Old St. Paul’s Mission Trip Blog Yellowstone, 2017
Thoughts from Pastor Robert
This year’s mission trip has been several years in the making. It all started back in 2014 while on the Charleston Mission Trip, when it was first suggested. After two other Mission Trips to Savannah and then last year’s trip to Philadelphia, we made the decision to work toward the Yellowstone Trip.
A heartfelt thanks to all of the members and friends of Old St. Paul’s for making this trip a reality; for supporting our car wash, the dinners after worship, along with the special gifts. Thanks to our adult leaders, Pastor Robert Sain, Randy Sigmon, Debbie Wentz and Dusty Wentz. Pastor Robert provided spiritual support. Randy and Dusty not only drove the almost 5,000 miles we traveled, but were always dropping us off and picking us up from restaurants and all of the special attractions. Debbie’s photography was incredible, as you will see, and her help with coordinating our meals was invaluable. Very special thanks to our hosts congregations, and leaders, who provide our lodging along the way: Crystal Lee and the folks from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Columbia, MO; Matt Christianson, Rev. Bruck Thalacker, Tristan Rosson and the members of South Canyon Lutheran Church, Rapid City, SD; Rev. Audrey Rydbom and Richard Brown and the people of Trinity Lutheran Church, Cody, WY; and finally, Pastor Inger Hansen and the folks at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, Jackson, WY. Additionally, we are indebted to the National Park Service staff at Yellowstone National Park, and specifically Rangers Mike and John, who worked with us and taught us so much about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem!
Finally, our youth; your youth, your children, grandchildren and friends, are all incredible young people. You will read their reflections of the trip, and the impact that it did and will make upon them. Old St. Paul’s is blessed with incredible children and youth, who are growing in their understanding of God, and God’s purpose for them and the world! As in all mission trips, and any endeavor that God calls the church into, we are first and foremost grateful to God, and God’s presence with us.
We began our journey with this prayer: O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel...surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. -Book of Common Prayer For Travelers
Day One – July 21st, 2017 Reflection By Kelly Parker
After about 803 miles and nearly 12 hours on the road, we safely made it to our first checkpoint in Columbia, Missouri, where we're settling in at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church for the night! Needless to say, it's been a long day, but our drivers, Captain Randy and Dusty, were champs. And by the grace of God, all of the bus tires survived the trip this time as well. Along the way, we made a little stop in St. Louis to walk inside the historic Old Courthouse, erected in 1816 and decorated in star-spangled banners from floor to ceiling. We also rode a space-shuttle-like, claustrophobiainducing contraption (they don't put that in the brochures!) all the way to the peak of the 630-foot tall Gateway Arch, the nation's TALLEST monument. But the view, overlooking the town and Mississippi River, was definitely worth it. Please pray for us as we continue our long journey tomorrow and head toward Rapid City, South Dakota. Thank you to St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Columbia, MO, for your hospitality.
Day Two – July 22nd, 2017 Caleb Price
Some call it mission work, while others simply call it loving others. It was a mission of love as we drove from Missouri to South Dakota, covering another eight hundred miles as we not only slept close together on the bus, but learned together with the help of Thomas’s excellent trivia quizzes about Iowa and South Dakota. We also saw incredible sights together, including the infamous Badlands of South Dakota and the landscape of open fields that go on and on for miles, which no words can properly describe. Not to mention, we laughed together, thanks to the pastor’s witty jokes and reflection on past trips. Most importantly, we grew together in faith through devotion and prayer. And it's only been two days! Thank you to South Canyon Lutheran Church, Rapid City, SD for your hospitality.
Day Three – July 23rd, 2017 Beau Sigmon
After a feast of biscuits and country ham, we set out on day two of the mission trip. Special thanks to Randy for charming the parking lot attendant into giving us a discount on the entry fee into Mount Rushmore. What an amazing, historical place! Presidential sculptures, flag displays, and the rolling Black Hills of South Dakota formed a backdrop for a very special worship service, which gave us a chance to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, right in the midst of it. The drive to Cody, WY was picture perfect, traveling through the mighty Rockies. The most difficult part of the day, surprisingly to us, was finding a restaurant in Cody that would serve a group our size. The rodeo was unbelievable. It was a whole new experience for a lot of us, but now most of the group can correctly distinguish a Wyoming duck from a Montana one, thanks to a clever Rodeo clown, so we all learned lot. It was a wonderful day with wonderful people, everything that makes a Sunday great. Thank you for your hospitality, Trinity Lutheran Church, Cody, WY.
Day Four – July 24th, 2017 Amber Jones
Today we left Cody, WY and ended up in Yellowstone. Before I got to Yellowstone, I never truly understood how beautiful God’s creation could be, but being here showed me. On the way to Yellowstone, we stopped at the Buffalo Bill Dam, and it was absolutely outstanding. Right before we entered Yellowstone National Park, we also stopped at Buffalo Bill’s Original Hunting Lodge. It was so unique to see vintage historical items that were totally new to people back in the early 1900s. We traveled, we saw, and we arrived. I am so excited to see what the rest of the week will bring.
Day Five – July 25th, 2017 Zane Wilson
Today we put in our first volunteer hours. After waking up early and eating a breakfast of champions, we left the campsite to meet our national park ranger, Mike, at the trailhead of Monument Geyser, located in the Norris area of Yellowstone. We helped Mike with “brushing” the trail (cutting limb growth back six to eight feet so the trail is clear). This task is completed to ensure visibility for hikers as well as rescue crews that need to navigate the steep incline if they need to carry an injured person down the trail. We had to cut the limbs off the trees as high as we could reach so cross-country skiers and snowshoers can pass through in the winter, when there are mounds of snow on the ground. We also had to haul the cut limbs 20 to 30 feet off the trail to preserve the beauty of the natural forest. This was challenging work. The clippers got very heavy, and we were working on an incline of over 8,000 ft. in elevation the whole time, which made breathing difficult. After we left the trail, we finally went to take refreshing baths in the Madison River. Yes, you read that correctly. Then we dried off and ate at Old Faithful Café, where we watched the Old Faithful Geyser erupt -- a treat for sore eyes. We walked on the boardwalk around the geyser, visited the Old Faithful Inn, and went to the gift shop for a while, too. It was a good day, but we are very tired and looking forward to rest.
BEFORE BRUSHING AFTER BRUSHING
Day Six – July 26th, 2017 Thomas Jones
We woke up to another freezing cold morning, but warmed up a little as we ate a great breakfast and dressed for the day. On the way to our workplace, we came across a huge grizzly bear and her yearling cub only about a mile away from our campsite. They were beautiful, digging in logs, looking for grub worms to eat, but I hope they didn’t go sniffing around our tents. I wore my onesie last night, and I know that attracts the ladies. On the way to our worksite, we also saw a few elk grazing in the grass, not something you get to see every day. Then we drove down the bumpiest dirt road yet to reach the field we worked. Things were falling from the overhead compartments left and right after every bump. A hard hat even fell on my head!
When we finally reached our worksite, we arrived in a meadow that had a beautiful view of the mountains and a river at the bottom, where we could see several people rafting down the rapids. Our job for the day was to cut down an invasive plant species called Russian Wheat Grass that has overtaken the meadows right outside Yellowstone. We ended up cutting almost a whole field full of this plant, probably two or three acres. Our guide seemed very pleased and grateful. Once we finished cutting the invasive plants, we left to eat our sandwiches for lunch at Mammoth Visitor Center, then we headed to another location nearby to paint a fence around a weather center in the park. After we painted that whole fence, we rode around Lamar Valley, watching the huge herds of buffalo, one of which was standing right on the side of the road. We had to wait a little while to go around him. Later in the afternoon we stopped to eat supper at Roosevelt Lodge before returning to the campsite, where we enjoyed a nice fire and s'mores as we talked, soaking in our last night in Yellowstone.
Day Seven – July 27th, 2017 Joseph Duncan
Beau, Debbie and Dusty cooked yet another wonderful breakfast to help us start the day off right. Then as we were packing up our things to leave, a buffalo wandered through our camp! Thankfully it didn’t seem nearly as interested in us as we were in it. Shortly after this miracle of a sighting, we helped Ranger Mike cut down trees to make into posts or rails for fencing later, and then hauled the logs back to where we camped. After we finished our last work assignment, we loaded up the bus and headed out of Yellowstone. On the way out of the park, we stopped to look at a few geysers, hot springs and mud pools. We then drove through the Grand Tetons, where we saw gorgeous mountain ranges, and kept our eyes peeled for some moose, but didn’t see any this time. After eating supper at the Gun Barrel in Jackson Hole, we spent the night at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Jackson, WY. It was a good day, and I loved every minute, even the hard yet satisfying work that we put into the park this morning. We are headed home tomorrow.
Day Eight – July 28th, 2017 Maggie Sigmon
We left Shepard of the Mountains Lutheran church at the crack of dawn. It was a lot nicer to wake up in a warm building, compared to a cold tent. Around 10:30 a.m. we stopped for breakfast at a McDonald's in Rawlins, WY. Following breakfast we drove for about four more hours, until everyone needed a bathroom break; turns out Nebraska doesn't have very many rest stops! Eventually we found a small one, then continued on our journey home. For dinner we had Subway in Nebraska. As of right now, Dusty and Randy have decided to drive through the night so we can get back sooner.
Day Nine – July 29th, 2017 Kelly Parker
I don't think I've ever felt closer to God than I did while working in Yellowstone National Park this week. The uninterrupted environment allowed us to appreciate the grandeur of our Creator's world as he intended, in a way that few people get to experience, without distractions, and in the midst of untouched landscapes teeming with majestic wildlife. In a word, this journey felt biblical on many levels. From the moment we entered our campsite, Mother Nature bared her teeth and claws as the temperature quickly plummeted to nearly 40 degrees, gnashing into our summer attire, and a rainstorm promptly greeted us while we rushed to pitch our flimsy tents. It was as if God wanted to remind us all who truly rules this kingdom, and the crashing bolts of lightening proclaimed the message. Compared to other mission trips in the past, this one tested us both individually and collectively more than ever in ways we weren't prepared to face -- spiritually, mentally and physically. But as the mountains withstand the storms or the animals return with each passing season, we too endured, growing stronger in our faith. I don't think any of us will ever forget the blanket of stars that warmed our spirits during the cold nights we spent sitting around our campfire together; the lone bison that loafed through our campsite on the last day to bid us farewell; or the paths that we cleared, literally and figuratively, for others to follow in our footsteps, so that they, too, can witness this wondrous place that our Maker sculpted for us to cherish. I am beyond proud of everyone who came on this trip for their hard work, patience and persistent humor in times of trial. I'm also grateful to everyone in our church, as well as members of other churches who graciously opened their doors to us, for helping to make this rare opportunity possible.
Post Trip Reflection from Caleb Price
We are back in N.C. (not home yet). I'd like to share my reflection on this trip. This has been an incredible nine days. It has not necessarily been a vacation, but a much-needed time to reflect on myself and recent events in my life. I've thoroughly enjoyed this mission trip to Yellowstone, and it will definitely be one for the books. I couldn't have asked for better leaders or fellow youth members with whom to trek halfway across the country. We hauled some limbs, plucked some weeds, painted a couple posts and carried some logs together (I feel bad for not helping with the logs that much, because I was a zombie from exhaustion that day). But I'm glad to be back in N.C.. If you ever get the chance to travel and people give you the opportunity to travel, take it. Mid-West is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and I'm very thankful to have been granted this opportunity, which I took. The only bad souvenir I picked up was a crummy old cold. Wish I could return it for a refund. We're just a little over the N.C. border now. Thanks for the prayers and thoughts while we were out West. This is my reflection, and I hope you enjoyed the pictures.