Earth and all Stars

Well, our mission here in Alaska is almost over and I for one will be sad to leave tomorrow. Our team for Alaska Missions for Christ from CLC has been a great group to work with and I think we all worked together to plant seeds of faith wherever we went on this mission.

VBS was a great success and I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out. We had a great number of kids, resourceful people who were happy to help and a beautiful place to work. Our Lord was definitely present this week, as He always is and will be.

Last night, as Mary Anne told you, we slept in the van. No, maybe not the most comfortable situation but we were blessed with temperatures that didn’t freeze us to death and a wonderful view of mountains and maybe even a glacier to greet us in the morning. If those two blessings weren’t God’s handiwork, then I don’t know what is.

Today we spent time in Seward, AK. Our big plan of the day was to visit the Sea Life Center. Watching these wonderful creatures of the sea, I was reminded of our Lord’s creativity. He has done marvelous work and I can’t help but be amazed when I see what he’s done. In fact, we even got to see some porpoises in Resurrection Bay. Another blessing from God.

The next part of our day was mostly spent traveling. And, sadly, it rained most of the day. However, we stopped at Portage in hopes of seeing a glacier. A train ride was too expensive and the weather didn’t look too promising. Then, Mary Anne looked at a map and found a trail leading to Byron Glacier. We were a little hesitant but still found the drive to trek the .8 mile trail in hopes of seeing a wondrous part of nature. We weren’t even halfway along when the sun beamed out through the separated clouds. We enjoyed taking in the beauty of creation with better weather than we could have imagined. We spent a while taking pictures and touching ice from the glacier that had fallen to where travelers could reach.

Maybe we didn’t get to spread the love of Jesus as much as we would have liked to today, but I think God decided that was okay. He decided that reminding us of who He is, what He’s done, and why we need to continue His unfinished work was a confidence we all needed.

Tomorrow we will be heading home but I know our work isn’t finished yet and that’s alright with me. What good would it be if we didn’t continue our mission at home?

I hope you all have enjoyed following with us on this trip! And who knows, maybe you’ll get to experience this trip some day as well. 🙂

God Bless,
Hannah

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Wrapping Up

Sorry for the time delay. We’ve been without internet access since Friday around 3.

Friday was our last day of Weird Animals VBS in Anchor Point. We were down a few kiddos due to pre-planned vacations, but we did get two new students on Thursday. Overall, the last day went well with only a few cases of The Fridays. It was our last day to collect money for Project Kid-to-Kid, with proceeds going to provide clean drinking water for children in India. Our goal for our kids was to raise $100. They exceeded our expectations by raising over $132. Their generosity was inspirational. Our final Bible story for the week was Ananias and Saul, and our focus was that ‘Even when you’re afraid…Jesus Loves You!’ It was such a comforting message to be reminded that God is always with us, even when we feel out of our element or in a foreign place.

It was a bittersweet ending to the week. From the CLC Team perspective, the week was very successful. We retained many of the students that we got to meet last year. In addition, we got to meet several new faces. The mornings ran smoothly, with team members and students sharing the message of God’s love in skit, song, craft, and games. There were no hiccups, and I think our experiences from last year helped this year run as smoothly as it did. Additionally, we are truly appreciative of the time and efforts of our local contacts, Gretchen, Ruhiyyih, and Pastor Steve. Without their support, we would not be able to run a VBS program in Anchor Point. I believe that the relationships that we are creating here will continue to strengthen and promote our mission to share the message of God’s grace and forgiveness.

Personally, it was harder for me to say good-bye to the kids this year. I feel as though we are starting to develop relationships with several of the students in Anchor Point. My station was the KidVid Cinema, which is where the students got to watch short videos about real kids in real situations that emphasized the daily Bible verse. In addition to discussing how the VBS students’ lives were similar and different from the featured child, we talked about God Sightings. These are ways that we see God work in our lives or reminders of God’s love for us. During these discussions, I was able to gain insight into the students’ lives and the area’s culture. They were tickled about my enthusiasm for things that they see every day (ocean, mountains, volcanoes, moose…), and were fascinated by a foreign land where corn grows by the mile and no fireweed grows.

Overwhelmingly, the students told us that they were sorry that the week was over and that they were sad to see us leave. Many students asked each of us if we’d be returning next year. Several of the older students made statements about how long it would be before they could be crew leaders/student helpers. There were lots of hugs (and I may have gotten choked up a time or two), but everyone left feeling good about the week we had shared together.

Once the students had left, the team started to tear down and pack up. We drove to Homer to return the sets and props which we had borrowed. Afterwards, the team headed back up the Kenai Pennisula, and then down the eastern side to Seward. Due to travel arrangements, we had some time on Saturday and decided to see a few extra sights. We camped out in the van by Resurrection Bay (hence the lack of internet). It was a beautiful ending to a wonderful day.

On behalf of the CLC Alaska Mission Team, I would like to thank all the people of CLC, and beyond, who have supported our mission work here in Alaska. Whether financially or through prayer, your contributions have helped us to share God’s message of grace and salvation to children who may not hear it otherwise. Our ability to be a part of the Anchor Point community for a week has allowed us to truly live and share the transforming love of Christ.

In Christ – Mary Anne

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Sacrificing, serving, and faith

Today started off normal, although we were missing a few of the kids today because they had planned to not be there. We started with our donations for the clean water for the peoples in India. The kids were very generous in their offerings. We reviewed the lessons from the previous days: the lepers cleansed, the samaritan woman, and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Today was the part of the Gospel where Jesus dies on the cross for the sin of humanity. The Bible point was: Even though you do wrong… Jesus loves you!

The kids had their regular stations today of crafts and games along with singing/dancing, skits performed by our team members, and pictures taken for the slideshow. They made witnessing bracelets, unique animal hats, and pretended to have a snowball fight with crinkled paper. The game represented the vanity in trying to rid ourselves of sin and be righteous without God.

With the story in VBS today, our team felt a stronger connection to our work here. The cross is where we really learn a lot about the weightier matters of Jesus’ life here on earth, about how he came to be a prophet, priest, and king. He was sent here to proclaim God’s Word and Kingdom, to offer atonement for our sins, and to rise and reign forever. From this lesson, we learn what it meant for Jesus to be a servant and to give His life for His friends. In serving God, we serve the Authority that can forgive sins and raise the dead to life.

Something special and different today that I thought was neat was that the children signed their names on a wooden cross. The cross was then wrapped in Christmas lights. The children’s crews were asked to ‘throw’ their sins into garbage bags (telling lies, saying mean things, etc.) While singing “God Loves Us So,” the trash bags were draped over the cross to block out the light. Jesus (Luke) came in and removed the bags to show that He takes the place of sin. It was very powerful.

After the kids trickled out, we were treated to an afternoon of fishing with Pastor Steve. After each purchasing a fishing license, we met a short distance away on the outlet of the ocean. We were provided rain jackets and life vests upon climbing aboard the boat, and set out near a small and shallow estuary for close to 7 miles out to sea. The water was a little choppy and we opted for a shorter distance of around 5 miles, so with our live fish bait we tested our skills. We saw several wildlife including: sea gulls, tern, puffin, jellyfish, sea otter, and even a bald eagle and some jumping salmon. Luke was chosen as the fisherman with a catch, reeling in a decent sized halibut. We had to head back to land before the tides dropped too low, and we unintentionally ramped some waves. Riding back in the van to the church cold, soaking wet, and tired felt amazingly great!

We had rice, vegetables, beans, and the salmon given to us by a participant’s grandmother for our supper. This evening we were given some honeydew and blueberries for breakfast tomorrow.

There’s been a few little reminders of God’s work here that have been clear to me. There’s been a word or two at the perfect time, some good feelings, and also verses I’ve stumbled upon that God has used to explain things of this life more clearly. All these instances have helped increase my faith, and I hope my team members and those who, through some sort of vocation, are involved with the mission trip have experienced as well.

In Christ,

Brett

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Clean Water, Dirty Feet, and Jelly

So today was the third day of Weird Animals VBS. It was one of the most exciting for me yet. We have got the technology all figured out (after a late night of chaining adapters together). It was also the first day that we collected money for our India Mission. For every $2.50 that the VBS kids bring in, a child in India will have clean drinking water for an entire year. It was amazing to me that these kids were excited to participate in helping other kids across the globe. This was my first Cross Story of the day. What some people do not realize, is that many of the families up here live a life of subsistence living. This means that much of their food comes from their environment, often through hunting and fishing. Some of these families do this because they like the style of living, but many of them do it out of necessity. The fact that many of these families live that way and are still excited to help others is a very heart warming thought. One family even brought $30.00! The total for the day was $73.45, and our goal was $100.00 for the week! Every child that brought in money was given a blue balloon to put in our giant, inflatable drinking glass.

My next Cross Story for the day is two of the children named Mason and Keith. As older students they can sometime be reluctant to participate and may need to be reminded to be good role models for the younger students. Today we decided to give them a leadership role in the story time section of todays VBS. Today was about Jesus washing the disciples feet. We decided that rather than have the crew leaders do the washing we would have some of the older kids do it, and that it would help drive the point home. Mason and Keith were very excited to help and couldn’t wait to get started. Not only were they willing to help with the role that they were given, but they also helped gather the smaller children into their groups. It was wonderful to see them fall into that servant role so easily.

My third cross story of the day is a little girl named Caelis. The first two days we couldn’t get her to do anything. She wouldn’t sing the songs, play the games or even talk to us. Today, however, I caught her singing and doing the actions to one of the songs in our “Tail End”. It was so wonderful to see that just by being an example we are reaching even the most reluctant children.

My fourth Cross Story of the day is one of our children’s grandmother, Nellie. Yesterday she gave us all hug for what we are doing for the children, and today she asked if we were going to get to go fishing while we were here. We were told her that we were not sure if it was going to work out and she said “I will bring you some fish.” Later when she came to pick up Megan, her granddaughter, she brought us 2 whole salmon fillets!

My last Cross Story of the day has a little to do with subsistence living. Yesterday we gathered Fireweed blossoms to make our jelly. Today we had to pick some more, as well as some clover. Our friend, Ruhiyyih, picked up ingredients for us to make fireweed jelly and honey. It was our own little experiment in subsistence living (however, most of our ingredients were store bought). After making the first batch of jelly, which turned out great, we decided to use the rest of our blossoms to make another batch. As we were in the process, Ruhiyyih had to leave and we were on our own. A lady from Faith Lutheran in Homer walked into the kitchen shortly after. Mary Anne was in the process of adding the pectin when Elizabeth walked in. She quickly tried to correct us but it was too late. We were using liquid pectin for this batch instead of the powdered pectin that we had for the first batch. She told us that when using the liquid pectin, you have to add the sugar first. We tried it anyway, and we are still praying that it sets up over night. After talking about jelly for a bit we found out that she has lived in Alaska since 1965. It was really neat to talk to someone who remembers Alaska before it was the tourist attraction that it is today. While we were talking to her, Hannah had begun to make Fireweed Honey. Both the Jelly and Honey taste AMAZING!!! We will be bringing some home to share on the day that we present our entire experience to the congregation.

God Bless, Luke

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Samaritan woman and Fireweed

Day 2 of Weird Animals VBS in Anchor Point was a hit. We had all the children who attended Day 1 back with us today. What a blessing! They walked through the door with smiles and energy for another day at VBS where Jesus’ Love is One-of-a-Kind.
The story today was the Samaritan woman at the well. Katie, one of our teen helpers, did a wonderful job as the Samaritan woman for us. Hannah shared her with you yesterday as one of our Cross stories.
Our first Cross Story is the attentiveness of the children today. They were so eager to be here, so ready to participate, and so excited to learn. When Hannah did her closing skit where she was to mix up a cake that did not have traditional ingredients, the students were so quiet and reflective over what she was doing, it made us adults giggle. We heard whispered comments like “She’s crazy”; “I’m not eating that cake”. There was one particular little girl, Caelis (4), who was very shy yesterday, just beamed while she watched. She leaned over to Mary Anne and said, “She doesn’t know how to bake.”
Our second Cross Story for today was granted to us by Zayne and Jaxon, two of our returning students. These fine young men (ages 6 and 4, respectfully) and their mom shared with us that today would be the last day for them as the family must go to Anchorage for several days for special doctors visits. At the end of our time today, we gave the boys bags with the crafts and gizmos for the rest of the week. Their faces looked so sad that they couldn’t come any more this week. Then Zayne asked, “Will you come back next year?” His mom looked at us and asked as well. She wanted to know when it would be as soon as possible so she could block the time on her calendar to make sure they could attend. How wonderful that we have made that much of an impact on these little guys in such a short time.
Our team bible study today was about being servants. The main reason our team is in Alaska is to serve the community of Anchor Point in the surrounding area. In our serving, we have found that many of those we came to serve wish to serve us in return. Ruhiyyih, mentioned in previous posts, asked for the opportunity to do this. It was decided that what she would do would be to teach us to make Fireweed Jelly. Fireweed is a wildflower that grows profusely in the area. The folk story of fireweed is that it blooms from bottom up marking the progression of summer. When the top blooms, summer’s over. The flower is edible and is similar to honeysuckle in flavor.
In order to make jelly, we needed to pick a kitchen garbage can full of blooms first. No problem, it grows everywhere. Over 2 1/2 hours later, we only had 3/4 of a garbage can full. Ruhiyyih stopped by this evening, proudly we show her our work, and she giggled and said, “That’s a good start.” We had to put off our jelly making project until tomorrow in order to gather some more blossoms in order to make a worthwhile batch. Luckily, the church in Homer has a nice field of fireweed behind their building, so we will head down there to harvest some more tomorrow. (This also ties back to our bible study – read John 4:37) We’ll update you on our jelly tomorrow.

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Onward, Christian Soldiers!

Hello from Anchor Point, Alaska! As I’m sure you’ve already read, we arrived safely on Thursday, July 17th and have already received many lovely blessings.
Today, Monday, was the first day of VBS. We were all ready to go after the preparations of the day before and put on a wonderful Day 1 for 33 children. One of the blessings we have received for our mission trip is teenagers. Yes, teenagers. I know many of you may be thinking I’m crazy, but let me explain myself. For those of you that don’t know, pulling off a Vacation Bible School takes a whole mess of people. We have only five adults. Yes, we know we can do it and the team did a wonderful job this morning, but we were not about to turn down help.
A couple of our friends from Homer that participated in our VBS last year, Isabella and Garrett, came back this year to be Crew Leaders and they led various crews from station to station. We also had some of our other returning participants help us out in being Crew Leaders: Tapanga and Llena. They all did a fabulous job and we are very grateful for their willingness and enthusiasm to help.
We also had a surprise helper, Katie. Katie lives in Soldotna, Alaska, had participated in Weird Animals VBS in Homer this year and is my first Cross Story. Katie was in church, visiting her grandparents, at Faith Lutheran Church in Homer and met our team when we introduced ourselves to the congregation. Originally, Katie was only visiting her grandparents for the weekend and was supposed to return home yesterday. However, upon hearing about our mission, she asked if she could come and help us out with our VBS. Her grandparents agreed and she is staying in Homer for the rest of the week to assist us in spreading Jesus’ love to the children in Anchor Point. What an amazing blessing! It is wonderful to know there are children her age (12) that love our Lord that much and jump at the opportunity to share that love with others.
My second Cross Story surprised me when we were visiting the Spit in Homer today. I went into a store to purchase a hooded sweatshirt, (for those of you who may not know, it has not been as warm here as it was last year) and while I was putting my change in my wallet, the cashier asked me if I was from around here. I informed her that I was from Columbia, Missouri and that I was participating in a mission trip in Anchor Point by helping put on a VBS. Her face lit up and she said, “That’s awesome! Have you ever heard of YWAM?” I told her that I hadn’t and she went on to explain that YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission and her parents were the leaders of the organization in Homer. I replied to her that that sounded amazing! Finished with my task, I picked up my sweatshirt and told her goodbye and she said, “Thank you! Have a great evening!” The thank you was not for the purchase; it was for being here in Alaska to spread the good news of our Savior.
I’ve heard that a large percentage of the population in Alaska does not claim to be Christian, but I have high hopes. With friends like Isabella, Garrett, Tapanga and Llena; our new friend Katie and the young lady from the store, how can I not? It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and I believe that the spark in a young person is the strongest.
I hope that you are all doing well and that God is blessing you as much as He is blessing our team and our mission.
In His Service,
Hannah Lilienkamp

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Gearing Up

Greetings from Anchor Point, AK!

Today has been the final preparation day before the main focus of our mission trip begins. We began the day by traveling to Homer to attend worship at Faith Lutheran Church. We were greeted warmly by several individuals who remembered Jen, Hannah, and I from last year. It was so lovely to see some familiar faces.

Following service, we were treated to a potluck in our honor. I will admit that it was rather disconcerting to not have a role in clearing the rooms, setting up the tables, or preparing the food. Thankfully, we had a lot of loading of VBS supplies to do in order to keep me busy and out of the ladies way. Once again this year Homer was generous in allowing us to borrow many of the sceneries, props, costumes, and materials they used for their VBS a few weeks ago. We were told that they had 110 children attend their program – that’s amazing!

When the food was ready, we were treated to a delicious meal. The highlight for me was the fresh salmon that one of the church members donated specifically for us. It was AMAZING! I’m pretty sure that I ate my share, as well as Hannah’s. In addition to the wonderful meal, we were able to engage in fellowship with several members of the church. It was so nice to be able to visit and learn more about the people and life in Alaska.

Cross Story #1 – We are very fortunate to have developed such a good relationship with Faith. The congregation has been gracious in their support of our team and our mission. Gretchen (the Faith DCE) and Ruhiyyih (a Faith Deaconess), in particular, have been tremendous blessings to us. We appreciate everything that they have done, and continue to do, in order to make our mission successful.

After leaving the church, we drove around Homer briefly to orient ourselves, and did a round of grocery shopping. From there we headed back to Anchor Point to begin decorating the church and setting up for VBS. With so many materials to use, we had a great deal of work to do in a short period of time. We worked for several hours before taking a dinner break. Due to the fact the our host church was holding a meeting from 6-8, we decided that we would pack a small picnic and not interrupt them. We ended up going down to the Anchor Point beach (which Hannah and I tried and failed to reach on two separate occasions last year – so it’s nice to verify it’s existence). It was breathtaking! The sky was clear blue, and from where we were we had a clear view of the three volcanoes across Cook Inlet from us – Mts. Augustine, Iliamna, and Redoubt. For me it was a strong reminder of God’s power and majesty.

After spending some time walking on the beach, we headed back to the church to finish up the decorating and preparation to start VBS in the morning. We had another couple of hours of work before we were able to wrap up. Physically, we are ready to greet the children showing up tomorrow with enthusiasm. Spiritually, we ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers, that we may effectively share God’s love and grace with the children of Anchor Point.

Cross Story #2 – While preparing our food to take on our picnic, a woman approached me and asked if I remembered her. I absolutely did, as she was the grandmother of one of students from last year that stood out to all of us. (I believe that we shared Megan’s story – her enthusiasm for attending our VBS led to her grandfather delaying plans to go salmon fishing, a big deal as this was not recreational, but subsistence living.) I told the grandmother that I did remember her and asked if Megan was going to be able to join us again this year. She said that Megan had been asking her if the same people from last year would be coming back, the one’s that she’d adopted as ‘aunties.’ Her grandmother said that she couldn’t wait to return to hear the stories and sing. I felt blessed that such a young child felt a connection with us and the message that we were sharing that she was able to carry it with her all year.

-In Christ, Mary Anne

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