When I started telling people that I was going on a mission trip all summer in Yellowstone a couple of them had comments like this..."oh, you'll be really getting in the trenches for the gospel won't you?" or "are you sure it's not a vacation?" These comments made me angry, but I could see where these people were coming from. When most people think of mission trips they think of third-world countries, half-naked children, and dirty drinking water, not National Parks.
I myself was thinking that it was going to be hard. Hard to juggle a job and a ministry at the same time. I was wrong. Since being here I have come to the realization that there is so much more to it than that. It's extremely hard. These people are lost. Their hearts are yearning for something, but they can't put a finger on just what. You can see them trying to fill a void with how much sex they can have, how high they can get, and how much they can drink before they get kicked out of the employee pub. Sometimes that's the reason they are in a National Park to begin with, they are soul searching. Ironically, people that are searching for something run toward creation, and the parks are the perfect place to do that.
Not only did I not realize how lost these people are, I also didn't realize how draining it would be for me and my ACMNP ministry team. It's difficult to always be the 'perfect' example of Christ to these lost people. It's hard to know where to draw the line between hanging out with these people, and participating in something you don't believe in. When is it okay to sit back and listen, speak up and say you aren't okay with something, or not spend time with them at all?
Today I had the day off from work so I did nothing. Literally, nothing. I took a nap, read some C.S. Lewis, called some friends from back home on the phone, and wrote in my journal. It doesn't sound like a very productive day, but it was a much needed time of solitude. I was able to reflect and think in silence. I was also able to talk to some very encouraging friends on the phone. They told me exactly what I needed to hear. They reminded me that even though there are lots of lost people here, my job is to work on a person at a time, and to be intentional in those one-on-one conversations with them. So that's what I'm doing. I'm taking it a day at a time, a person at a time.
I can guarantee that I'm not coming back this fall with pictures of me with a dozen African children hugging me or me holding Honduran orphans, but I pray that I will come back home knowing that I was able to share the love of Christ to the people of this park.
It's been harder than I thought, but God is teaching me more than I could have ever imagined.
G R A C E
, by Grace Whittington