During the summer seasons of 2017 and 2019, I worked at the Grand Canyon National Park in North Rim, Arizona. During my first season of working there, I had just spent four years in college studying my brains away and was itching to get on the open road and experience something new and exciting. I packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and traveled over 21 hours in my little 2001 Silver Impala held solely together by prayers for safe travel and the wonder duct tape (which kept my front bumper in place). I don’t have much to say about that first season besides having a wonderful time hiking and camping at places like Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and, of course, the North Rim. I also had a killer view during my lunch breaks.
My second season at the North Rim was very different. I continued to work the same position selling Native American jewelry at the Gift Shop located next to the main lodge and kept my habit of sauntering through the Roughriders Saloon every morning to get my free coffee and pastries before each shift and spend five days a week meeting some of the most amazing people; some who I’d rather forget about but will always remember and pray for. I still spent my free time taking photos and hiking around the area looking for new adventures and trails, sometimes even in 4 – 5 feet of snow because I’m crazy like that.
The things that changed in my second season in 2019 were the people I met, the ministry I joined, and what I discovered about myself and others.
It’s strange, looking back now. I fully believe that things come in seasons, both in the form of good times and hard times. I remember how stuck I felt during some hard times while I was there – how lost I felt – and I remember how at peace I felt when I turned to God for refuge and comfort.
It all began when I joined ACMNP( A Christian Ministry at the National Parks), an organization dedicated to sharing the word of God to those working at and visiting at National Parks. I didn’t want to join at first as Sunday was my only day off during the week, and I quite liked the idea of sleeping in. However, my roommate that season was the ministry leader and lead worship with her well-worn acoustic guitar. She asked me the same question many employees ask each other at first, and that question was, “ What brought you to work here at the Grand Canyon?” The most common answers were:
- to experience fun and adventure
- save money
- get away from home and/or family troubles
- or a little of each.
I wanted to say adventure, as that was why I went my first season. But sitting there in our shared dorm the second day of the second season, boxes all around that still needed unpacking; I wasn’t sure.
What I didn’t tell my roommate at the time was I was very good, maybe even an expert, at doubting myself and didn’t think I could do anything that required leadership and responsibility.
Right after I graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, I had a foot in the door to be an assistant producer at a news station. I never showed up to the interview due to my nearly crippling anxiety at the time and an ever-present monster lurking over me I called self-doubt.
On the third day of my second season at the Grand Canyon, I told my roommate I would join ACMNP and, for the rest of the summer, I spent every Sunday doing two services with our team — one at the beautiful outdoor campground amphitheater and one inside the North Rim Lodge dining room that had tall bay windows looking out over the picturesque canyon.
Our ministry team took turns to oversee different parts of the service, whether that be leading worship, taking tithe, or doing the message that week. I’ll never forget how amazing it felt when I no longer was the one sitting in the seat listening to the word as I always had but being the one who had testimonies God gave me to share, prayers to speak, and words to say that – I hope – encouraged and inspired others.
I NEVER thought I could do that.
I had always been the watcher, the person behind the scenes who was glad to peek around the curtain to see and maybe admire the ones who were brave enough for the spotlight. To step out in front of others was indeed a step, but one that never felt so right. I felt so close to God during those months and fell in love with the community our team created there. Over the course of those six months, we had many friends and strangers come up to us after service to share their own testimonies, ask for prayer, or share a praise report. It was amazing.
While it was a wonderful time, it wasn’t without its share of trials. Our ministry was not what you would call ‘popular’ with the other 200+ employees on site. It wasn’t uncommon for others to whisper behind our backs about how we were the ‘Jesus kids’ who didn’t like to party or spend time at the employee pub. One woman, in particular, continually harassed me for being Christian and not joining her in her idea of ‘fun.’ I ministered to her constantly and sat calmly as she would say the foulest things to my face and even threaten on occasion. She was a big, intimidating woman with dreadlocks and a cold look to her eyes, but I was never afraid of her and told her that God loved all who came to him and that grace and redemption was for all if they chose to leave the past behind and become something new. Weeks later, that same woman was lead off the property in handcuffs for doing illegal acts I don’t care to mention. We made eye contact as she was being led away, and she called out something I will never forget – In her deep and raspy voice, she called out: “I will remember you.”
The last message I gave that summer of 2019 was about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being tested on their faith as they faced death by being thrown into a blazing fire. Before they were thrown in by Nebuchadnezzar and his men, Shadrach and the others said in Daniel 3: 17-18, ” If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
What stuck out to me here was how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said they knew God could save them, but even if He did not, they would not worship the false images Nebuchadnezzar put before them. The fact that even if God doesn’t come to our immediate rescue, we should know as true followers of Christ that God is with us before, during, and after our circumstances, whether they be good or bad.
That 2019 summer, I learned much about myself, about my weaknesses, and for the first time in a long while, my strengths. I can’t tell you how many times I had co-workers and strangers come up and say to me that they knew I was capable of doing amazing things. It blew me away that so many could believe in me when I could not. I knew God always was with me, as was my family, but I had to step out and do things I didn’t expect to do to come to that realization.
God gives us all gifts and has plans for us all with our varying talents, gifts, and purposes. My message here is not to be afraid of taking that first step into the unknown. Every part of our life has a reason. Good times and the hardest of times in our lives become some of our most powerful testimonies. How and when we share them is up to us!
Tiffany Lyle has been the Content Coordinator for Branson Travel Group for over a year and enjoys every minute of working with her quirky Marketing team and rubbing shoulders with the best of Branson performers. When not writing, taking pictures, doing interviews, or managing social media pages, Tiffany loves to paint with acrylics, spend time with friends, and go on last-minute road trips with her crazy, rambunctious family. You can learn more about Tiffany at her website, here.