You have probably heard it time and time again: serving in a national park is an unforgettable, exhilarating, challenging, worthy experience. I am here to validate the truth in that statement. I had the utmost honor of having lived on a 45-mile long archipelago in the middle of Lake Superior, Michigan during the 2017 summer season with the goal of being an obnoxious orb of Christian light that just wouldn’t go away.
I had no idea what to expect going into my ACMNP season. Isle Royale is our most isolated national park and in my opinion one of the most beautiful places in our country. Unlike most teams, I was going into my park as a one-man show. Having never lead worship services, hosting bible studies, or being the point person for ministry, you can imagine how nervous I felt. But oh my goodness was everything worth it. Every challenge and doubt quickly evaporated into a rain of persistence and encouragement.
Yes I was one body on the ground for the majority of my service but I was by no means alone in my mission.
Between my unconditionally caring prayer partner, ACMNP ministry support team, and God Himself, I had everything I needed to do what I was sent to do: embody and extend the ministry of Jesus Christ!
Because my team was so small, the focus of my vocation on Isle Royale became relational ministry. 1 John 4:11 reads, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” So simple and yet so beautiful. This verse has propelled me through much of my life, but it took an even more powerful approach while living among a community of wonderful people who were not of like-mind. One thing I never realized about the seasonal employees of national parks is their tendency to drink. There is a multitude of reasons behind the use of alcohol, but often it becomes a habit when the person is trying to escape from something. I am not the kind of person who will look down upon someone for drinking too much or not be a friend for that same reason – I believe it’s even more important to remain consistent in love.
About halfway through my summer in the park I decided to tell one of my co-workers that I loved him. I don’t know why I felt the urge, but I wanted him to know that I cared about him. I asked if I could pray for him with any specifications, but he shook his head no. I prayed anyways. Two nights later he came up to me and thanked me. He said he wasn’t sure if I actually prayed or not, but that the night I told him I loved him he felt something, and he couldn’t find the words to express what it was. It was just the two of us and he opened up, telling me he had just learned a childhood best friend had committed suicide. We shared the greatest of bear hugs and a tear or two. I’ll never stop praying for my friend and I will hold on to that moment forever.
Sometimes serving is as simple as being present. ACMNP brought me to a place so beautiful I did not know it could exist and it allowed me to build relationships with people who will always hug a piece of my heart.
We cannot always expect to watch our seeds grow; all we can do is plant them anyway.
Rachel T., Isle Royale National Park, 2017
The Lord said, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”