Oh the summer I spent at Many Glacier Hotel — the summer of 1988 in the incredible Many Glacier Valley in Glacier National Park. I had been accepted by ACMNP to be what they called a “Student Minister” at Glacier Park. Being a Montana boy already I was excited to go. What I experienced that summer changed my life and was the single most valuable experience in my life. I have now been in the ministry for 30 years and it just seems like a few summers ago when I showed up having completed my junior year of Bible College and training at Minneapolis MN under the tutelage of Mr. Warren Ost. He could sense that I had hesitation, for I had grown up in a very fundamental background and having to work with others of different denominations was going to be a challenge for me. He told me that learning to work with others that believed different than I did, was a privilege and that I would learn more about what I knew about God than at any other time in my life. I wasn’t sure what he meant but I was about to find out just how write he was as I showed up to began my summer at Many Glacier Hotel.
“I would learn more about what I knew about God than at any other time in my life.”
A job as bellman was secured for me and after a bit of a frustrating experience with the living arrangements I settled into my quarters and set up my books and study area. There were four other men living in the room so I had to be careful not to take too much space. What I experienced next as one of my fellow bellman came sauntering into the room, was to define what I would deal with all summer.
He came in, looked around, and just looked at my books with a bit of inquiry. I said, “Hope you don’t mind living with the Chaplin.”
Without any hesitation he responded, “Not if you don’t mind living with a heathen.” He then smiled, sauntered back out of the room and we were to establish a very good friendship throughout the summer. He and I were able to have some long talks throughout the summer and he challenged me to practice what I preached. I valued His accountability.
Even though my official title was “student minister,” every one called me “the Chaplin” and all my life I had been called by my nickname “Bruck” (half of my last name). So my bellman colleagues took it upon themselves to simply put the two together and they came up with “Chappybruck.” Now this is kind of a mouthful for some so many just shortened it to simply, “Chappy” so, throughout the summer many would just say, “Hey Chappy” and go about their business.
Now when I was contacted by ACMNP that I would be serving in Glacier Park, Paul, had a few “heads up” pieces of information for me. One of which he told me about was that last season one of the employees at Lake McDonald Lodge had been killed by a bear and that the student minister there had to do a memorial service for him. He kind of laughed and explained that it was very rare and hardly ever happened but I might want to be prepared just in case. I filed that little hint in my mind and didn’t really think about much more until…..
We conducted our services in one of the large rooms in the basement of the hotel called the Lucerne Room and it could seat about 150 people if necessary. Since our team conducted the services each Sunday morning we always had Sunday morning off. I would get up early and go to the Lucerne Room and walk the room asking God to bless our service and bring many requests to Him regarding the ministry there. The third Sunday as I was walking the room and praying, I asked that God would give me an opportunity to, at some point throughout the summer, share the gospel with each of the 420 staff people associated with the hotel. Now have you ever heard the phrase, “ be careful what you ask for?” Well I had no idea how He was supposed to do that but I put it out there anyway. Here is what He did.
Now, this position of Chaplin had a few unique responsibilities that even though I had been warned about and to be prepared for should they arise, found their way on to my “to do” list. One of them hit my list about half way through the summer when I was summoned to the hotel manager’s office. I was a bit nervous thinking I had done something unacceptable as I made my way to his office.
As I entered the office he was sitting at his desk and it appeared that he was about to cry. I asked what it was I could do for him as I took a seat in one of the chairs beside me. He slowly looked up and asked if I could direct him to the scripture that talked about a time to laugh and a time to cry and a time to morn. I thought for a few moments and directed him to Ecclesiastes chapter 3. He picked up his Bible and fumbled through it for a few moments finally coming to the passage and just sat quietly reading the chapter. I just patiently sat waiting, still not quite sure what he wanted from me. It was clear to me that He wanted something else and I was correct. After a few moments of reading he slowly looked up and asked, “Did they give you any training in how to conduct a funeral?”
“Did they give you any training in how to conduct a funeral?”
I was a bit taken back as I slowly responded that ACMNP had only warned me to be prepared for such an event and let him know that I was prepared. Oh ya…. that little hint I had filed in my mind that Paul had given me on the phone that day…. Anyway, my manager then shared with me that two of our boys in the kitchen had been on their way over the pass to Lake McDonald Lodge and were struck by a drunk driver and were killed.
I was a bit stunned and after a few moments of getting myself together asked what he had in mind as far as what he wanted me to do. He simply asked me to prepare for a memorial service to take place in three days and that both families were going to attend. He was going to shut the hotel down for the service so all but six employees could attend if they so chose. We then set a time to get together and plan that service and I left the office. I was not on duty so I just headed out to walk this out and do some real praying.
I began, “God, this is a bit ridiculous don’t you think. I mean you didn’t have to take lives to answer my request did you?” Then the verse came to my mind, “My ways are higher than your ways…”
“Ok God, I get it.” And peace came over me and all was settled.
The room began to fill as I sat there waiting for starting time. The families came in and I rose to greet and seat them. People continued to come…. And come… and pretty soon there were people standing out side and in the ball room next door. I figured there had to be three-hundred or more. All were employees at the hotel accept for the families of the deceased.
I was asked to keep it within twenty minutes and I think I nailed it and for the last half of my time I took the opportunity to share the raw Gospel with that whole crowd. I was later to find out that every employee attended accept for the six department heads that acted as security for the hotel while everyone was at the service. The Families, both of which told me before hand that they had not been involved in church or religion as far as they knew, thanked me and one mother said it was the best memorial service she had ever experienced. I spent the next several hours listening to and talking with grieving friends of these to guys and many of them seemed to be really examining their souls. It was a way to minister to many of my coworkers throughout the rest of the Summer. GOD DOES THAT!!
“My experience with ACMNP all those years ago is still a guide to my ministry activities to this day.”
I could go on for many more paragraphs but I won’t or I will have to publish this as a book but suffice it to say, My experience with ACMNP all those years ago is still a guide to my ministry activities to this day. I was even offered a job at Big Bend National Park for as long as I wanted the job and I foolishly turned them down because I thought I had a better plan for my life. I have regretted it ever since.
The fact that ACMNP is still going after more than 60 years speakes to the incredible effect it has had on so many lives both workers and guests to the parks over those years.
When I look back I see that I could possibly have made a career out of it I realize that saying no to God comes with consequences. I have learned from them and have had a fulfilling ministry but little of it compares to the time I spent with ACMNP.
If you get a chance to do it, take it. It will not just change your life it will define your life.
Dale “Bruck” Bruckner, Glacier National Park, 1988
The Lord said, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Attend a worship service in a park
during your next vacation