Another Great Idea

September/October 2012

She walks ever slower as she approaches, not wanting to rush the moment.  The young woman knows she’s supposed to have some reaction, some life-changing experience as she encounters this awe-inspiring place that has been absorbed into the national consciousness.  Yet nothing could prepare her for the scene that rolls out in front of her.  She gasps involuntarily as she peaks over the rim and takes in the magnitude of the Grand Canyon. 

The massive trench cuts through the landscape, perfectly parallel layers of rock remain stacked for thousands of feet revealing something profound, though she’s not sure what.  The earth is sliced wide open and its innards are splayed out in varying shades of brown: rust, tan, auburn, and coffee.  A tiny winding river with its imperceptible flow combines with patches of green across the valley, proclaiming life in such a harsh desert setting. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Canyon was so hyped that she wanted to be unimpressed.  But despite her attempt at cynicism, she can’t take her eyes off the scene.

Wallace Stegner is given credit for calling our national parks “the best idea we ever had,” and who can argue? How many of us have had similar experiences: the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the majesty of Glacier, the power of Yellowstone.  For many, it’s the first and maybe the only experience with wild lands that are, if not untrammeled, at least preserved in as close to their original state as possible.  For others, the national parks are an annual pilgrimage to replenish their souls and plunge themselves into the profundity of nature.

If preserving parts of this country for people to experience the outdoors in its natural state is the greatest idea, then giving people an opportunity to reflect and respond to those feelings of awe and worship is a pretty close second.  In fact, that’s what has been happening every year since 1951.  Volunteers from A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) provide worship, fellowship, and discussion opportunities to the visitors and workers of our national parks all across the country.  ACMNP’s motto says it all: “Encountering God in the Wonders of Creation.”


Near the beginning of the Exodus years, spies were sent to assess the land to be conquered; the result was that forty years later, the Israelites were still in the wilderness, due to a lack of trust by some.  When it was time to take another close look at the land, spies were again sent. This time the result was different, as we learn from the story of Rahab and the city of Jericho.  Our ACMNP worship team had an experience with “good spies” with an unexpected yet delightful result.  One Sunday morning, seven elementary aged children reconnoitered our mountain worship site (Rocky Mt National Park, Aspenglen Campgrounds) from the woods, sent two emissaries to assess the situation, called for their friends, and ended up having their own service with us (in-between our official services).  The discussion became based on Psalm 19, complete with worship songs and motions, and ended in prayer in a circle holding hands. Even the reluctant pre-teen pair edged their way close enough to hear. The group disappeared into the woods before people began to arrive for the scheduled 10:00am service.  God was at work in creative ways that morning, using “spies” in a plan such as this.

                                                 - Ruth, Rocky Mt National Park



About the Author

  • Shout_Outdoor_Lifestyle_Magazine's picture

    Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine helps readers make connections between their outdoor lifestyle interests and the Christian faith.  It is published 6 times per year beginning with the January/February issue and finishing with the November/December issue. It is published on the internet at and is promoted via a monthly newsletter as well as periodic posts and updated through social media ( and 

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