Grand Canyon National Park celebrated its 100th birthday on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. For 100 years, millions of people from all over the world have come to see the natural wonder, hike on its trails and raft down the Colorado River.
Most visitors are taught that the Grand Canyon was formed slowly over 5-6 million years, as the Colorado River carved through multiple layers of rock. However, there is one tour company that provides a different view of how the awe-inspiring landmark was created.
Canyon Ministries, founded in 1997 by Tom and Paula Vail, is the only tour company at the Grand Canyon that provides guided tours from a biblical standpoint.
Vail spent 15 years guiding river rafting tours on the Colorado River. While guiding one trip, he met a woman named Paula, who began to lead Vail to Christ. Soon after the trip, she sent him a Bible.
He took the Bible with him on a trip to the Himalayas in Pakistan, where he started to read scripture and believe the words within it.
Paula helped Vail understand the words he was reading and accept Jesus as his Savior. The two were married the following year.
After that, Vail decided he wanted to continue to guide river tours, but from a biblical perspective. That’s when Canyon Ministries was born.
Since then, Canyon Ministries has provided an alternative to the widely accepted view of how the Grand Canyon was formed through rim tours, guided hikes and river trips.
Nate Loper, Director of Rim Tour Operations at Canyon Ministries, manages the training and development of the organization’s tours as well as the relationships with the park service and other tour companies.
Loper told Liftable, a brand of The Western Journal, that Canyon Ministries believes in a literal 6-day creation story based on the account in Genesis 1 and 2.
“We also believe there was a global flood as the Bible later describes,” he explained. “This flood was the primary mechanism for the worldwide distribution of water-laid sedimentary rock layers, along with the massive death and burial scientists call the fossil record.”
They believe that after the waters receded, as is mentioned in Genesis 8, that large “post-flood” lakes remained in areas like the bowl-shaped Colorado Plateau with water up to 2,000 feet in some areas.
Loper continued, “As these trapped waters continued to fill the Colorado Plateau from melting glacial ice, streams, and rivers, this water breached through the southwestern side of the bowl, and catastrophic exponential drainage of the breached dam created a large crack or ‘drainage ditch’ we now see as the Grand Canyon.”
Canyon Ministries’ main goal is to help people see the realities of God’s Word through both scripture and science. They even invite geologists, paleontologists, biologists and astronomers to help teach on their river trips each year.
“To understand His creation is to better understand Him. In understanding the past, it also helps us to understand the future,” Loper said. “The Bible teaches just like there was a judgment for wickedness in Noah’s day, there is also a coming judgment in the future.”
Even though other tour companies and the national park teach that the Colorado River was the “producer” of the Grand Canyon, Canyon Ministries believes that the Colorado River is a “remnant result.”
Loper said that they have received little pushback for their biblical view and the pushback they have received has mostly been because of false assumptions.
“Once they meet us and find out who we are, they quickly realize we’re not that strange after all, and are just ordinary folks!” he told Liftable. “Yes, our message is a different one, and we might be a ‘peculiar people,’ but there is a strong sense of family and camaraderie among those who live and work at the Grand Canyon.”
“Our mutual love for this natural wonder of the world and for showing it to people often means there is more that unites us, rather than divides us.”
The services that Canyon Ministries provides seeks to encourage and equip believers in their faith and uniquely connect the beauty found in creation to the beauty that can be found in scripture.
“Our hope is every person who stands at the rim of the canyon will see something much bigger than they are, and that their heart and soul will also realize there is Someone much bigger who has a desire to have a personal relationship with them,” Loper said.
“Our prayer is that God will reveal something in their hearts and minds, through both science and scripture that will make a lasting impression when they return home.”
CLARIFICATION, Mar. 2, 2019:
It was brought to our attention after publishing this article that another company, Creation Ministries, offers ‘occasional coach bus tours’ of the Grand Canyon.
Canyon Ministries, which is the subject of this article, is the ‘only daily operating Christian tour company in the National Parks providing a biblical creation message.’ This information is stated on canyonministries.org.
We apologize for any confusion.
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