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Dolphin Trainers for Christ: Marine Mammal-Lovers Fellowship at the Rock
By Jarrell Porti
Sea World trainers working with a dolphin

“You do what?!”

That's the reaction I usually get from the person sitting next to me when Pastor Miles asks us to make friends during the Sunday services. I then repeat, “That's right: I train dolphins at Sea World. In fact, all the people to my right work at Sea World as well.” So, suffice it to say that there is a small group of the Rock A.R.M.Y. that spends their days tossing fish and building relationships with some of God’s most unique creatures--dolphins and sea lions, among others.

Here's a quick story of how we found each other, and what we're doing for God.

Shared Passions

Some may not know this, but at the end of Rosecrans Street (that’s right, the same street that is in front of the Rock Church), there's a marine mammal facility officially known as The Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP). Many young professionals trying to get into the field of animal training (and in particular, training dolphins), end up applying for the four-month internship offered at NMMP. But with a whole season of preparing frozen fish, scrubbing animal excrement, observing the trainers at work, and sometimes getting hands-on with the dolphins and sea lions, it's not exactly a cakewalk.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Ocean Beach, another group of hopeful dolphin trainers are conducting similar tasks as seasonal trainers for the well-known Sea World San Diego.

We often get plenty of opportunities each day to share our faith in Christ and His message right alongside some of His coolest creations!

Little did the staffers at both facilities know, but over the past several years our paths have crossed many times--not through the animal training industry, but through the Rock Church.

Starting three or four years ago, a dozen or so strangers who shared this peculiar passion started to meet up, either at the NMMP or Sea World, to share their love for Jesus Christ. As time passed, many of these individuals transferred between facilities for their own various reasons, yet still remained attached to a higher calling. In 2008, a large portion of this group started a Bible study that meets every Wednesday. It is still active. This year, a men’s study started in March, attended by mostly husbands of the trainers, as there are only two male dolphin trainers currently in the Sunday group.

Awesome Jobs

At this point in the story you're probably thinking "That’s nice that we have Christians there also, but how does this all further the kingdom of God?"

That’s the greatest part about the job! We often get plenty of opportunities each day to share our faith in Christ and His message right alongside some of His coolest creations! For me and many of my coworkers, it is not just the feeling of communicating with a dolphin or sea lion, or riding around on one in the water, that makes our day. It also is the simple act of sharing these creatures with guests and friends who would not otherwise ever get to see one up close. And we don't just get to share with your everyday visitor; we also get to share with guests who have special needs or circumstances, like a group of kids who are battling cancer.

Wherever they come from, the guests almost always blurt out something like, “You have such an awesome job!” I typically like to reply, “I’m blessed by God!” This statement is sometimes reciprocated with a weird look or just brushed off by the guests, but on occasion a guest will genuinely smile--I hope due to their shared belief in Him.

So, Rock Church, please keep us dolphin trainers in your prayers, specifically that we can Go and make disciples of all nations, (Matthew 28:19), reaching the lost, and continuing to grow using the Rock as the resource God has intended it to be.

And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures…’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds… And God saw that it was good. God blessed them. (Genesis 1:20-22)