Peter SmithI was blessed to work with ACMNP for two summers during my time in seminary. The first summer, I was placed at Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, and the second summer I was the first to be a part of a new program partnering with churches in border towns to national parks. I was placed at Mount Republic Chapel of Peace in Cooke City, MT, about four miles from the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. Both summers were amazing experiences in so many ways, but the one that I want to focus on, the one that shows, to me, why ACMNP is such an important ministry, is the summer I spent at Roosevelt Lodge.
For me, personally, that summer was fantastic. I had been suffering from a pretty bad depression for about a year before going out to Yellowstone, but that summer got me out of it. Living in the beauty of God’s creation, being able to see it and live in it every day for months, forming relationships with coworkers in the midst of it, I could feel God working in my life more than ever before. ACMNP is important, not just for the ministry that it does for the visitors and employees of the national parks, but because of what it can do for the people doing ministry through the organization.
However, that summer was important for more than just how it affected me. Near the end of the summer, when people were preparing to pack up their stuff and head back home, one of our coworkers drowned in the Yellowstone River. This young man was a faithful attendee at the weekly services that my ministry partner and I led every Sunday. He was one of the most outspoken Christians I have ever met, and he never stopped sharing his faith. When he was lost in the river, before they found his body, one of our coworkers, one who had never attended a service, came up to me and Garrett (the entirety of the team at Roosevelt Lodge that year), and asked us if we would hold a prayer vigil that night in the rec cabin. Of course we agreed, and that night, the rec cabin was packed with people who loved our lost friend. We stayed there until the early hours of the morning, praying for him and sharing stories about him. Eventually, his body was found in the river, and his family came out to Yellowstone. They met with Garrett and I and asked us to lead a memorial service for him. We put it together with the help of the Yellowstone pastor, Bill Young. When we led the service, everyone who wasn’t working (and some who were) came. The community of Roosevelt Lodge leaned on the ACMNP ministry team in this time of pain and sorrow. By ourselves, the two of us could never support them in a time like that, but we weren’t by ourselves. We had God to lean on and trust, even in times when we were as wracked with grief as everyone else.
At our last Sunday service, we filled the amphitheater at the Tower Falls Campground. We had more employees there than ever before. They were looking for something or someone to trust and lean on in this hard time, and I hope they found it at our service. Before all of this happened that summer, I would have said it was a good summer, a successful summer, but nothing huge happened. After, I knew that this was why God had put me and Garrett in that place. We were there to be a light in the darkness, even when the darkness seemed overpowering, as it did when we lost our friend.
So, why ACMNP? God uses ACMNP to shine his light in the world, to further his kingdom, and to support those who cannot support themselves. You never know when you will be used by God to bring comfort and peace to the suffering, or to plant a seed in the heart of someone who needed to hear the good news of Christ. ACMNP is an amazing organization that strives to glorify God through all that it does, and was a very important part of my faith journey. I would not be who I am today without it.