Here's to the Team

August 27, 2012 | Caitlin Newell

So much has changed here on the mountain since I first arrived, wide-eyed and tired from the time change. The biggest difference is the snow melt. I look over at the Tatoosh each day and think, Holy cow - there is hardly any snow left... 

As weird as it feels to think back to how much snow there was, and how the landscape was different, I know that isn’t all that has changed. I’ve been really wanting to dedicate a blog to the rest of my team, as they are just as beautiful and diverse as anything on this mountain or in the park. And I’ve realized that just as the landscape has changed and taken different forms, so have the people I work with, given my deepening relationship with them.

It would be an injustice to exclude such wonderful people from my writing.

I serve here, in Mt. Rainier, with 5 others. Andrew and Robby are the two guys of the group, taking pride in their testosterone by making adventures to other volcanoes and subsequently summit-ing those in their spare time. The other three girls are Mary, Alli, and Brenda. 

Brenda (front), Andrew, and Robby by Ohanapecosh River enjoying the sun.
We have joked recently about how we are like a family, each serving different roles. A lot of humor is had in these discussions. Robert is our grandfather. Caring, occasionally a worry-wart over our well-being on hikes, full of old sayings like “Oh my Heavens!” Andrew is the cousin. Quirky, hilarious, the source of eccentricity at reunions. Alli is the little sister - full of ostentatious energy, fun, and adventure. Mary is the mother of the group. Incredibly caring, a great listener, and pure to her very core. Brenda is that older sibling, calm, collected, and perfectly content to let us younger kids be crazy. I think I fall somewhere in the middle child domain, bouncing between more sober-minded moments and energetic outbursts. But we are a family, through and through.

Many of you who read this may not know any of these people, so I’ll introduce you.

Brenda: Brenda came, originally, from Kenya with her siblings. She speaks fluent Swahili and Meru, her tribal language. She works in the dining room with me, as a hostess. I wrote that she is like the older sibling, calm and collected. And it’s very true. She keeps a very collected appearance at most times, and I think it is one of the best things to get her to laugh, because her laughs are very genuine. Compared to I, who laugh all the time, getting a good laugh out of Brenda makes you feel pretty good. She gets a kick out of people acting crazy, like dancing in the car, or the occasional dining room blunder. It’s been pretty awesome hearing Brenda give the sermon. She speaks from her heart, and her wisdom is sound and coated with Scripture. I always learn something new from her. 

Mary: Mary, like I said, is pure to her core. I’m sure she has heard it many times before, but she is literally the epitome of “Mother Mary.” Her ability to listen with care and concern is a gift that I’ve not seen in such measure before. You know, without a doubt, that when you are talking with her, she is solely focused on you, what you are saying, and how she can help. It’s amazing. She loves a good adventure or challenge, too. She summitted Mount Adams a while back with a group of people, and continues to find time for hikes, backpacking trips, or 5Ks in the city. Her faith and love of God is so obvious that within ten minutes of knowing her, you feel the warmth and love from her faith affecting you. Her place on the team has been so great, and her encouragement and leadership and pure spirit has encouraged, challenged, and assisted me many times this summer.

Mary (left) and Alli after a Sunday service.
Alli: the younger sister. Ha. Such a perfect fit for Alli. She loves being joyful. And she is, all the time. At work. In the dorm areas. While hiking. Alli is finding something to be joyful over. I think one of the greatest things to watch about Alli is her ability to be with people and be open with them. It comes so naturally for her that I think it almost shocks people into being open with her in return. Conversations over beliefs, hardships, and history are a natural thing for her to have with anyone here. She wants to know a person for who they are on the inside. It’s wonderful. And many times this summer have I looked to her as an example on how to reach out to people. She is always up for a hike or some crazy adventure. I don’t know how she fits all that she does in one day... probably some sort of miracle. But I’ve loved working with her and learning from her.

Robby: Good ole’ gramps. We call him grandpa endearingly, as in all respects, we all act more like siblings than anything. Robby is another person exceptionally skilled at listening. I’ve had many great conversations with him about what I’m learning this summer or where I'm struggling, and he always has a verse to reply with. He also loves to quote Scripture on hikes, as inspiration to keep going. Things like, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you,” or, when I tell him he’s crazy for doing a hike and better not injure himself, he smartly replies, “He who wishes to gain his life must lose it.” One thing about Robby is that he is always seeking how he can better serve or be more like Christ. His job, as a porter, is far from glamorous, but besides his exclamation at some of the more dirty job requirements, I’ve never heard him complain. He is, to his core, a man seeking after God’s own heart. And I’ve only been grateful that Olympic National Park wasn't able to hire him, leading him to transfer over here. Poor Andrew would have been alone with all us girls.

Andrew: speak of the devil! Andrew is the eccentric of the team. Literally, I don’t know a more talented guitar player. He can sit down, hear a note of a song, and play the rest of it in the correct key. A handy talent to have out here, given our lack of ability to print chords. He is also full of adventure, currently being out on the Wonderland trial, a 93 mile trail that circles the park. He, along with Robby and another employee, have summitted both Rainier and Adams. Andrew’s personality is really quirky, and he can switch from a conversation about climbing rope straight into if you know Christ as your Savior, and not make it awkward. Andrew loves conversation and seeking after deeper things, and I’ve had several great talks with him about life, what it means, and how we should treat it as Christians. Andrew is also a really loving person, (not that everyone else isn’t...), and has created meaningful relationships with coworkers and other people here. His nonchalant way of living, of adventuring, of conversing, and of expressing himself has challenged me to just relax and live the life I’ve been given, for the glory of God.

I wish I could just write a chapter for each of them, for the hilarious things they’ve done, the adventures they’ve had, the conversations we have shared. I remember my first time meeting all of them. And it’s so true, that the first impression is almost always right. Not that it shows the deepest view of an individual, but you get that feeling for them. It’s been an amazing summer watching both my relationship with them grow, and also their relationships with each other. Watching us as a team become more unified and understanding.

I know without a doubt, (and I knew months ago, as well) that the people on this team were put together by God’s hand. Literally, I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with and around in this ministry. We can disagree without arguing. We can show love and give advice. And I think one of the best compliments I heard was from a worker here who stated that, in his experience with teams (having worked many years in national parks), he’s been really impressed by ours because we haven’t been a clique. We’ve branched out where we are. 

And that is what the body of Christ is. A big, branching tree. Rooted in Christ. Reaching out as far as it can go. 

So, as this summer draws to a close, and we prepare to say farewell to the first team member this coming week, I know that even though school may start up and it may be a long time, if ever, we see each other again - we are still a team in spirit. We still have these experiences that bond us and tie us together. And I will always know, because of this summer, how each person is serving Christ. Not because of a vocation - but because of who they are. 

Here’s to a summer of growing relationships.

Here’s to the team.

"Coming into this program, I did not realize the need for Christian missionaries within the U.S. This opinion quickly changed upon learning that there are no Christian churches in the area, and we were the closest option for Christian community within about a 45 minute drive."
– Christopher, Zion 2010

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