After two weeks of unsuccessful attempts to go to church, Tom and I finally found a church service and got to it on time. Success! We went to the Christian Ministry in the National Parks service at Furnace Creek at 9 a.m.
Christian Ministry in the National Parks is a multi-denominational organization that works with the NPS and various concessionaires to provide a Christian worship service at campgrounds at National Parks. Tom and I have attended worship services in National Parks previously in Glacier, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Smokey. Generally they are run by seminary students who work a full-time job for the consessionaires and then lead the worship service on Sunday morning. There are usually teams of three young people and we have always enjoyed their enthusiasm as well as the lovely outdoor settings where most of the services are held.
The worship service at Furnace Creek was held in the Date Grove, so we were surrounded by beautiful date palm trees with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. There were about 20 people in the congregation and we enjoyed singing, praying, and worshiping together in the sunny, warm setting.
Tobin was the preacher for the morning. He is a seminary graduate and he preached about Elijah and how we can go from being on top of the world, secure in our faith one minute, to being in despair and feeling lost the next. Tobin mentioned how getting lost in Death Valley – or any national park – can be fatal. Getting lost from God is also fatal to our spirits. If we are lost we need to stay put or, if possible, return to the place from where we came. If we are lost, spiritually, we need to stay put (not wander farther away from God) and return to our first love of Jesus Christ. It was a good message, although flocks of birds soaring overhead were a bit distracting.
After the service we took a little time to talk to Laurie and Adam, the other two people on the team who help with worship. Both of them are college graduates who have applied to seminary and hope to begin next fall. Adam is a United Methodist from Wisconsin and Laurie is a Lutheran from Michigan. They told us that most of the people who come to worship are employees at Death Valley National Park because they are not allowed to advertise the services to the guests of the park. No wonder Tom and I had such a hard time finding out about the service. The National Park won’t even put a small note in the park “newspaper” or list of daily events about the service.
Tom and I were glad to find a worship service that we can attend relatively close by. We plan on making this our “church” during the time we are in Death Valley. We even got invited to Bible Study and a pulled pork dinner tomorrow night. Finally – worship success in Death Valley!