New Beginnings

The mission trip is coming to a close.  Pastor Kent and Norah have already left for the airport.  The rest of us will be leaving Alaska in roughly four hours.  Exhaustion is hitting the team hard.  We are willing ourselves to stay awake so we will be tired enough to sleep overnight on the plane.

This morning we joined the congregation of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Anchorage, AK for a worship service.  Everyone was very friendly.  When we were given time to greet the other worshippers, many people came over to ask us about our time in Alaska and where we were from.  They were appreciative of our service to Anchor Point.

Beautiful Savior

We then explored Anchorage, visiting places like The Ulu Factory and the downtown market.  Even though we were all very tired from our week of VBS, we made the most of our last day in Alaska.

It’ll be sad to leave this beautiful state behind.  One of the things I’ll miss the most is something completely unexpected.  I’ve had many opportunities to experience the kindness of others, even though I came here with the intention of bestowing my kindness onto them.

I’m also going to miss the scenery and wildlife.  I have many pictures to document my trip, but those pictures won’t be the same as actually standing on the beach as I look at the volcanos across the bay.  The fireweed is also a sight the I’m going to sorry to leave behind.  The purple-pink flower is one of the first things to grow after a wildfire, so it can symbolizes new beginnings.  I am choosing to see the trip home as a new beginning instead of an ending.

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Needless to say, this trip has been a fun and eye-opening experience.  Please pray for safe travels home.  I’m excited to share our Alaska adventures with the Campus Lutheran congregation once we return home.

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God’s Promises, And The Rainbow Connection

Today was our last day in Homer and Anchor Point. We got to sleep in, YAY!! We got up around 7:30 or 8:00 and prepared for our day of travel and occasional sightseeing. We stopped at a local farmers market in Homer, where some local jelly was purchased by some of the team members. Then we made our way to the Spit to check in for our boat tour.

The boat that we were taking was named “The Rainbow Connection.” The boat was painted to look like a rainbow at the bow and as it went back it was a purple color. We boarded the boat and made our way out to sea. We got to see lots of Sea Otters, Birds, and even a few Humpback Whales! The boat took us from the Spit in Homer to a small town called Seldovia. This is the small town that one of our first mission teams to Alaska did their work.

boat

We had lunch, took in some local shops, and found our way to the small Catholic/Lutheran church. Yes, in some places around the world we get along… The two churches share a building and the Lutheran church holds services on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month. Pastor Syth, who is the pastor of Faith Lutheran in Homer, is the pastor for this congregation as well. It is something like having a dual perish.

Church

We were told that we needed to go visit the Big Butt Bakery in town, because the owners of the bakery housed the team we sent there in 2013. We were sad to find out that the bakery was no longer there. We then boarded the ship and headed back to Homer to get our things and make the long trip back to Anchorage. This week there was a wild fire that started near Anchorage and closed the only highway from Anchor Point to Anchorage. Last we heard it was 15% contained. The road was open but we had to drive slow through some parts of it.

As I sit here and think about the day, and the events of the week I am reminded of God’s promises and the new life that he brings us in His Son, Christ Jesus. Our boat today reminded me of His promise to Noah, that he would never destroy the entire earth with a flood again. This got me thinking about things that do destroy parts of God’s beautiful creation. The wild fire here in Alaska came to mind, and it helped remind me that even when disasters do happen, God has a plan. After the wildfires that happen here, God brings new life to those places, making them come back more green and beautiful than they were before. Much like when He flooded the earth and brought new life upon it, it gives me a calming peace to know that when the fire has done its damage, God will swoop in with His beautiful colors and His amazing brush strokes to paint one of the most beautiful pictures ever to be seen.

I would ask all to pray for the people of Alaska who are being affected by the fire, and for our team who will be traveling tomorrow to return home. I would also ask that you would pray for those people that we had to leave back in Anchor Point, that the seeds that were sown would grow and flourish, and that the love of Christ Jesus would spread from their hearts to the hearts of those around them.

Your brother in Christ,

Luke

Follow Him!

It’s Friday evening here in Homer.  VBS is over.  After months of planning, preparation, anticipation, and prayer, just like that…it’s over.  No one on the team can quite believe that we won’t be getting up and driving to Anchor Point in the morning to see ‘our kids.’  No one seems quite prepared for this experience to end.  Today, there were hugs, and a couple of tears, when is came time to say ‘until next year’ the children and their parents and grandparents.  There were thank yous going in all directions.  There were gifts and more hugs.  There were sentiments of regret that our time together was over and expressions of anticipation when thinking of coming together next year.  And, there were more hugs…

During our week of VBS, each day centered around a theme.  These themes were interactive, and were highlighted at each station.  Sitting here reflecting, after the sets have been struck, the materials sorted, and the luggage repacked, the themes this year feel particularly relevant to our time here with our Alaska family.

Jesus gives us hope.  Our team has talked a lot about hope this week.  Each one of us has encountered someone in either Anchor Point or Homer experiencing a significant difficulty in their lives.  To be able to share the hope that comes from our relationship with Jesus is an incredible privilege and responsibility.  I think everyone on our team also came away with renewed hope.  We saw that in spite of the difficulties some of our families were facing, they showed up each morning eager and ready to be taught about Jesus, the light of the world.

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Cave Quest Sing & Play Rock/Opening

 

Jesus gives us courage.  Six strangers from 3000 miles away arrive on your doorstep and ask you to leave your precious children in their care for 3 hours a day  – and you let them.  That takes courage.  It also takes a lot of courage for a group of Christians from Missouri to travel to Alaska, into unknown circumstances.  By the team and families turning to Jesus for courage, four years later that initial act of courage has blossomed into something truly dynamic.

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Spelunker Sports & Games

 

Jesus gives us direction.  Life is filled with tough choices.  Too many times we choose what’s easy or feels good rather than what’s right and pleasing to God.  I am continuously amazed by our students here at Anchor Point.  Every year we hear stories about how the students look forward to attending VBS and prioritize it above other experiences, asking parents to change plans in order to attend.  From the mouths of babes.  In a world of endless distractions, our kids in Anchor Point seem to have a pretty good handle on who to turn to for direction.

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Imagination Station

 

Jesus gives us love.  Over this past week, our team has experienced one demonstration of love after another.  We have been blessed with being the recipients of the time, talents, and treasures of the families in Anchor Point and Homer.  The support that we’ve received from our families up here is beyond what any of us would have expected.  Growing up in Illinois, my church was my family.  I have been blessed to be able to extend that family to Campus. And over the past 4 years, my family has continued to grow to include Anchor Point and Homer.  The love that our team has been on the receiving end of during our time her has truly been a reflection of Jesus perfect love for all of us.

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KidVid Cinema

 

Jesus gives us his power.  This is my 4th mission trip to Alaska.  Each team has been unique and special.  But the one thing that they’ve all had in common is the size of the team has been significantly smaller than what we use to stage the VBS at Campus.  But, through our connection to Jesus, our 6 voices were able to reach over 30 children this week.  And we could definitely feel Jesus’ power in the joy and enthusiasm every morning with the kids.

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Cavern Cafe

 

Once again, I find today to be a bittersweet day.  I have loved working with this team of dedicated Christians.  I have loved seeing the familiar faces, both students and parents, and the growth since the last time we were together.  I have loved teaching the students about salvation through Jesus Christ.  And, as sad as I am that Anchor Point VBS 2016 is over, I have the hope that through Jesus love and power that we will all have the courage and be lead in the right direction to be together again next year.

Follow Him!

Mary Anne

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Deep Bible Quest

Teamwork

For this evening’s blog post, there are two things I’d like to report on.  First, a quick recap of the day’s events.  We had another great day at VBS, where we talked about Jesus’s suffering, crucifixion and resurrection for our sins.  The kids have been wonderful to work with, and judging by the smiles and hugs we’ve been receiving, they seem to think we’re pretty great too.  Our day’s VBS activities were followed by two servant events in the afternoon.  Pastor Kent, Norah, Luke and Kate did a painting and staining project at Faith Lutheran Church in Homer, while Mary Anne and I helped one of the church’s congregation members with some yard work.  We look forward to these opportunities as another way to serve God by helping the communities that have welcomed us into their lives.

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This leads me to my second point of the evening, which is teamwork.  The work we are doing would not be possible with the six of us acting individually.  But together as a team, we are able accomplish great things.  I would like to further say that serving with this team here in Alaska has been nothing but a pleasure for me.  Eating, sleeping and working side-by-side in tight quarters for eight days now, one would expect everyday stresses to surface, and disagreements and even occasional arguments to erupt, but that has not been the case.  So last night, after praying and before falling to sleep, I began reflecting back to Jesus’ disciples during His ministry days, and how it must have been for them.  Like us, they were also a team who were also eating, sleeping and working side-by-side in tight quarters, in their case for several years.  How, I asked, did they handle being brought together to travel away from the comforts of their homes and families?  The answer: Their trust in Christ, whom they were following and serving.  To be sure, the patience of the disciples was tested and quarrels happened, and as our kids at VBS learned today, the disciples even fled and abandoned Jesus on the night before his crucifixion.  But they eventually returned to Him, and following Jesus’ ascension, they continued their work and again left behind the familiar and traveled throughout the known world preaching the good news of God’s saving grace through Jesus.  To this day, from time to time, God calls His servants to do just that.  That is exactly what Kent, Norah, Mary Anne, Luke, Kate and I have done, are doing here in Alaska, and I feel truly blessed and privileged to be part of this team in God’s service.

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan Ross

Standing Stones

Today we had a ton of fun with all the kids that came to VBS. They are having a lot of fun at VBS  and they hate to leave at the end. Getting to know all of the kids has been a blessing. They have ended up teaching us more than we have taught them so far.

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After VBS we went to the Anchor Point beach and collected rocks, looked at the volcanos, the seagulls, and the ocean. So tonight’s group devotion was about standing stones and how they represents our faith. In Jesus we are living stones. At VBS we are teaching the kids that Jesus makes them living stones too.  We are helping the kids at VBS know Jesus and grow in faith so that they are able to help other people know Jesus too.SAM_0516.JPGSAM_0471.JPG

In Christ,

Norah Pierce

 

Sharing the Love of Christ

​In our VBS lesson today we learned that Peter was given courage to walk to Jesus on the water in the midst of a storm (Matthew 14:22-33). As Peter trusted Jesus he was able to do the impossible. When he turned away he began to sink. Even as he was sinking our Lord pulled Peter up to safety. And Jesus does the very same for us.

Since we’ve been here in Alaska we’ve heard of some of the storms that children and their families have been facing. Moves. Loved ones dealing with health problems. An older sibling who has made poor choices. The search for a church home. A fire closing the highway to Anchorage. No doubt, there are other storms that haven’t been shared, but are ongoing nonetheless. What a blessing it is to have a Savior who knows these things and was lifted up on a cross to deal with them. What a privilege it is for our little team to share the abundant hope and courage that Jesus gives!

After Vacation Bible School today we were treated to lunch at the Anchor River Inn by our Yupik friend, Nellie. Two of us helped clear an overgrown yard for Bill and Delores, founding members of our host congregation in Homer. All of us are continually grateful for the generosity of God’s family.

The Lord is good, indeed!

Living and sharing the love of Christ with you,

Pastor Kent

The Thing With Feathers

First of all, I want to say Alaska is amazing. I haven’t gone a day without being overwhelmed with wonder by the beauty of God’s creation. Missouri is beautiful in its own right with gently rolling hills and cornfields. However, the beauty in Alaska is sharper and more vibrant. This morning I stood by the doors of Faith Lutheran Church in Homer and enjoyed a view of snow-capped mountains as I ate my oatmeal.  It is truly a blessing to be here.

This evening we went to the Spit in Homer where we walked along the coastline finding interesting rocks to take back home.  Hopefully the airport doesn’t mind us carrying a few pounds of rocks on board with us.

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The Spit- Nora is in the corner.

The most important thing about today is the start of Vacation Bible School: Cave Quest Edition. Twenty-six children participated, and I was finally able to meet some of the youngsters I have heard so much about from the other members of the mission team. The little “spelunkers” were full of energy and eager to learn. The theme of the day was hope.

 

Hope is a very important element of faith.  Without hope, our lives lose direction. A person without hope might wonder off the path the Lord has prepared because the future seems bleak. Hope is a light in the darkness, and Jesus gives us this hope.  This is why Jesus is light of the world.

During the VBS session today, the children learned what it was like to sit in the dark.The power “went out,” only to be restored after much waiting.  Even though multiple lights were brought to them, like glow-in-the-dark stars, candles (the flameless kind), and flashlights, nothing compared to the light Jesus brings to them.

Clark with Plunger

Mary Anne and Clark Cavern

 

There are many bible verses dealing with hope. The Gospels, Psalms, and even Job mention the topic at some point. I could pick any of these verses, and it would be relevant. However, when I think of hope, one of the first things that comes to mind is a poem by Emily Dickinson called “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers-…”  I want to share a verse from this poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all”

I don’t necessarily think Jesus is covered in feathers, but I feel like a description of faith can be seen within these words. If I were to explain to someone what being a Christian feels like, the beginning of Dickinson’s poem would be how I would describe the hope that Jesus gives me through his word and sacrifice.

As the team continues with the VBS the rest of the week, I want to ask everyone back home to pray for the children who are attending.  I pray that these children take something away from our time together that makes their hope never stop singing.

“Jesus gives us hope.”

“Follow him!”

Three Wooden Crosses

Three wooden crosses outside of the Lutheran church in Homer, AK

 

 

Yours,

Kate Mirly