Monday, June 3, 2013


Making beds and cleaning toilets is awesome, of course, but the real reason I'm at the Grand Canyon is ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks). ACMNP sends around 400 people to 25 national parks across the United States, where they apply separately to work at park concessionaires. These volunteers, mostly college or seminary students, live, work, and lead worship in the parks.

I applied to the organization last winter after hearing of a friend of a friend who had done it. It seemed like the perfect mix of volunteer ministry, and "real-life" witnessing. Now, here in the Canyon, ACMNP is a huge part of what I do.

There are 14 ACMNP students in the Grand Canyon, and we lead worship services every night, with two extra morning services on Sundays. Each night, one of us will give a 10-15 minute message, one will plan and lead worship, and one will help with prayers, offerings, and other announcements. We trade off so each of us does 2-3 services per week.

The backdrop to our "church" is a dazzling view of the canyon, and nightly worship outdoors is incredible. Between two and five people have been coming to each of our services, but rather than be discouraging, the small number allows us to really connect with each of our guests. Before and after the services, we get a chance to sit and talk with visitors as far away as Germany and Belgium, or as close as our co-workers in the park.

Only about half of our ministry is directed to tourists and guests in the park. There's also real need in our neighbors and coworkers. The Grand Canyon is very isolated, and the people who work here are lonely, many of them feeling apart from or rejected by their friends and family.

Our ministry, then, doesn't stop at the nightly services. We're starting a women's bible study this week, and hoping to plan events and activities for fellowship. We strive to be good employees, thoughtful roommates, and helpful guests. We have a strong Christian community within the ACMNP members, but we also hope to reach out.

It's hard work, but it also feels like real life, in a way that summer camps and retreats seldom did. I'm really excited to see the ways that God is going to use us this summer, whether that's through sunset services, late-night conversations, or even a beautifully-made bed.

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