Lord willing, this October through February of 2022, I will work at the McMurdo research base in Antarctica as support staff for the ongoing work of the National Science Foundation. I imagine this is a shock to many of you. My disdain for cold weather is legendary. But my love for adventure is far greater than my dislike of the cold. And, as a bonus, the Extreme Cold-Weather (ECW) gear is provided.
Let me explain how the idea of working in Antarctica came about.
For over twenty years, I have wanted to experience Antarctica. Cruise ships can take you there, but you hardly get any time off the boat on land, and it is costly. I wanted the grand adventure of living there. In 2007, I applied for a position but did not make the cut. Usually, my ministry schedule doesn’t allow me to consider the idea. Enter the pandemic, and the ministry schedule ground to a halt.
Last October, I realized the pandemic opened up an opportunity to work in Antarctica. I researched job opportunities at the three United States bases. On December 31st, 2020, I applied for eight different jobs. I applied for anything I was remotely qualified for, from janitorial, kitchen crew, and administrative positions.
On March 22nd, I received an email stating I met the minimum requirements to work as a janitor at the McMurdo base. I was beyond excited to learn I had the bare-minimum skills necessary for a job as a janitor! I laughed out loud. I was over the moon. I couldn’t sleep. I called friends and family with the news. Next, I had an hour interview with the head of the Lodging Department. Finally, on April 30th, I was offered a contract with the United States Polar Services as a Janitor Alternate. The alternate status meant I was not selected for a primary role but would have to wait for a position to open. It also meant I needed to get a background check, drug testing, and an extensive medical clearance. I had to get Physically Qualified (PQ’d).
First up was a trip to my local lab for bloodwork. Next, I had a complete dental check-up. The physical exam lasted two hours. The staff at the medical clinic said it was the most extensive physical they had ever done. It certainly was the most intrusive medical exam I’ve ever had! There are limited medical resources at the base, so it is critical to know if I have any health issues which would preclude me from going. Finally, I submitted the completed paperwork to the University of Texas Medical Unit Polar Services and nervously waited. On June 3rd, I learned I was officially PQ’d! UTMU cleared me to work in Antarctica! It was the final hurdle.
At this time, I am in limbo for a job assignment. The Program Director said they expect all the alternates to receive a job placement this year. Any open position I am qualified for becomes an option, so I may not work as a janitor in the end. I would happily take the janitor role, but we will see what becomes available. McMurdo is the largest of the three U.S. bases, with around 300 support staff supporting approximately 600 researchers. It is the primary hub for most of the research in the region.
There is the possibility I will not go this year. The Bible says it is better to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Submitting our plans to the will of the Father is an important truth. Budget cuts affecting the National Science Foundation Antarctic research may cause a reduction in support staff. A primary position may not open up. I wait to see what God has planned. I am content to know he is entirely in control.
Ministry-wise, I have planned the time in Antarctica into the timeline for launching the book I am currently writing. I am excited by the progress I am making on the book. Every weekday morning from 7 – 11, I write. I shut off my cell phone and block off distractions. I usually start with some time sitting on the lap of God, asking him what he would have me to write. Lord willing, I will have the first draft completed by the end of July. When the rough draft is complete, I will begin rewriting, editing, designing the cover, developing the marketing plan, etc. Some of this process will transpire while I am in Antarctica. When I return in late February, I will set in motion the process leading to publication in June 2022. If for some reason, I do not travel to Antarctica, the timeline would remain the same. There is a strong fatherhood message in the book, so I want to launch around Father’s Day next year.
With my ongoing ministry work with house churches and prayer gatherings, I hope to plant a prayer gathering at McMurdo. Isolation so far from home draws many together who seek community in interest-based groups. Outside of work, there are music groups, crafting groups, lectures, and community bulletin boards to gather like-minded folks. There is no internet to speak of, no cell phones to distract, just long conversations with friends. I hope to share the prayer gathering model with other believers who work there. And I hope to connect with the military chaplain there to support their ongoing work of ministry. I can hardly wait to see what God has planned.
Throughout the long, drawn-out process, I saw the Father at work in my personal life in my relationship with him. At times, I felt anxious. I sensed I was pushing too hard to make it happen. The goal seemed so close. I grew weary from the adrenalin roller coaster from getting good news and waiting for long periods for the next step to happen. In the quiet moments, I heard the Father say to me, “Tim, do you trust me or not? Do you trust that I am in control? Are you willing to let me orchestrate whether you go or stay?” Those times with him led to sweet conversations about his love for me. I rest in his embrace. I love him alone. I am content with whatever he chooses for me.
Last month, in the monthly newsletter, I wrote about learning the art of sitting still on the lap of God. Now you know why I was learning that lesson. In his love for us, God longs to see our relationship with him growing in depth. He longs for us to experience the fullness of our relationship with him.
Have you experienced moments of anxiety as I have? At the core of our stress is a lack of trust. We doubt the Father can take care of our situation. We lie awake into the night, trying to figure out what we need to do to see a resolution. Far better to find ourselves safely on the lap of the Father as our concerns melt into a sea swirling at his feet. It is as if a hurricane of needs whirl around him in ever-widening circles. But at the center, in the stillness of the eye of the storm, the Father’s sits quietly, playing with his child. To our wonder, we discover it is the Father who swirls the storm with his finger.
Yes, he is trustworthy. He is worthy of our trust. When we are near him, we are at peace. When we stray from his lap and try to make life work apart from him, we find ourselves in the storm.
The Bible says, “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15, ESV).
What a treasure to rest in his care.