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Wilderness pastor finds a calling to heal

During a recent preschool play day at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Anchorage, Alaska, a 2-year-old fell on a safety pin, which pierced his knee. The teacher immediately ran to Adam Barnhart, not because as a pastor he’s a spiritual leader but because he’s the one to go to when there’s an emergency.

Barnhart is a certified wilderness emergency medical technician who has hiked miles to rescue people, provided medical assistance with an ambulance service, and is on call whenever state troopers need help. He is routinely in situations people might call scary, but he considers them part of his favorite hobby.

“Every pastor needs an evocation,” he said. “You need a hobby that fills you up, and this is my passion outside of family and work. It takes a lot of time, but it’s good time. I have to be deliberate with my time, so if I take a Saturday for training, I need to be with my family the next Saturday.”

The Montana native spent his youth playing outside — by which he means climbing mountains and hiking backwoods trails.

When his three children got old enough to hike, the pastor — who was called back to Montana after seminary — told his wife he wanted to get more basic first aid training. That led to taking a first responder course. The trainers of that class asked him to join as a teacher, so he took part in a one-month intensive program in Glacier National Park.


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