Fortunately for you, our faithful readers, we have internet…or really I should say I have internet connectivity. Since I am a trusted adult leader and I am keeping this blog, I was given the WiFi password for the elementary school that we are calling home for the next five days here in Heart Butte. More on that later. This means that you all will continue to receive daily posts of our adventures in Montana. We have only been in this amazing state for twenty-seven hours but already there has been a sense of adventure and excitement among the group. However because we are literally out in the middle of nowhere, a good thirty minute drive to anything, there is zero cellphone reception. I mean zero. In order to find any reception and therefore connection to the outside world one would have to travel down the road to a specific spot off the main road in Heart Butte to maybe find a signal. If that doesn’t work there is then another spot that is rumored to have a signal. Then if that second one is a bust we have to go to the heart of this tiny town by the community building and there, and only there will we find a signal. Fortunately for us we will be in that area almost every afternoon. Unfortunately for the youth they will not have their cellphones. This means Lauren, Katie and I will keep you all up to date as best we can by posting to Facebook and Instagram. Otherwise you can catch up on our adventures with our daily blog.
With that said let me catch you all up on our adventures in Montana. We awoke this morning feeling rested and ready to go. In fact most of us are probably still on east coast time and so we were up and ready for breakfast before our agreed upon time of 8:00AM. We had a pretty good hotel breakfast and were on the road by 8:30. Before us lay two routes; 1) hang around the Helena area and then take interstate highways north, traveling through nothing in particular but near the eastern side of Glacier National Park and be at Heart Butte in just under three hours, or 2) travel around the southern end of a national forest and the come up the western end of the park and enter through the main gate in West Glacier. The benefit of option 1 is that we could take our time in Helena, explore the city a little, and then leisurely make our way up the highway to Heart Butte. The benefit of option 2 is that we could actually get into Glacier National Park and the drive The Road to the Sun, which traverses the park from west to east, or east to west, depending on your perspective. We knew early on that we wanted to take option 2 and drive on this amazing scenic drive that weaves its way through the peaks and valleys of the park. What we did not know until recently was that wildfires have shut down half of the road. We just didn’t fully know how that would impact us.
We drove along these small state highways, usually two lanes wide, and made our way through different national forests. We stopped to take pictures of our views along the way. We soon began to realize that it was taking us longer to get to the gate then we originally intended. Mind you, we were intentionally taking the long route. It was almost 1:00PM and we were approaching Kalispell, which is the major city thirty minutes west of the gates, and we hadn’t eaten. Apparently the thing to do in Montana on a Sunday morning/afternoon was go out to eat. We stopped at two different diners and the wait was ridiculously long. We finally settled on a pizza place and it turned out to be pretty good. It was almost 2:30 before we were on the road again. By 3:00 we were sitting in a line of cars waiting to get into the park. As we paid for our seven-day pass, only $25 : ), the ranger informed us that there was no way to go from west to east through the park since half of the road was closed. Well that didn’t work for us. We went to the visitor’s center at the west gate to get some more info and then had to leave the park in order to drive another two hours around the southern edge of the park to then leave the mountains behind us and head into the plains where Heart Butte is located. We pulled into the elementary/high school around 5:30. So all told we traveled for nine hours. While we wished we could have driven the road through the park we still had some amazing views and had some time to really get to know each other.
We got here and were met by the YouthWorks staff: Brad, Brandon, Gabby, Katie, and one more I am forgetting who are all college aged young adults. I was expecting this to be like church summer camp and I was absolutely right. There was a time in my life when I would have been like, “oh heck no, I am not into this happy, clappy Jesus stuff.” But I am coming at this in a very different place, especially having served at a summer camp that was very similar in tone and theological leanings.
After eating and doing some typical orientation talks we dove right into worship which was good considering there are only seven of us and last week they had eighty…that’s right they had eighty people here last week! (Mind blown) We then had some time with the youth on our own where we did Compline together. We then said goodnight and off to bed. We have a jammed packed schedule with so much going on from cultural experiences and fellowship to service and teaching. Eveyone is really excited to learn from this experience and see how God is working in this place. It will be an awesome week and I am glad you all are coming along on the journey.