Looking forward to Zion

May 9, 2012 | Hannah Fountain

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The Skies display his craftsmanship. Day
after day they continue to speak; night after night the make him known.”
Psalm 19: 1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

There is simply no denying it: I love adventure.  From my childhood, I recall what seems to have been hundreds of skinned knees and scraped arms, largely due from climbing “just a little higher.”  After cleaning up the battle scars (with the spray stuff your mom promised repeatedly didn't sting, but always seemed to), I would be outside again.  If I wasn't outside exploring the physical world, I would be inside reading which – as any avid reader would attest – opens up an entirely new world to explore.  This adventurous nature has yet to leave my side. Last October, my husband, Blake, and I made the decision to move to Zion National Park for four months, over 1,600 miles from our small town in western Kentucky.

However, the continuous need to explore was not leading our desires to move to such a remote area of southern Utah (though, admittedly, it played a large role).  Instead, it is the opportunity to be part of a wonderful ministry: A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.  Every summer, this ministry sends roughly 200 volunteers (Ministry Team Members) into the national parks to share Christ's love.  In 25 of the most beautiful places in the nation, these volunteers conduct over 1,400 Sunday services of worship for park employees and guests.  And Blake and I get to help.

This past weekend, May 4-5, in many ways marked the beginning of our summer, although we still have two weeks before arriving in Utah.  Blake and I traveled to Kansas City where we met with eight other students to prepare for our summer.  At this training, Amy Bloomquist, from the AMCNP national office, introduced us all to the ministry and answered our many questions about the upcoming summer.  This will be my third summer serving with ACMNP, but will be Blake's first summer.  My adventurous nature must be rubbing off on him!  Although all aspects of the training proved to be enjoyable and worthwhile (even for an alum), the most practical aspect came at the end of training, when we broke into small groups and prepared a service based on the instruction Amy provided.  All three small services (roughly 30 minutes in length) mimicked what we would be doing in the park each week (although hopefully with a few less mistakes!).

Yet the challenge of conducting a service with only two or three people is actually the easy part. The true test of summer volunteers is life outside Sunday morning.  It is the ability to work cleaning dishes for forty hours a week or cleaning cabins every morning at 8:00 AM and still, when you look and feel your worst, shine for Christ, so that each Ministry Team Member “embodies and extends the ministry of Jesus Christ” in all we do.  It is the relational aspect of the ministry, each volunteer's daily life in the park , that truly shows others who Christ is.

Furthermore, leading interdenominational services of worship often presents a challenge to Ministry Teams. Yes, interdenominational services of worship.  Ministry Team Members come from a variety of traditions, and are asked to set aside small denominational different to fulfill the greater goal of furthering Christ's kingdom.  As the Evangelical Presbyterian Church's motto reads, “In the Essentials, Unity; in the nonessentials, Liberty; in everything, Charity (Love).” By remember this simple statement, Ministry Teams can overcome differences and find a greater strength in working together.

As our summer begins, I hope that you keep each Ministry Team Member in your prayers as we all embark on this life changing, ground shaking adventure.  In both the high and low points, I pray that we all seek Christ, who is never too far away.  May we all begin the summer with an open mind and willing personalities.  I know that there will be challenges, but together with Christ, all things are possible.

"It was a great challenge and stretching experience to learn how to lead and equip others for ministry, not being over-controlling or non-present. In the seminary context, I hope to talk through some of these learning and challenging experiences with my professors."
– Jonathan, Calvin Theological Seminary 2011

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