The year leading up to my summer with ACMNP could only be described as a season of change and growth. I had just finished my freshmen year of college and the growth that began there catapulted me into my summer in Yellowstone National Park.
Over my summer I watched my capacity for relationships with others grow immensely. Not only were close bonds formed with my nine other teammates at Old Faithful, but also with my non-believing coworkers. It was the long and tough days at work that brought us all together. I interacted with people I would have never previously thought I could be friends with. They came from backgrounds that were so different from my own, from the evangelical Christian bubble I was so used to.
One of the key lessons I learned was not to let your initial perception of a person prevent you from forming a relationship with them.
A situation that most exemplified this lesson occurred during one of our worship services over the summer. We were at the campground, ready to start the service when a man rode up on a bike with a cat on his shoulder and proceeded to sit down among the other families present. This man appeared to be homeless, or at least was a wanderer, from the looks of his clothes and the trailer of items attached to his bike. As the service was ending he stood up to make an announcement, and I became worried. My fears calmed as he began to share a message about the idea of family and the connectedness of mankind.
Following the service, a teammate of mine began talking to the man, as he explained that he had been riding around the park and surrounding forests for quite some time, stopping at campsites for as long as he could before rangers would kick him out. He said that the day before he heard a voice telling him to come to the campground that morning, although he didn’t know why. That is where he found our worship service. My teammate continued to talk with him about the gospel. While he didn’t accept the Bible that was offered, we made sure he was on his way with enough money to camp for the night.
That experience stuck with me for quite some time. It showed me how first impressions are not always correct. There are so many stories I can share from that summer of ministry, and all are a testament to how impactful my experience with ACMNP has been.
Ashley F., Yellowstone National Park, 2017
The Lord said, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”