April 25, 2012
The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30
The statistics on national park visitation in 2011 are out. They show that among the National Park Service units (all 397 of them), the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia was the most visited. A close second is on the opposite coast, California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Of the 58 units designated as National Parks, Great Smoky Mountains is number one; Grand Canyon is in second place, with nearly 5 million less visitors. An exhaustive list of the numbers for each unit, searchable by location, name and ranking, can be found here.
Behind these figures is recent data showing that “the average visitor to some of the nation’s parks and wilderness areas is getting grayer,” according to an article in USA Today. It’s a worrisome trend. “Without ‘a generation of kids who have had good experiences with national parks, then in a very short amount of time, we may not have enough people who care about [them] to keep them going,’ says John Hayes of the Dunes Learning Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.”
Reaching out to young people in a variety of ways is a priority of the Park Service. Disney is even getting in on the act, awarding the National Park Foundation $500,000 to help connect kids and families to nature through the parks. The money will go specifically to the foundation’s “Ticket to Ride” and “America’s Best Idea” programs, which provide transportation to and support community projects in the parks.
As you might know, there’s a book in the Bible called Numbers. It’s part of the Pentateuch, or Torah, the first five books of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Hebrew title is taken from its first verse, and means “in the wilderness,” because most of Numbers records the history of the Israelites in the forty years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness. The Greek translation of the Old Testament entitles the book Numbers, because of the prominence of census figures (in chapters 1-3 and 26). Numbers also contains a well-known and beautiful blessing: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (6:24-26).
Numbers was written at the same time as the book of Exodus, with the same author—Moses. It was he who brought the Hebrews out of Egypt after 430 years of bondage (Exodus 3-14), planning to lead them to the land God had set aside for them (Exodus 3:8, Genesis 13:14-17).
Unfortunately, once they crossed the Red Sea into the desert region between Egypt and Palestine, they forsook gratitude and began complaining. “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you [Moses] have brought us out into this wilderness to kill us” (Exodus 16:3). They forgot that the God who miraculously made a way for them to escape slavery was more than able to provide them with food, water and anything else they needed as they traveled toward the Promised Land.
Things got so bad that finally the Lord decreed, “Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to you…Your children, however…I will bring them in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer for your unfaithfulness” (Numbers 14:30-33). Only two men who remained faithful—Caleb and Joshua—survived to enter the land.
Life holds plenty of wildernesses, but God has vowed He will help us through them (John 16:33). “Be strong and courageous,” Moses encouraged the people, “do not be afraid or tremble, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). That same message is repeated over and over again throughout Scripture (Joshua 11:6-9, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Hebrews 13:5, among other verses).
The God who knows us so well that He keeps track of every hair on our head is certainly big enough to handle anything that happens to us.
I’m “counting” on that!