(This guest blog post was written by two of our current ministry team members in Death Valley National Park, CA. If you're interested in learning more about this winter placement, check out the information here.)
"Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure." Psalm 23:4 (MSG)
And it’s true that God secures us in Death Valley National Park! Steep rocky hillsides, extreme temperatures, and high winds characterize our new dwelling place. Yet God reveals the beauty beyond the danger here – from the sun-filled Golden Canyon to the soft Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Our ACMNP team tried to sled down a sand dune for our “winter” activity in 65 degree weather. That’s one thing we love about our team: creativity. We attempt ridiculous sand dune sledding adventures, even if they don’t run as smoothly as planned (the cardboard sled was not slick enough to slide far)!
One of the blessings of this ministry in Death Valley is that most of the people who attend our worship services are regulars, meaning they attend every week. It has given us the opportunity to form close relationships with the people we are ministering to. They have become our second family away from home and have become such an encouragement to us, always offering input on what they enjoyed in each service.
When things don’t go our way, like planning a sermon on limited sleep for Sunday’s worship service, God gracefully meets us where we are. Bethany’s first sermon was prepared far in advance of its delivery. All went well. The second sermon she gave came through much trial the night before, as she tried to determine what God wanted her to say and how to say it. What a challenge it is to preach the gospel when doubts invade! All of us have faced these same trials and doubts when it comes to preparing a sermon. Yet God offers his strength to all who do his will. And he gives each of us unique gifts to carry out this mandate to share his good news!
Eventually after a final prayer before dozing off, with trust placed in God’s peace to help her overcome public speaking fears and a willingness to show up and do her part, she delivered her second sermon about Jesus’ poetic creativeness and truth found in the Beatitudes. One worship participant came up afterwards and thanked her for presenting the scriptures in an enlightening way. Positive feedback is so encouraging! Only God knows our true impact on another’s life as part of this ministry. Meanwhile, we can focus on storing up treasures in heaven as we relentlessly pursue our Creator in this opportunity.
Please pray for us and others dwelling in or visiting Death Valley. Pray that God’s life-giving breath sounds in the desert. Pray that minds be opened. Pray that God’s protection, love, and knowledge go before us to people’s hearts.
Maria & Bethany, Death Valley team 2012-2013