Zion National Park, UT, 2011
How was your experience at Zion different than what you expected?
When I learned I was accepted to serve with ACMNP in Zion National Park and as I prepared to begin my summer, I expected God to do great things. I knew that I would encounter Him in His splendor through many different hikes, and I knew that I would be able to serve Him and experience His presence by leading church services. However, I did not fully understand the concept of "relational ministry" until I spent a few weeks at Zion and got to know the people there. To me, there almost two different types of relational ministry involved at Zion—ministry to the American workers and ministry to the international workers. This is not to say that the two did not intersect (they did frequently), but there were often different needs to be met as these two different people groups come from very different backgrounds.
How did you grow this summer?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) This was the verse that weighed heavily on my mind as I left for Zion. For me, Zion was a place at which I was able to overcome fear. Mark my words, serving for a summer at Zion is surely a challenge but it's a rewarding one. For the first time in my life, I was completely self-sustaining and for three months saw none of my friends or relatives from back home. Without a doubt, I felt drained at times and wanted to go home, but God helped me to truly grow at home in Zion. He developed me into a person that is bolder and more focused than I was before.
What advice can you give to future teams in Zion?
You are in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Take advantage of it. Go hiking. Don't keep to yourself all the time. Make friends! Especially the international workers—you may never see them again. Not only will you be filled with more joy by developing relationships, but I truly view it as the most important way that one can witness. Be prepared and don't count on having a ton of resources at hand. We had only a team of three, only one vehicle, no printer, and our work hours were all different. It's a challenge. Just be ready for it, and don't fret. And don't forget your one-on-one relationship with God! Seek Him! He is always there and does not change.