselor for the summer and the kids they want to impact.  Over the years it has been such a blessing to see these young people as they minister to campers, parents, to me and each other. I could share so many stories of lives that were impacted in very positive ways.

Towards the end of last summer I had a chance to work on the construction of the new shower house with one of the young ladies on summer staff.  There were two or three other groups of people working around us, but we had a chance to just have conversations about faith, life and change.  She shared with me about how growing up she had always felt judged and pushed away from others. She shared about how alone she had felt at times and how much she had yearned for a community to embrace her.  As she shared with me I started to tear up because I knew she was about to tell me how much the summer had impacted her because she had finally found that community and had a place.

I can remember a young and timid camper that came year after year and then finally one summer was old enough to be on summer staff.  I was nervous about receiving the application because I wasn’t sure she could do it. I wasn’t sure she could open up enough to share God’s love with the campers and to be the staff person we needed her to be.  In the interview she answered the questions well enough and her passion for her faith and Wesley Woods was evident. Her references had confidence in her, but I wasn’t sure…. After a time of prayer and reflection we extended a contract and over the next few summer I watched that young lady grow into a mature, confident and strong young adult that testified to God’s love and presence in her life.

One spring I did an interview for a young man that answered the questions on the application with one or maybe two words. His references were ok and his interview was fine, but there wasn’t anything spectacular.  That year we were short on the number of male applicants we had and I prayed and reviewed his stuff a number of times……   Once again through prayer we extended him a contract and over the next few summers he was a spark of fun, faith and at times accountability.  He blessed campers in so many ways and connected with kids that other staff weren’t sure how to reach. God Blessed us with this young man and blessed him as he learned to lead and follow.

None of these staff or any of us are perfect and at times we have all made mistakes, but in a loving community they were able to discover so much about themselves, their faith and what God had for them that their lives will never be the same. At the same time they were God’s hands and feet. They brought the love of Jesus to the campers through fun, creativity, patience, testimony, forgiveness and faith.

Former staff continue to serve God each day as doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, janitors, teachers, security guards, professional church staff, professional camp staff and in so many other places.  The lessons they learned as a part of the staff and community serve them daily.  The opportunities they had to share their faith and to tell the story have made them more comfortable than ever to make disciples of the world.

If you are interested in being a part of the summer team or know someone else who might be they can get more information at the link below. Just click on the tab for summer employment.




Summer Staff Training 2012

Deke Rider

Site Director


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Thoughts and Revelations- finding the sheep

Have you ever been drawn to something with the best of intentions and been excited about a possibility and faithfully attended to it for a couple of weeks?  Have you then been drawn away by other things?  That’s how I am today with this blog space and I feel a deep desire to renew my relationship with this expression of the pen.

Zechariah 10:8

“I will signal them with a whistle and gather them because I have reclaimed them. They will be as numerous as they have ever been.”

This is written in relation to the people of Judah and the promise of the Lord to bring God’s people to victory. For me it speaks most closely to my heart about being drawn back and pulled into God’s presence. One of the joys I have in life is

being blessed to work with so many college students and fantastic young people over the years. God has blessed me with the opportunity to see so many campers, junior staff, staff, parents and others grow through the relationships and experiences they had here at Wesley Woods.  I love to follow staff as they “graduate” from camp into other things. I love to see their families grow and watch their faith be shared through their silent and verbal testimonies everyday.

I am so excited to see the passion the United Methodist Church and other denominations are attacking things like Malaria, Aids, TB, poverty, social justice and so many other things.  I appreciate the ministries that are reaching into new places across the globe and in the United States. There are millions of dollars being raised and real lives are impacted in so many places, in a lot of ways very far from Iowa.

That’s all really cool and we have to do those things, but my heart hurts for the lost sheep that live right here.  My heart

To acknowledge my heart hurts is human, do nothing is giving up……   hurts for the lost sheep that walk to school through terrible weather, alone, lost, hurting and hungry.   My heart hurts for the child whose parents are buried in addictions. My heart hurts for those young people who have never felt love or the warmth of a hug. My heart hurts for the campers and staff that have wandered away and are crying silently in the pastures of depression, addictions and confusion.

I know that over the years when we changed the pace and place of young, middle aged and the more seasoned they have felt God’s presence. I know that in this Holy place known as Wesley Woods God is still changing lives. I also know there are thousands more in Des Moines and across the state that need to hear the “whistle” and experience the call home.  How do we do this?  How do we raise the funds to do more?  How do we raise the dollars to update and build new facilities? How do we find the funds every year to keep the cost of camp lower and lower?  How do we recruit the volunteers to tell the stories?


Share your thoughts on these questions and help me find new ways to grow the excitement and passion across Iowa!


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Summer is gone but the memories Continue….

What a blessing it is every summer to hear the laughter, see God’s hands and feet working through college students and to be blessed in so many ways. Each summer eagerly anticipate the coming of the staff, registration and arrival of the campers and the business of a summer.  This summer was as busy as all the others. We had summer campers and then retreat guests on the weekends. We continue to work with Hy-Vee and it’s partners on triatholons in the Des Moines area.  I am constantly amazed at how many ways Wesley Woods is able to share the love of God.

With the end of the summer, the last campers checking out and the staff leaving it’s sometimes harder to find the ministry of what we do and to see God at work around us.  We have lots of guests and more activities to do, but the conversations and the moments of fellowship aren’t the same as they are during the summer.  That’s sometimes a struggle to me. Is it that the people aren’t open to those things or that I don’t invest in them the same way? Maybe it’s a mixture of the two, but if it’s the later that’s convicting for me.  God calls me to love all our visitors and to share the testimony of His Grace and Love for them.

How are you sharing God’s grace and love with others?  Are there particular groups of people you find it easier or more difficult with? How do you stay energized and focused through transition and challenge? 

It takes great courage and conviction to walk humbly and firmly with God through those moments of great trial and/or change.  Tell us about the challenges your are facing and how you deal with those.

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Fear- from Dru’s Pen

I used to go to Iowa’s best (and only?) theme park, Adventureland, when I was younger. They have quite a bit of rides, ranging from the Lady Bug ride to the Infant Ocean for children. They had the Falling Star and the Galleon for a little bit older children. They also had roller coasters. When I was around eleven I rode practically every ride at Adventureland; including all the roller coasters and the Space Shot (which shoots you way up in the air).


I remember saying, “I have no fear here!” because I was able to ride all the “adult/big kids rides”. It was a great feeling not to be afraid of anything there. There really was a sense of accomplishment. As adults or young adults we also may have fears that try to stand in the way. Sometimes these fears may look like giants. The story of David versus Goliath is a classic example of this. David is a small shepherd while Goliath is a “Champion” from the army of the Philistines. David trusted in the Lord in smaller things and was able to trust the Lord in bigger tasks as well.


1 Samuel 17:37

“And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”


After David talked to the current King of Israel he left to go fight the giant man Goliath.


1 Samuel 17:45

“Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”


1 Samuel 17:46

“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head!


The decapitation is a little graphic but I think you get the point. David trusted in the Lord and was not afraid of the Giant. If our God created this world and He is on our side then what do we have to be afraid of?



 “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If our God is for us, who can be against us?”


Trust in God in the small things as well as the bigger things. Maybe you want to run a marathon but have fears about it. Then try running a 5k and work your way up–trusting in God the whole time. Maybe you have a fear of heights and want to conquer it. Maybe try climbing a small ladder and work your way up to a mountain. There will be struggle along the way but hopefully that struggle will lead you back into God’s loving arms. Hopefully you can live in this world and say, “I have no fear here!” because God has given you strength.


Philippians 4:13

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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Last weekend the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda, Africa did a concert at our church. It was fantastic. A group of around 30 kids, with a handful of adults, gave us a high-energy performance with singing, dance, drumming, and a media display that entertained us, but also told the story of Beautiful Africa. They wanted us to understand that although their country and continent is currently faced with enormous challenges, it is a beautiful place that’s brimming with potential. Part of the concert included some of the children sharing their story with us. Time after time we heard heartbreaking stories of children losing parents to war, disease, or abandonment. I found myself hugging Lia tighter and tighter as I realized that many of the children on the stage would likely be dead if Watoto hadn’t stepped in to care for them. It baffles me that in this century, there are still children dying for lack of food and basic medical care. It makes me unspeakably angry that there are vulnerable children being used as pawns by monstrous people clawing for political power. I am an action person – I like to be able to do something when there is a problem. But in the face of a whole continent an ocean away with these types of problems, I feel almost paralyzed. What can I do? Well, we had already agreed to host a group of 5 kids and 2 adults for a few days. Since the Watoto choir takes Monday as their day off, we got to host them from Sunday night to Tuesday morning. I had been told that they would sleep a lot, and mostly keep to themselves during their stay. “Great,” I thought to my introverted self. “I won’t have to figure out how to entertain them, we’ll chat over supper, and that’ll be that.” Well, God’s a funny guy, because that’s not how it went down at all. God wanted to bless me far more than I could even imagine. I got to chauffeur the group around Des Moines to several different Goodwill stores. Innocent, one of the not-so-aptly-named boys, enjoyed running over the girls and an older lady with a shopping cart (she was a good sport). Abdul, another one of the boys, held my hand as we shopped and I tried on funny hats. We didn’t talk much, but I think we both enjoyed the company. When we finally got back to the Woods, Lia had come home from school and we took all the kids to the playground. We all had the best time! Deke and I got a chance to chat with the adults while we all watched Lia and five little Watoto kids tear it up on the swings and monkey bars. Edwin and Jessica, the adults, spoke about their country in terms of its problems and its potential. They told us how they had been raised by Watoto and were now giving back to the ministry that had rescued them. It was amazing. After the playground, we took the group on a wagon ride to see the farm animals and hang out at the pond. When we found a (nonpoisonous) water snake, we quickly discovered that African kids have a different perspective on snakes than an Iowa farm kid! We ended Monday with a feast of beef and deer roasts (Jessica wanted to know if they tasted different) and lots of giggling. When I finally went to bed I was exhausted. I had hung out with these guys all day, and loved every minute of it! I was still overwhelmed by the challenges facing these kids as they grow into the next leaders of Uganda. However, I wasn’t paralyzed by it anymore. I realized that God was teaching me all day that sometimes He’s not asking for some big-time action response to a problem. Not every problem I see is my responsibility to solve. Sometimes the best you can offer is yourself, your time, your companionship. Maybe someday God will send me to Uganda to help build a Watoto house for kids like Abdul. I don’t know. Even if that happens, I still expect I will receive far more than I am able to give. I do know this: My family and our Watoto group were deeply blessed by simply spending time together, and for this day, it was enough. It was what God desired from us, and we were happy to give


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Meet Blake!

Meet Blake.  Blake and his twin sister were born last week to their proud mother, Momma Sheep.  Our daughter Lia named Blake after her weird Uncle Blake, and she finds it quite hilarious.  (We here at Wesley Woods are not overly creative with farm animal names).  When Blake was seven days old, he visited my daughter’s kindergarten class for Show and Tell.  When Blake was eight days old, he somehow broke his leg.  I found the poor little guy lying helplessly in the middle of the field, unable to get up.  When I picked him up his leg dangled and twisted in unnatural ways.  It was gross.  Momma Sheep had unfortunately deemed that Blake was a lost cause, and had abandoned him to devote her full attention on Blake’s healthy sister.  Animals are instinctively realistic and efficient in that regard.

And now for a primer on farmstead economics.  Blake is a boy sheep.  At Wesley Woods, we generally keep girl babies and sell boy babies.  Why?  Because when they grow up, the girls can produce more cute little babies that campers and retreat guests love to hug and overfeed.  It only takes one boy sheep to make lots of baby sheep, and I already have a boy sheep that I like.  Don’t need any more of them.  So from an economics standpoint, it makes no sense to put a lot of effort and money into a little boy sheep whose outlook is uncertain, and whose future with WW is likely short anyway.

The problem is that I’ve already introduced that dang sheep to an entire kindergarten class, which includes my own daughter.  I cannot fathom the nightmare of trying to explain to Lia why euthanasia is the most practical economic solution to the Blake situation.  I also cannot fathom picking her up at school and being grilled by her entire class about why we had to put Blake to sleep.  So I overcame my rational decision making tendencies and decided to splint the leg.  I rounded up some thin pieces of wood, some purple ace bandage, and as much fluorescent green duct tape as I could find, and Deke and I splinted the leg in a fashion that would make a veterinarian weep (with envy, of course).  Through this whole process, I kept thinking to myself what a pain in the neck this is going to be.  Gotta keep him immobile in a kennel.  Gotta feed him at least four times a day.  Gotta teach him how to drink from a bottle.  Gotta pay for milk replacer.  Groan.

As I force-fed Blake last night (since he is generally unreceptive to anybody but Momma Sheep feeding him), I realized that Lia sees Blake in a completely different light than I do.  Blake is of little economic value to me, as unfortunately he was born male.  Lia sees Blake as our lamb, who was born at Wesley Woods and for whose welfare we are responsible.  Blake has intrinsic value to Lia.

And then God did His thing in my heart by reminding me that we are all little Blakes in His eyes.  We are all broken little ones, horribly tainted by the scourge of sin.  Just like little Blake, we look like a lost cause.  In my farmstead economy, my sheep give me things I want, like cute babies for campers to enjoy, or cash from their sale.  In God’s economy, there is nothing we can possibly offer Him which He needs, because Almighty God has no need.  But this does not make us worthless, because God places great value upon our souls.  God sees us in much the same light that Lia sees Blake.

The whole Bible tells us the story of how God relentlessly, tenderly, passionately pursues His beloved.  Not because He needs us, but because He wants us, He values us, He loves us.  God walked with us in the Garden, He followed us to Egypt, He led us through the desert and to the Promised Land.  We still sinned, and God had every right to walk away and let us die in that sin.  But what did He do?  He demonstrated His love by dying on a cross.  He killed sin and let us live, that we might finally decide to surrender our hearts to Him.

Be encouraged.  You are loved and precious to the King of the Universe, not because of what you do, but simply because you are.

Reflections for the day:  How do you regard the value of people?  How does this shape your worldview – the way you think about everything else?  If we – as individuals, as a church, as a culture – put the value of human souls first, what differences would we see in the way things are?  Are there people in your own life whose intrinsic value you need to affirm?  Check out Luke 12:27-31.

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Summer is Coming!!!!

It’s easy to tell when things get really busy at camp, because it seems like i fail at getting the devotions up.  With the warm temperatures and sun shining it’s easy to think that summer is on it’s way!  I thought today I would share with you a little bit about the summer Bible Studies for the campers.

The theme for the summer is Secrets of the Kingdom. Each day there is a “secret” that they reveal through reading of scriptures, activities and discussion.  The scriptures are mostly taken from the parables of Jesus.  I have listed out the daily secrets and the scriptures below.

Day One- “We are God’s Soil” (Mark 4:1-9, 13-20)

Day Two- “We can ask Boldly” (Luke 11:5-10)

Day Three- “God is generous” (Matthew 20:1-16)

Day Four- “God Treasures us” (Luke 15:1-10)

Day Five- “Jesus is in the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Day Six- “God Plants us in the world” (Matthew 13:31-35)

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Easter is great.  I’ll start with the obvious secular stuff:  I like chocolate, OK?  I like it a lot.  And Easter is full of chocolate.  Also Easter is in the spring, which means winter is finally over.  The family get-togethers, the days off, the great turkey my husband smokes – all of it makes Easter fantastic for me.  Behind all this fluffy stuff, though, I really get into the spiritual aspect of Easter.  Of all the powerful things God has ever done, I think that killing the power of death through Jesus’ resurrection belongs at the top of the list for two reasons.  First, the sheer power and grace of this act is simply mind-blowing.  I am not a world religions scholar, but I am unaware of any other god ever worshipped who voluntarily died in my place and physically came back to life after kicking death in the teeth.  Secondly, the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected opens heaven’s doors to a sinner like me.  It was the only way to get the job done, and that’s why Jesus did it.  Because He loves you, and He loves me.  And this is why I love  Easter.

So I just enjoy the bejeebers out of Easter, and then …   I’ve noticed that I tend to go back to “normal life”.  Have you experienced this?  We’re Americans.  We’re good at compartmentalizing stuff, prioritizing, and multi-tasking.  We always have a “to do” list.  Once we check “Easter” off the list, we’re often ready to move on to the next thing.  Along the way, it seems that the joy, the power, the wonder of the resurrection slowly dwindles, eventually fading into the background of normal life.  Until a year later, when we do it all over again.

When we read the Gospels, we notice the disciples started out as a mostly uneducated, ragtag group of blue collar workers.  Jesus had to scold them for arguing about which of them was the greatest (Mark 9:33).  The Lord got frustrated with them several times for being “dull” and not understanding even the simple things He was trying to teach (Matthew 15:16, Matthew 16:8-9).  He frequently admonished them for having little faith (example Matthew 8:26).  And after Jesus was crucified, these guys ran and hid in a locked room.  This didn’t seem to be the most promising group of guys to carry on Jesus’ mission after He left the earth.  They seemed like the kind of people who would simply return to “normal life” after having walked with Jesus for three years.

But the resurrection changed everything.  The disciples’ lives were forever changed by the fact that their Savior had risen from the dead.  In fact, their futures were defined by the resurrection.  They came out of their hiding holes and fanned out across the globe, proclaiming the power of the resurrected Christ, baptizing people into His name, and establishing churches to continue the work for future generations.  Threats of persecution, hardship, and even death could not stop them because they had witnessed the power of the risen Savior.  They demonstrated victorious living at its finest.  They were Easter people all year long.

So what about us?  I don’t think we necessarily have to quit our jobs and become traveling evangelists and church planters like the disciples (unless that is God’s call).  That the disciples abandoned their previous jobs and homes is compelling, but it’s beside the point.  The main thing is that their hearts were changed, and their priorities rearranged.  After the resurrection, the disciples had a singular focus on Jesus’ mission for them – to go forth and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  The disciples never forgot the power of the resurrection.  Rather, the power of the resurrection shaped and defined the rest of their lives.

Reflections for the day:  Has the power of the resurrection fundamentally and forever changed you?  Does it define your future?  Or have you checked Easter off your list and returned to life as normal?  How would your life change if you lived victoriously by the power of the resurrected Christ?

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“You” – from Su’s Pen

Recently I’ve started noticing an advertising trend that emphasizes the importance of the individual.  For example, I read about a youth leadership training program called “youTheology”.  Apple puts out about a million gadgets with “i” at the beginning of the name – iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc., each of which can be customized to the finest nuance to match the owner’s preferences.  Even the Army got in on this trend in a TV commercial where the urged you to become an “army of one”.  (Now let’s think about that for a minute.  Do you really want to go into armed conflict as an army of one?  Personally, I’d rather not have a war at all, but if necessary I want to be surrounded by lots of fellow soliders bigger, stronger, and braver than myself.)  Now don’t get me wrong – there is a place for the individual.  God does seek us out individually, constantly working to bring every single soul to Himself.  Psalm 139 confirms that God knows us as individuals, down to the smallest detail.

However, I do wonder what we have lost as our focus has shifted toward the individual and away from the community.  As I read through the Old Testament, I am struck by how much Israel moved, lived, and worshipped as a community.  For example, during Moses’ burning bush experience (Exodus 3) God promised to bring Israel to the Promised Land, where they would find rest.  Notice that this promise was a corporate one, made to the entire nation and not to any single person.  And as Israel moved toward the Promised Land, they did so as a highly organized community.  Numbers 10 describes their marching formation, and we know from other readings that they had specific procedures for setting up camp and the tabernacle (aka Tent of Meeting, their portable place of worship as they traveled.)  Clearly, as Israel traveled toward God’s Promised Land, they were moving, living, and worshipping as a community.

Throughout the Psalms, there are many examples of Israel lifting praise (Psalm 66, 118) or complaint (Psalm 44, 79) to God as a community.  What’s more, these Psalms often make reference to the mighty acts the Lord has done in the past, like freeing Israel from Egypt and parting the waters at the Red Sea.  In effect, Israel is engaging its present community in worship and prayer, and also its past community by recalling God’s mighty saving acts.  Israel operated as a present community with a rich past and a promised future.

We see examples of the importance of community to New Testament folks as well.  For example, in the early chapters of Acts we learn that the newborn Church was a community where folks made their personal possessions available to others to use and the poor were supplied with basic needs.  They studied the Word, worshipped God, and ate together.  This lifestyle built a strong community where each individual depended on the others to enable the community to make the fullest expression of love and worship to God.

Again, I wonder what we’ve lost as we’ve allowed our focus to shift away from community and almost exclusively toward the individual.  Take some time today to consider how you strike a balance between your personal and community faith life.

Reflections for the day:  What promises have we been given corporately, as the body of Christ?  How does a focus on the individual affect worship?  How might worship look different if the church put more emphasis on community?  How might your prayer life and faith journey change if you emphasized community more?  Is the community of believers important for you to be able to fully express your worship of God?

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