Family Ties 

Well, our 2018 AMC VBS mission trip is in the books. The lessons have been taught, the games have been played, the crafts have been crafted, and the songs have been sung. We’ve shared meals, fellowship, running jokes, and God’s Word. How neat is that? Pretty neat!
I’ve been thinking a lot about family today. Today is my younger brother’s birthday. I called to wish him happy birthday from the weekend market in Anchorage. I also got to check in on the nieces and nephews. Growing up in Illinois, we didn’t have family close by. It was just my parents, my brother, and me. As a result, my home church became my extended family – surrogate grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Coming to Campus, that family extended even more. This was my sixth year serving as part of the Campus AMC VBS Mission team. Thinking about the families we serve there, I know that my extended family has again increased. The kids of Anchor Point and their parents have become ‘mine,’ just as our team has become ‘theirs.’ I think about my families throughout the year, and so many of the parents shared how much the kids look forward to hearing from us. Going back to Alaska every year is like going to a big family reunion. And, just like a biological family, some family members are closer than others, and some even stray away. It was even shared with us that while several of our Anchor Point families attend a church regularly, there are many that do not. We were told that those families, while they do not have a strong church affiliation for the majority of the year, for one week in July they prioritize attending our VBS. And, that the kiddos are the ones who are the most adamant about attending. How wonderful it is to be able to share God’s love and grace with children eager to hear the message, and to continue to grow the family of God.
So, until next July, God’s heroes, follow Psalm 34:14b – Do good, seek peace, and go after it!
Your sister in Christ –

Mary Anne


R & R

Today was a day of rest and reflection for our team.  We woke up this morning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Seward, where we were kindly given floor space at last moment yesterday.  We cleaned up and got ourselves moving early to catch our boat to the Northwestern Fjord.  This has become a favorite for the Alaska team as they enjoy a day of sightseeing before returning home.

Captain Mike led us out and about in God’s creation.  He slowed the boat down to give us many opportunities to see otters, Eagles, birds, Dahl’s porpoises, Humpbacks, Harbor seals, Sea Lions, glaciers, and waterfalls.  What a wonderful creator we have!

Our time on the boat and the ride back to Anchorage also gave us a chance to reflect on our week in Anchor Point.  We discussed our interactions and impacts on those we’ve met and worked with since leaving home.  The bottom line is that we learn so much about others and the power of God’s love and grace in each and every one of our lives.  We will have the opportunity to share some of these reflections tomorrow with members at Beautiful Savior in Achorage and then with Campus Lutheran on August 12th at both services.

Praise God for all the blessings He bestowed on us this week.  Thank you for the prayers and support you have given us this week.

Unexpected Blessings

We ended our mission in Anchor Point successfully and sadly. The children were so sad to see us go and we were equally sad to leave them. Today our theme was God’s Heroes have Power! And they do indeed! Today we were able to serve 32 children; some of which the parents said the kids wouldn’t miss it for anything. The participants also raised over $345 for Alaska Mission for Christ this week! A powerful blessing indeed.

I wanted to blog today about some blessings we received this week. We were gifted with a fresh catch of salmon from one of the families. Today, for lunch, the families wanted to give back to us and some of the parents brought in and cooked us lunch. It was very good! We were very thankful. Bryan told you about the blessing of our rental truck last night. And tonight, we have been blessed again.

We were originally going to stay at a Lutheran church in Seward this evening but communication failed and we were going to have to sleep in our six passenger truck at a campsite. We were starting to worry again because the campsites were seemingly all full. Then Hannah started calling around. The other Lutheran church didn’t answer but the Sacred Heart Catholic Church did. Hannah asked for only shelter and a floor to sleep on but the kind gentleman not only provided that but also went through the trouble of finding sleeping mats so we wouldn’t be directly on the floor. God’s blessings know no bounds!

Matt Nacarato

God’s Heroes Have HOPE!

Today is Thursday, and today’s the day I have been planning to write our team’s blog entry.  Since this was planned ahead of time,  I knew I was going to be prepared for (what I thought would be) a slam dunk of a post.  I looked ahead at the lesson for the day, and saw that it was centered on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Yes, the Beatitudes!  What could be easier?  Days before, I even picked out a witty title for my post.  It was going to be written backwards, as “Tsop Golb Sdrawkcab” (Backwards Blog Post), and focus on how Jesus taught that the blessed are the meek, those who mourn, and the persecuted, etc. (see Matthew 5: 1-12).  It’s a lesson that is taught often in Sunday Schools, sermons, and at VBS classes, about the underdogs being the winners, which is the opposite of what the world would expect to happen.  I had a plan and was prepared! All I thought I needed was a few pictures of the kids doing their thing, and my blog post would write itself.
Or so I thought…
God has a plan that oftentimes is not mine, and He does so to teach me a lesson.  So what happened?  Did VBS go awry today?  Was I wrong and missed that the lesson was something different?  No, it wasn’t that at all.  The title of our lesson today was “God’s Heroes Have Hope”, just like the title to this blog entry says.  But not only would the children be learning about Hope today, but so would the adults.
After VBS was done for the day, our team made an expedition to Homer, where we needed to do some laundry, pick up a few things at the grocery store, and peruse a few of the local shops.  A couple of days ago, while driving in our rental Suburban, we had noticed that one of the brakes seemed to have hung-up temporarily, but it resolved itself, and we thought it was a fluke.  But in Homer today, it happened again, and did not immediately resolve itself.  Uh oh. We were in Homer (about a 20-30 minute drive south from Anchor Point), had some frozen foods in the car, and were facing the prospect of not having a working rental car with which to drive ourselves, not just back to Anchor Point, but eventually back to Anchorage (200+ miles away) after VBS ends tomorrow.  But as we had just instructed the children a few hours earlier, our hope resides with the Lord.
Firstly, where did our car’s brakes fail? Right down the road from Faith Lutheran Church in Homer, where that congregation has greeted us with open arms for the last six years.  So great is their love for the Lord and for us, that they have literally entrusted us with keys to their church! So we were able to simply limp our vehicle into their parking lot, and have a safe place to rest, and put our frozen foods.  And after a couple of phone calls to our car rental (Cheap Wheels in Anchorage, who provides rental cars to several mission teams that come to Alaska), the manager told us not to worry.  He told us if we could safely do so, to drive to Anchor Point, and that we could call a friend of his in the area if we ran into any trouble; and also, that he would drive the 4+ hours this evening to bring us a new vehicle.  As of this writing (it’s now 11:00 pm), we are safely in Anchor Point awaiting Nathan and  our new vehicle, and thanking the Lord that while we are here serving Him in Alaska, He has given us heroes to help us in our times of need. But always our ultimate hero is God’s own son Jesus Christ, and that by his death and resurrection we have the hope of eternal life with the Lord in His kingdom.

God’s Heroes Have Wisdom

Today we learned about Jesus as a young child in the temple. The kids had a great time acting out the story, playing games, and even doing some fun crafts. Part of today’s VBS included some science experiments. Below is a video of myself (Luke) doing one of the experiments, where we learned about  one of my favorite superpowers that God shares with us, His Love.

The first part of the experiment was shown to us in the VBS materials, but the second part of the experiment was discovered while I was practicing before the kids arrived.  While trying to find the bet way to do the experiment, God decided that Luke , that’s me, was going to learn something new today.  He was also kind enough to give me the wisdom to apply my new found knowledge to our lesson for the day. I apologize for the video being sideways, but God only saw fit to teach me one new trick today, and who am I to argue.


During our Bible story for today, we learned that we don’t have to wait until we grow up to be big and strong to be heroes for God. We learned that Jesus was showing the traits of a hero even at 12 years old! The kids then reflected on how they could also be heroes for God, even while they are still kids. Some of them gave examples such as , helping someone who is hurt, or teaching someone about God. I think that some of us often forget, that even the little things that we do for people, help to spread the love of God. All we have to do is have the wisdom to know when God is giving us the opportunity to spread his love.

Your brother in Christ,

Luke Lilienkamp

God’s Heroes Have Courage

We are officially 2 for 2 on amazing days at Anchor Point VBS.  The weather was beautiful, the team was prepped, and the kids were enthusiastic and ready to go!

Today’s story was about Abigail and how she demonstrated courage – courage in going against what she knew was wrong, courage going up against the unknown, and courage in choosing the path of peace.  The kids reflected on and shared about how they can show courage in their daily lives, especially when it would be easier to do nothing.  

My favorite part about our VBS this year is that the students are active participants in sharing the daily Bible story.  Each day, a different Hero Crew is responsible for telling the story, using scripts and costumes.  It’s amazing to see how much more attentive the other Crew’s are when their friends are telling the story, versus a pre-recorded video.  The actors and their audience have been a joy to watch this week.  It’s such a blessing to see young kids share stories from the Bible with eagerness and sincerity.  And there are no small parts – even if ‘Hee Haw’ is your only line, you can still steal the show!

After wrapping up for the day the team ran some errands to restock, and then we hit the beach in Anchor Point for a picnic style dinner.  Our surroundings are a continual reminder of God’s awesome power and love.  From the volcanoes that formed our skyline, to the bald eagles that were hanging completely unfazed by our intrusion, to the uncooperative otter that insisted on going under water every time I tried to take a picture, it was easy to feel God’s presence.  One of my favorite things to do on the Alaska beaches is to look at the plentiful rocks that line the sand.  More than a few (ok, a LOT more than a few), have managed to make their way back to Columbia over the years.  Last year I was inspired to use some of the rocks I found to create a Nativity (another item that also seems to find their way into my home in bulk).  This year, that inspiration continued.  As we walked the beach I found pieces to make a new set (or 2, or 3, or…I may have a problem…).  I love how Nativities remind us of the miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and God’s Promise fulfilled.  And, I love that the Nativities I’ve collected over the year’s remind me of joyful times and places.   A Nativity that is unique to this part of Alaska, and that has ties to both my faith and the amazing gift I’ve been given of being able to participate in this mission is something that I will treasure always.  Although, at this rate, I’m not sure that I’ll come in under the 50 lb weight limit for the flight home!

Your Sister In Christ – 

Mary Anne

God’s Heroes have Heart!

This week at VBS, I Hannah, am leading the Reflection Station. In this station, I ask questions about the bible story of the day and help the participants learn how it applies to their own lives.

Today the story was about Samuel being led by God to go and anoint David, the new king to be. Samuel was not very happy to take this assignment but ended up doing so anyway. We also read that Samuel looks for the strongest, most handsome son of Jesse because Samuel was looking on the outside.

God, luckily, was guiding Samuel and told him, “No. Not that one,” over and over until He finally had him get David. God saw David’s heart and cared nothing about his youth, short stature, or job of shepherding. God saw a good heart and knew that this person was the person He wanted. This decision surprised many but as most of us know, David went on to do great things.

In reflecting, the participants were asked to give me examples of what they take care of and how. Most responded with animals of some sort and feeding and watering said animals. But then I was directed to ask them to guess another person they need to take care of so their heart can grow closer to God. They tried to name family members before I said, “Yourself!” They then went on to name some actions they could do to take good care of themselves and how they could demonstrate their good hearts to others.

I like this lesson because it’s a good reminder. Most of the time on mission trips we are focusing so much on serving others and taking care of others that we forget about ourselves. But we can’t take care of others if we aren’t also caring for ourselves. This can mean caring physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I think this years team has heroes with heart. There were so many  positive comments about how our VBS session went today amongst our team; and that is not always the case. I am so happy to continue serving with this team this week as we continue to grow closer to God and seek out the good hearts in those we are serving and each other.

Your sister in Christ,

Hannah Nacarato