Something Greater

“Recently, my roommate and I celebrated our 90th anniversary. That is, our 90th day anniversary. 90 days of living and working in one of the most bizarre places on earth.

“To make a long story short, my season in Death Valley has been one of the most challenging and definitely most rewarding seasons of my life. Being born and raised in Virginia meant that flying out to California felt like flying to another planet, but I came because I was called. I remember sitting down to write my first sermon. Isaiah 40 kept churning in the back of my mind: the voice of one crying in the wilderness…so I dug a little deeper and spoke about how in the Bible, God uses places of wilderness (and in this case an actual desert) to prepare our hearts for something greater in the future. Being in the wilderness is scary, but it forces us to turn to God himself in a place where all our thoughts are laid out in the wide open. For me, coming to Death Valley has been a beautiful, real-life example of walking through the wilderness.  My biggest battle has been fighting the feeling of homesickness. For the first two and a half months, I tried to come up with new ways almost every week to convince myself that it was okay to give up and go home early. I’m so glad I stuck it out!  I arrived several weeks before any of my other teammates did, so it took a long time to get our services truly up and running, but a Sunday morning now is so much better than the first few I tried to lead! Beginning in February, my team and I started leading a Bible Study that meets every Wednesday night on the patio of the old Harmony Borax Museum. A conversation we had at our most recent study session has been on my mind ever since we had it. We’ve been going through the book of Romans, and in Chapter 1, Paul talks about the importance of having a community to encourage one another in their faith. Everyone sitting around the table is on their own journey to discover and develop a relationship with Christ and they were so grateful to find other people who felt the same way. Since stepping foot into this ministry, I’ve honestly been wondering what the point is or whether or not I’m really making any kind of a difference, but after that discussion I understand that the true purpose of Park Life Ministry isn’t to collect an impressive amount of offering money or turn everyone we meet into a devoted missionary. The purpose of this unique ministry is to meet others who are wandering just like I am, shine the light of Christ into their lives so that they might remember it on their darkest days, and provide a sense of community where seeds of faith can be planted in even the wildest places in America. I celebrated my 20th birthday just a few weeks into getting settled in Death Valley, and to say that I have done a lot of growing up during my time out here is saying it lightly. The desert is an amazing place for those who are willing to adapt to its ways. Even in one of the driest places in North America, life can (and will) flourish.

“Curious about a typical week in Death Valley? Here’s a rundown of the rhythm I’ve experienced:

  • Worship – Every Sunday, we meet at 10am at the Wild Rose building. Now that the weather is warming up, we’ve been setting up chairs on the back porch but management is pretty supportive of our group and allowed us to meet indoors as well. We’ve truly been blessed with a regular attendance of 6-10 people every Sunday. These people have become like a family to me and after the service, everyone always migrates over to the Ice Cream Parlor to drink coffee and chat for hours. One of the most memorable services was on Christmas. Nearly 25 people showed up, including a family who was visiting the park from Holland. They even came to the ICP afterwards with us and participated in the birthday party for Jesus (I was able to hitch a ride to the nearest Walmart and get a white sheet cake and some candles)!
  • Work – For most of the week, you can find me scooping cones and blending shakes in the Ice Cream Parlor. In my opinion, it’s the sweetest job I could’ve asked for. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to so many guests and get to know many other employees better since the Parlor tends to be the place that everyone congregates.
  • Play – You could honestly live in this park for 50 years and never see every inch of it. Days off are almost always dedicated to climbing rocks, camping in canyons, and hiking on abandoned mining grounds. I’ve gone horseback riding like a true cowgirl and biked Artist’s Drive on more than one occasion. Not having a car out here has made getting out to explore a bit difficult, but the longer I’ve been out here the more friends I’ve made so I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve always got someone with four wheels who is eager for an adventure.

“I made a social media post about surviving in the desert for 90 days with nine of my favorite pictures I’ve taken thus far. To complement that, I came up with a list of nine things I love the most about Death Valley:

  1. The community. This is the first park I’ve ever worked in, so I don’t know if others can relate, but I never knew what the word community truly meant until I was forced to live and work alongside people who come from all across the country and just happen to be in the same place at the same time. The Oasis is a pretty compact property in the middle of a vast park, so if you are willing to find friends and spend time with people you’ll find valuable connections.
  2. The weather.
  3. Sunrises and sunsets that never disappoint.
  4. Getting dressed up to have breakfast at the Inn.
  5. Licking the salt floor at Badwater Basin.
  6. Canyoneering.
  7. Rolling down the sand dunes under a full moon.
  8. Finding flowers…yes, flowers.
  9. Date Ice Cream 🙂


Harleigh, Death Valley National Park, 2022-23

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