During spring break, my wife and I went to visit family in Phoenix, Arizona. We saw the Grand Canyon, Sedona and went on some spectacular hikes in the desert. It was a terrific trip.
One of the highlights was a visit to the Kartchner Caverns near Benson. These caves are incredible to see. But they also hold a unique story of stewardship and vision.
The caverns were discovered in 1974 by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts who followed a narrow crack at the bottom of a sinkhole which had warm, moist air flowing from it. They crawled on their bellies for nearly 6 hours and to their surprise found a huge cavern with exquisite beauty waiting for them at the end.
Realizing that they had stumbled upon one of the most pristine caves on the planet, they worried that announcing the discovery to the world could bring vandals and careless tourists who might help themselves to stalactites that grow one inch in 750 years.
They kept this amazing discovery a secret for 14 years.
I have trouble keeping a secret for a week and my secrets are about as significant as a dinner reservations for a Friday night surprise with Debbie.
For more than a decade, the two discoverers made a plan and eventually persuaded Arizona to make the site into what is now the Kartchner Caverns State Park. Upon opening in 1999, over 180,000 people visit each year into a tightly controlled guided tour of a 3 km path system. If you even touch a rock on the path, the guide marks the spot and a team comes back later to sterilize the site.
Most caves on the planet are not pristine because the people who found them didn’t have the ‘long view.’ It takes a very special person to go to the extremes these discoverers went to in order to steward the vision they had for this incredible place.
As we drove away from an inspiring tour, I couldn’t help but think of the vision we continue to steward at ACS.
About 63 years ago, this vision began.
Today, this vision continues to be clear and compelling, even if our structures, spaces and people look a lot different.
We are so fortunate to work in place with so many people who see this work in Christian education as a generational vocation to impact our students for life.