We are excited to be starting a new monthly feature this year that will highlight ways campers, RVers, hikers, backpackers, or outdoor enthusiasts can get involved in service opportunities and give back to their communities. As we started to research possible ministries to spotlight, we were amazed to discover how many opportunities are available. And I’m sure we have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg. So each month we will feature a Q&A to explore what these various ministries are doing and how you could get involved. We would also love to hear from you if you know about a ministry we should feature. Just drop us a line here.
We are launching this monthly series with a look at ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks). When Jarrett first met ACMNP national recruiter Annalee Koonst a few months ago, we had never heard about ACMNP. And after spending a lot of time in the national parks this summer, it’s something we wished we had known about, so we asked Annalee to tell us more:
For those readers who have never heard about ACMNP, share briefly about what the ministry is doing in the national parks. ACMNP is a unique non-profit organization that enriches the wonders of His creation through worship, witness, and leadership. Followers of Christ have the opportunity to work, live, and lead worship in a national park for a summer.
Why was ACMNP started? Tell me a little bit about its history. ACMNP originated in 1951 when founder Warren Ost, a Princeton Seminary student, worked in Yellowstone for the summer and noticed the various faith-based needs of park visitors, residents, and his own co-workers. One Sunday, he led an interdenominational service of worship in the bar area of the Old Faithful Inn, and ACMNP was born. We like to say we were doing bar ministry long before it was in style!
Let’s say a camper is at one of the parks where ACMNP is active. How would a camper (without internet access) find out about worship services or other ACMNP activities? Campers can find out about ACMNP from the check-desk at their lodge or campground within the park. We have posters on the informational board and signs located in numerous parks. Each week at numerous parks, members of ACMNP will “campground walk” to [tell campers] about the ministry and invite them to that week’s service.
In addition to the interdenominational worship services, what other types of events and activities does ACMNP coordinate? Each member of ACMNP has a full time job in the park and is constantly working on relational ministry with co-workers, visitors, and everybody we come in contact with.
I read on your site that ACMNP is available to help in times of emergency. Can you tell me about a time ACMNP had a profound impact on a national park visitor who was facing a personal crisis? This story comes from a team member placed in Big Sir for the summer of 2015: There was a little girl in our lobby in the company of two older gentlemen and I could just tell she didn’t belong to them because of the way she was dressed in comparison to them. Using techniques I learned when I was a camp counselor, I engaged in conversation with the little girl to find out if she was okay. Long story short, I had no reason to make them stay but got their license plate number, noted which direction they went, and called the rangers. She was in fact a kidnapped kid, but had not been gone longer than 24 hours so they could not report it, since she may have just been lost on a trail. She was safely returned. We’ve been pretty discouraged here in Big Sur with the lack of services, but if God sent us here just to help that little girl, the whole summer is more than worth it.
Is ACMNP looking for volunteers, and if so, how could someone get involved? Are volunteers primarily college students, or multi-generational? And what type of commitment do volunteers need to make? ACMNP is always looking for volunteers on numerous levels:
- One way to get involved with the ministry is to take a summer to live, work, and lead worship in a national park. We recruit mostly college students due to the seasonal work it requires. However, we have had numerous couples ranging from all ages including newlyweds and retirees that have served in the parks together.
- Of course, prayer is huge. Pray for successful seasons, strong members, the necessary financial support, and the work done to make this ministry possible.
- At each park we have a Support Committee. Those are community members who live at or near each national park where ACMNP is working to be a support to the teams. In addition to offering assistance, answering questions, or giving advice, the support members show the team members around and make them feel welcome when they arrive.
- And of course, financial support is always very helpful.