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College students make a difference at Yosemite

YOSEMITE, Calif. (BP)–Yosemite National Park lays claim to some of the best climbing, backpacking and hiking in the world. Many people travel great distances to take advantage of life in the great outdoors, and some even sense spiritual connections to the beauty of the park — including Southern Baptist summer missionaries.

God’s power and beauty is easily recognizable in a place like Yosemite, but many visitors and employees of the park are non-believers. Joining in the challenge of leading them to Christ are several Baptist collegians.

Summer missionaries Susie Brindle* and Kristen Estes have been placed in Yosemite to work with NAMB missionary Steve Hughes in 52:7 Ministries, a program that teaches the techniques of evangelism to youth groups who visit Yosemite.

Summer missionaries tend to be college students who are looking for a way to serve God through missions. They sign up through their state Baptist conventions and are randomly placed in areas of ministry around the United States.

Estes and Brindle said they have become like sisters in living together in close quarters.

“We couldn’t work any better together,” Estes said. “We’re with each other 24/7, and we still get along great.”

During their long days together, Estes and Brindle have worked as backpacking and hiking guides, climbing instructors and evangelism trainers. Although the two collegians love their job, they say it is no cakewalk.

“We have obstacles every day,” Brindle said. “God just wants us to laugh.”

Two other collegians, Allison Tudor and Ethan Jensen, are working at Yosemite as part of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s Innovators program for college students who work normal park jobs and use their spare time to build relationships with fellow employees.

Jensen, a seasoned climber of five years, sees climbing as a perfect opportunity to share his faith. “I’ve had enough Bible training,” Jenson said. “It’s time for me to be in a place that challenges me.”

Tudor said most of her Yosemite co-workers “haven’t thought about [faith], and if they have, it’s like they’re not solid.”

Her fellow climbers often are the ones who initiate spiritual conversations, Tudor said, noting, “I’ve had to do it once or twice. Most of the time, they do it.”
*Name changed for security reason.

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  • David Hicks