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The Desert

What do you think of when you think, “Desert”? You think sand. Never-ending sand dunes, for miles and miles. You think it’s vast and full of empty nothing-ness. You think cloudless days of blazing sun and cold, black nights. You think no vegetation, no animals. You think nothing exists in the desert.

“You think cloudless days of blazing sun and cold, black nights.”

We approached Death Valley by straight, empty roads. Hills and slight mountains far off in the distance surrounded us. Patches of tiny bushes and rocks lined the highway. What could this desert offer?

We entered the park and suddenly my eyes opened wide. It was awe. Driving down the windy road, the road opened up as the tall mountains rose before us, the colorful rocks surrounding us, the inspiring clouds filling the sky, the vastness, the expanse, the beauty, the mightiness of this land. All together it created this incredible sense of wonder. This is the desert. Rich and full with color.

 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (ESV)

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First Day in Death Valley

Here I am. I made it! The drive took almost a week. We made so many stops. We went to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Albuquerque Old Town, Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, The Strip in Las Vegas, and finally Death Valley National Park. Each place was unique and fun in it’s own way. They are all stories on their own.

But, here I am in Death Valley National Park as an employee. I met my ACMNP teammate and her roommate there. I ate and they hung out with me. We got to chat and get to know each other a little bit.

After settling into my dorm room, we got the whole ministry team together, me, Julia, and Donna, plus a couple of others: an ACMNP alumnus Maria, and Julia’s roommate, Nikki. We talked about our ministry plans and prayed together. We want to start a Bible study. We want to do a movie night, gaming nights, and today I got coloring books and markers to do a coloring night. We are all super excited about the summer and everything that God is going to do!

Tomorrow I go to orientation for my job. I have no idea what to expect!

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Leaving Tomorrow

By this time next week, I’ll be in Death Valley. A long drive awaits me and it begins tomorrow. So many thoughts run through my head, yet none at all. I suddenly feel so unprepared for this ministry. Suddenly I’m feeling like, what have I gotten myself into? I don’t know what I’m doing! At the same time, it feels like this is the only thing I need to be doing. I can’t think of anything else I should be doing this summer!

On the one hand, the information I’ve learned this first semester in seminary will be helpful. And on the other, it will be totally useless. The actual information may not be necessary at the very moment, but everything I’ve learned as experiences have shaped me to be who I am right now. All of my life experiences have shaped me. I hope to be able to relate to the people that I meet. I know that it’ll be great.

Over the next week while traveling and driving, I hope to have more time to process all my thoughts. I don’t believe that I’m leaving tomorrow!

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A Christian Ministry

Enlight26.jpgMinistry. My first time involved in ministry. What does this even mean? The word most directly means an agency or entity that is governed by a minister. However in a Christian context the following definition is helpful, “a humble but loving service to the needs of humanity at large” (italics added) (1). For me then in the context of ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks) it means humbly and lovingly serving the community in Death Valley National Park.

What does a ministry in Death Valley look like? I have two focuses. The first is putting on Sunday worship services in the park, open to both visitors and employees. The services are interdenominational, Christ-centered, and open to everyone. The second focus is relational ministry with people who work in the parks. Our team works in three different places within the park. I will be working at the Inn, so my immediate sphere will be the people that work next to me. I will be living in the dorms, so that will be my next sphere. Then there’s the dining hall. And wherever else there may be. With relational ministry it’s all about simply loving people the way Christ loved and making friendships. My intent is to show people that they are loved and that someone cares about them. The desert is an isolating place, and I’m sure there are a lot of people that are trying to escape something.

“My intent is to show people that they are loved and that someone cares about them.”

Of course these are my thoughts at the moment. I don’t know what my time will really look like. And I don’t know what will really be the situation. Please pray with me that the time is well spent loving and caring the people that will be around me.

 

  1. G. S. M. Walker and R. T. Beckwith, “Ministry,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 769.
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Going to the Desert

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Taken from Logos Bible Software Daily Verse, 2018

When I applied for ACMNP I told myself that I really don’t want to go to the desert. I was thinking about Big Bend. It’s dry, and hot, not many trees. It’s kind of… well… desolate. Sure, there’s Santa Elena Canyon (which is really pretty amazing…highly recommend it), and we saw little black bears, and there’s some pretty cool heights to climb. Truly, it’s an amazing place. But the point here is that I did not want to go there for the sole reason that it’s the desert.

In March, I got the email. Excitement gripped me to read that message with my assignment. I opened it and jumped through all the congratulations (I went back later of course) to see where I had been placed. Death. Valley. Well, that was unexpected! If ever there was a desert, that was the one! God is pretty funny like that.

“God is pretty funny like that.”

I thought hard about it. Coincidences like this don’t just happen. Clearly, God knows something that I don’t. He always does. I accepted the call. God leads us to the difficult places, the places that are hard because He knows we will become closer to Him. I know that He wants to show me something there in the desert. And so I will follow.

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Beginning an Adventure

Photo by John Schmidt, 2018

On a campout one day several years ago I told my friend that I’d love to do a ministry in the outdoors. I’m passionate about the outdoors, passionate about God, and passionate about people. She googled something, and discovered ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks). She sent me to the website. I looked at it and thought, “Oh neat. But I can’t do that.” Flash forward to three months ago: I’m on campus at seminary school, and what do you know? There’s a table set up for ACMNP! This time I said, “Oh man. I can do that!”

“But I can’t do that!”

Two short weeks from today I’ll be en route to my assignment in Death Valley National Park, California. It’s kind of funny really, going to Death Valley. The desert. The desert of deserts. Death. Valley. Whoa. How did this happen?