To help people encounter God in the wonders of creation and be the ministry of Jesus to visitors, coworkers and people passing through, A Christian Ministry in the National Parks is a nonprofit, inter-denominational ministry, which sends ministry teams into national parks every summer.
ACMNP National Recruiter Katie Middaugh will bring her national park experiences to the Oklahoma Christian University campus tomorrow from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Student Center as a way to encourage students to consider joining a team this summer. She said this experience is beneficial for students because it stretches and challenges them in their faith, while exposing them to the beauty of God’s creation and relational ministry.
“It is such a growing experience as person, in your walk with Christ and all around,” Middaugh said. “You have a lot of freedom in the park with your ministry team and team members and you have to work alongside each other. The culture in the park amongst the employees is pretty dark, as not a lot of employees know Christ. Many of them are seasonal workers who travel from seasonal job to seasonal job trying to find themselves or find meaning in life, and they’re all just kind of searching.”
Senior Tanner Bowen went to Sequoia National Park with ACMNP last summer. He applied and was accepted into the program, and was then given several parks to choose from at which to spend his summer.
“My choices were Olympic National Park, Mt. Zion National Park and Sequoia National Park,” Bowen said. “I got hired, then applied to the concessionary company. I was a cashier in the market and I lived above the market in the park. The benefit of going through ACMNP is that you get to do worship services on Sunday with a team of people. Many people are looking for mission opportunities and chances to practice a relational ministry, and many times you have to pay a lot of money to do that. This, you actually make money working a job.”
ACMNP’s focus is relational ministry in the parks. Through this program, students get to practice ministry with visitors and staff members. Bowen said one of his favorite aspects of ACMNP was having the ability to work and explore in God’s creation, while also exploring the park and the surrounding area in his free time.
“Getting to climb a mountain and look at the mountain view all afternoon and not having to worry about other responsibilities – being with people, going on hikes, going to the lake to get shakes or going on night hikes to look at the stars,” Bowen said. “That was a big part of it—the worship services were important—but at the end of the summer we all felt our biggest impacts were the relationships we built with the people we were working with. Getting to walk in the sequoia groves and be so tiny next to these trees, it is so crazy realizing those have been around for thousands of years. We don’t have that many opportunities to be in the wild, like mountains and plains.”
Middaugh said she encourages students to participate in ACMNP because it will challenge and shape them in their relationship with God and their relationships with others in new ways.
“This experience will change your life, it will change your perspective on who the Lord is, how He works and His beauty, because you are in His creation all summer,” Middaugh said. “You will have a whole new perspective on the people that He has made. People from all walks of life are who you are going to be working with in your job and you just get to learn how to love all kinds of people the way Christ loves us.”
Bowen said last summer in Sequoia changed his perspective on the way he views creation and his creator, and he wants to encourage students to participate in programs like ACMNP while they can in college.
“Before ACMNP, I hadn’t experienced nature in that way,” Bowen said. “Having perspective of these places that are protected that we have access to, I feel like I was opened up to all of this beauty that I hadn’t thought of or valued before. Most people don’t have the opportunities to do these types of things once they graduate, so I would challenge for students to really think about their summers, make them count and seek out opportunities to try something different. If this was something that I knew about my freshman year, I would have spent every summer doing it.”