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The Slow, Steady Pace of Early June

June 24, 2012 | Caitlin Newell

Life on the side of Mount Rainier has certainly been a steady stream. Literally. If it isn’t snowing, it’s raining. No rain? Then fog. No fog? Then warm enough weather to melt the massive amount of snow we still have here. So quite literally - Mount Rainier has been a steady stream. 

I haven’t floated away, though! Nor have any of the team. In fact, we are all finally here together! Most have been here for 3 to 4 full weeks, and Mary, our last, just arrived this past week. Finally, we can start planning some weekly ACMNP activities!

It has been a good, yet long, start to the summer. It took me a few days longer than I would have liked to adjust to the time change, the people change, and the over all life change of adjusting to living in a national park. While some days I would enjoy the hours of work and the later hours of meeting and spending time with new friends, other days were harder and longer to get through. Work would drag on during the open hours on account of the season just starting, and littler energy was had to give to the people around me. 

But that period of adjustment did not tarry. After a week of learning names, learning procedures, and learning places, I had found a niche and settled in nicely. 

Here at the mountain, we do things a little differently. 

- Thirsty? Use your sink for tap water - the mountain water, (and honestly, the water in Washington) is pure and very tasty. No complaints from this department.

- Hungry? Hope you make it to the Employee Dining Room before they close! Cause if not - you better like toast. Without butter.

- Bored? Go hike a mile of the 93 mile Wonderland Trail that circles the park. That’ll keep you busy... Or sit and enjoy the lobby while it is slow, and listen to Bill play the piano each evening from 5 to 8:30 PM. 

You see, we mountain folk are quite simple. If we aren’t dining in the employee dining room, or working, or hiking or sleeping in on our days off.. then we simply are not. I’ve been consistently impressed by how many people here are avid and enthusiastic hikers.  There have already been numerous overnight camping trips in the snow, several attempts to reach Camp Muir (at elevation 10,000 feet), day excursions to various parts of the park, and exciting tales of physical prowess and daring (slight exaggeration).

It has helped me with both coping at being so far away, as well as adjusting to the climate, time zone, and crazy eating hours of the EDR (Employee Dining Room). It has also showed me how beautiful this park is. Each trail (and road) offer incredible views of valleys, mountain peaks, and the volcano that serves as the centerpiece of the park. 

Unfortunately, the clouds have been prevalent here the past week or so, and no view of the mountain is to be had. Without nature to focus on and learn from, then, I have turned my sight towards my fellow coworkers and friends. I’ve learned that one of my managers is the 7th son of a 7th son, born in Ireland, and speaks fluent Gaelic. Or that another coworker of mine is creating things called “Critters” out of roots, stones, and leather, and writing a book about all of them. That one friend plans to go work at an organic farm in Europe after this job is over. Many others are returning to schools around the United Sates. One is hoping to continue working at various national parks. 

It is amazing, really, how diverse we all are. How we have different hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Different abilities, talents, and ways of thinking. Different strengths, weaknesses, and ways of viewing the world. But put us on a trail, and all we see each other as is a partner. A comrade. 

The beauty of the trails is the way they create both a level walking ground, and a level thinking ground. Everyone enjoys the scenery and the challenge, and everyone enjoys the company of the hike. So no longer is it two people who may work together - but two people who play together, walk together, learn together. And a bond is created.

These times of bonding have served as excellent learning times for me about how to not have an agenda. It is true that within a few days of being here, you are pegged as the group of Christian workers. This draws different reactions. Some never mention it, and just go about life as usual. Some bring it up in jesting ways, seeing that you are choosing to do things differently than everyone else. Others can be more harsh, mocking your faith repeatedly. But whoever I may be with, I have learned that to be genuine with people, I can’t have an agenda.

If I did - I would focus on achieving that goal, rather than meeting and truly knowing the person. So it doesn’t matter if someone ignores, jests, or mocks my faith, because my agenda towards them is not to prove them wrong or make them feel guilty. If I have any agenda, it is to know them.

So often these past few weeks I have thought of Christ, and exasperatedly said to myself, “How did He do it?!” I mean, he was with people, either disciples or others, almost all day every day. People who saw that he lived differently, heard that he proclaimed some sort of salvation, and wondered just what he was up to. What was Christ’s agenda? 

He wanted to be with the people. Whenever the Pharisees questioned him, he answered in parables, or in very humbling and to the point statements of character. He walked about teaching people - teaching wisdom, faith, and salvation. He answered questions, prayed over, healed, and proclaimed the power of his Father. 

Jesus knew what he was on earth to do - to die for our sins. But he wasn’t twisting the arms of people to make them accept his words. In fact, he knew he would be shunned. John writes that the “light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5). 

Jesus was completely and utterly himself. The Son of God. Walking with the children. Talking about the truth that he knows. 

While it is not always (or ever...) easy to see how badly truth is needed, yet how unwanted it is, it is encouraging to know that as Christ walked with people, so do I. So do we, around the parks, really. 

And I am always learning. Learning what it means to be with someone and converse as two people that kindly and peacefully disagree. Learning what it means to share my faith and joy in a way that both encourages people and shows them the reality of Christ. Learning what it means to sacrifice comfort, time, and sleep to be with others. Learning what it means to sacrifice comfort, time, and sleep to be with God. And most of all, learning what it means to live as a child of Light in a world of Darkness.

We still have a few weeks here of slow traffic and work hours, but in those, I am happy for the rest and chance to prepare that they give. Perhaps three weeks from now the dining room will be swamped, the lobby, noisy, and the parking lot, full. In that business, I know things will change and friendships will adjust with work hours.

But being genuine, sacrificing time, and dropping agendas - a lesson learned in the slow, steady pace of early June in Paradise.

"This summer allowed me to see the purpose as to why I study at seminary. I know of no other ministry that allows you to work full-time while you lead a team and practice running Sunday services each week. I grew a ton this summer!"
– Nick, Dallas Theological Seminary 2007

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