Canyon Ministries – A different view

by Funhog Family on June 10, 2011

I love all things whitewater, so you can imagine my excitement when I came home from a California river trip in 1999 to find out that my wife had met a new couple, Tom & Paula Vail, in our church’s marrieds class, and Tom was a Grand Canyon river guide. We found out the next Sunday over lunch that Tom & Paula had started a ministry called Canyon Ministries to provide a family friendly alternative for rafting through the Grand Canyon. Jodi and I were excited to meet this amazing couple and signed up to go on one of their river trips. That river trip turned out to be so much more than the adventure of rafting and experiencing the Grand Canyon. It was the first river trip that Canyon Ministries led for the creation ministry Answers in Genesis. We spent nine days learning about the authority of God’s word and how it could be trusted from the very first verse. The Grand Canyon was our classroom and provided all the evidence to help us understand the accuracy of the scripture.

Have you ever had a crisis of faith? I did in in the tenth grade. It started in my science class as I learned about the evolutionary model. Until then I was not aware that the earth was millions of years old and that my great ancestors were some type of slug that got struck by a Big Bang, evolving through numerous life forms until they became human. It all sounded a little too much like science fiction for me to believe. I asked the question how this evolutionary theory which was being taught as absolute truth fit with God’s word. My christian teacher told me that the book of Genesis in the bible describes, in figurative language, how God used the evolutionary process to create the world. I still don’t know that I believed my teacher, but this interchange watered down my faith.  If the Bible was figurative, meaning I could interpret it any way I like, then it was not the solid foundation I could trust.  If Genesis was not true from the very first verse, then for me the rest of the book was questionable.

On the river with Canyon Ministries we learned that your world view is like a pair of glasses. If you view the evolutionary model as absolute truth, then you will look at the world through that viewpoint and only accept what will compliment that truth. This is why my teacher was able to believe and teach that there is no contradiction between the evolutionary model and a figurative interpretation of the Bible. My teacher just folded the Bible into her version of truth. However, if you look at the world through what the Bible says, you see a whole different view.

For example, Genesis says there was a world wide flood.  If there was a world wide flood, there would be millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and that is exactly what we found in the Grand Canyon.  Rafting and leading hikes through the Grand Canyon, Tom gave us incredible hands on experience examining evidence, and there were creation scientists on our trip that were able to explain, in great detail, how the evidence points to the Genesis flood.   Another fascinating fact we learned is that the Grand Canyon is made up of layers of rock that are said to be billions of years old, having been carved by large glaciers over time with erosion playing a large part.  But if you look at the way in which the rock layers appear – with “virtually no physical erosion or chemical weathering between many of the sedimentary layers” – the evidence does not point to millions of years of erosion but rather what you would see if rock layer upon rock layer was deposited quickly as in a world wide flood.  “Grand Canyon: A Different View” is a book that Tom wrote and compiled along with numerous creation scientists which explains this more in depth.  The river trips I have taken with Canyon Ministries have strengthened my faith in God’s word, and I now know that it is good to question everything as long as you are wearing the right glasses.

With my whitewater experience, Tom asked me if I would like to captain one of the paddle rafts on a three day trip through the Grand Canyon. The trip was for a group of students from the school at John MacArthur’s church.  I happily accepted the invitation and was touched deeply by the experience. These kids loved to laugh, have fun, and learn.  We had a blast on the water, playing all the way down the river and then we had a great time at camp as well.  They were a sponge as the canyon was explained using the creation model.   That trip taught me that life is about more than the thrill of whitewater, but how my love for whitewater can be used by God for His glory.  After the trip I got letters in the mail from those students telling how their lives were impacted through our time together.   I still carry those letters with me, years later, as a reminder to never forget what it feels like to be used by God to share your passions for His glory.  All you have to do is be willing.

Thank you Tom & Paula for your amazing ministry and all the incredible opportunities we have been able to share.  You are used by God to help people like me believe the Bible is a solid foundation on which we can stand.   Everyone needs to experience the Grand Canyon at least once in their life.   The rafting trips with Canyon Ministries are the absolute best way to see the canyon.   Please go to their website at to learn more.


Brian O'Keefe June 15, 2011 at 4:45 am


I love how you framed this all! I was impacted back in the 90’s when I saw a Steven A. Austin video about the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens ( It looks like he also has one for the Grand Canyon, which might be interesting viewing in light of your post (

Funhog Family June 15, 2011 at 5:53 am

Dr. Austin is a great guy and a very passionate creation scientist. Canyon Ministries led a ten day research trip through the Grand Canyon for him and I went along as the group’s rock climber.

Allene Graves June 20, 2011 at 7:53 am

I enjoyed watching your video. I am proud of you and your husband. Good luck with your ministries.
I have seen the canyon from the top and it is awesome. I am proud of you. Allene

Stacey July 27, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Wow! I wish I had read this post before Joe and I went to the Canyon last month. We love Answers in Genesis (one of their guys came and spoke at our church) and their materials. I’ll have to write down this info. if we ever get to go there again.

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