Swarthmore National Park?
Swarthmore National Park. Ever heard of it? I doubt anything will come up if you “google” it. Maybe some cherry trees? Something about historical America? But nothing about it being a national park though, huh? That’s probably because it isn’t really one of America’s national parks. However, on April 20th and 21st, the town of Swarthmore temporarily became the nation’s most beautiful park when it hosted ACMNP’s training conference where about 20 volunteers from various denominational backgrounds came together for one purpose.
The conference kicked off right with an excellent dinner provided by Swarthmore United Methodist Church, who has been hosting the conference for over 20 years (I’m told this conference is one of the best to attend because we get treated so well by the host church). Friday night continued with a worship service and an introduction to ACMNP. Surprisingly, the presentation wasn’t just a bunch of boring slides and Rachel even showed us a ton of sweet pictures of the parks. God made some pretty awesome things. We finished up the evening by complaining about what our fears were and then comforting each other about them. Okay, maybe not so much complaining but it was nice to see that others had the same fears and anxieties as I did.
Saturday morning started with a bowl of cereal and a cup of long-expired instant coffee provided by my generous host family (she was one of the funniest 83 year olds I know). By the way, that coffee still worked great and kept me going all day. After breakfast and photos in front of the house, my teammate and I made our way back to the church. Before long we found ourselves seated in a circle under the flowering tree out front of the church for morning devotion. The flowers were falling in the wind as we sang and studied in the morning sunlight. True bliss. I like to call these moments “rumors of glory”. They are the times when we catch a glimpse of heaven. It was a heavenly experience that morning.
What is expected of an ACMNP-er? I’m pretty sure any of us could explain it to you after what we learned on Saturday. Team members are expected to abide by their contract with the employer, lead worship services in the park, publicize worship services, and practice relational ministry with employees in the park. This basically sums up what was covered during the lecture sessions on Saturday.
Over lunch our individual park teams met and planned a short worship service according to ACMNP standards. At the end of the day, each team led their short service and afterwards we all discussed ideas for improvement. It was good practice. And if practice makes perfect…by the end of the summer we should all be pros.
So what came out of these short 24 hours together? Confidence, encouragement, and reassurance. We became confident in our abilities. We were encouraged to meet others who are in the same boat and learn more about what we will be doing. We were reassured that God is in control. Great things happen when people get together and God shows up. Swarthmore truly is a beautiful place.