Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Butte, Montana, and the Montana Youth Conference

As I write this (at least, when I started..), I'm on the road again. I am, at this moment, traveling from Butte to Billings, Montana. Yes, I'm riding in a car, and cutting out half of the state of Montana from my itinerary in the process. Montana is beautiful and all, but two weeks in this state is enough. Well, at least, if I spend much longer here, I'll have difficulty reaching my destination on time, or having any freeboard time for other stops.

For more about the artist, and examples of his work, check out www.ohrmannmuseum.com. 

Many of the sculptures had a door on the side which you could open to see the heart inside.

I'll skip the details about pushing my bike up a hill on the way to Georgetown Lake, and getting a ride with someone down the other side, about eating a whole 12" pizza and a piece of pie in one sitting, of getting honked at and yelled at a few times, of being approached by yet another ~60 year old, who couldn't help but reminisce about his own travels when he was my age.. (as a side note, it seems those who traveled at a young age, independently, and with limited resources, carry a distinctive bearing with them throughout life, such that I think by the end of this trip I'll be able to easily pick them out of a crowd).

A well traveled section of railroad
A section of the road which, after hours climbing, I got a ride from the top down the other side.
At any rate, after the shortest week I've had so far, as far as riding distance, I arrived in Butte, Montana for the Montana Youth Conference, a localized spinoff of the GYC movement. I was actually a day early, so I stayed with Phil Keating, from the CouchSurfer network. As it turned out, he lives at the very top of the hill that is Butte, and I apparently took about the steepest road up, so I spent an hour and a half just climbing the hill. There's no way I was riding back down that road.. 

Old enough to be a grandparent, but unmarried, Phil was intrigued that I would see the Bible as a fully inspired and authoritative book. After he took me out for breakfast, I rode my bike down to the World Museum of Mining for a tour of one of the many mines in the area, then stopped by the Berkley Pit, one of the most toxic sites in America, possibly soon to begin contaminating the Clark Fork River. I worked my way progressively down the hill, as I wanted no reason to have to ride back up town. 
Part of the recreated historic town at the World Museum of Mining

Our mine tour guide

The map above is a side view of the tunnels underneath Butte Montana.

It's amazing how well head lamps worked to light the tunnel.

In the mines, fire was a particular danger. There was one fire in a mine in Butte that killed 122 people - almost everyone in the mine.

One of the most toxic sites in America - the Berkeley Pit.

The tunnel out to the viewing platform of the Berkeley Pit

When I arrived at the church for the Montana Youth Conference, there weren't even a dozen people present - and of those, only three of us were guys. As it turned out, until Friday afternoon, I was the only unmarried, non-speaking male present at the conference. At that point I was joined by three more, all of whom were at least 4 years younger than myself. Although I arrived unregistered, I was quickly put into the P/A booth, as I knew about as much as anyone present, and they were a little short staffed. 

Having a small group, eating all our meals together (cooked by the Garrett's, who were also cooking at FaithCamp, where I was two weeks ago), sleeping on the same campus, and basically spending all waking hours in the vicinity of each other, in a context where everyone is there by choice, and through common interest, leads to a certain level of bonding that doesn't happen often in solo travel. 

Henry Johnson, the main speaker for the event, spoke on the book of Job, and what it (and the rest of the Bible) tells us about the sort of suffering God goes through because of us, what was at stake for Jesus to die on the cross, how it is that God's nature being defined as love (as opposed to simply loving) 

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