Our Alaska mission team has landed safely! We’ve made it through our first day in Anchorage and are ready to make our journey to Anchor Point tomorrow. Most of us are old hat at this particular mission trip but sometimes you might still forget to pack something.
Our morning today started with a devotion led by Luke and my cousins, Darlene and Carl Lilienkamp. We started with this reminded, “Don’t leave home without IT.” We were asked what is IT? Faith? Hope? Courage? While all of these things are important, one trait we must make sure we have when serving is humbleness. A mission trip isn’t just about serving the Lord, but serving others through the Lord and in His name. This means put others ahead of yourself or helping someone without considering the cost of time or discomfort. LISTENING to others. Most of the time your biggest impact on someone is a surprise to you.
The devotion went on to discuss the story in Mark’s gospel about Jesus calming the storm. Carl talked about the gospel of Mark being full of action. ‘And then’ or ‘and when’ or ‘next they’ and so on. I thought this was appropriate considering the theme of our VBS, Hero Central. Superheroes are all about action and are also humble. Jesus was the disciples’ hero when calming that storm and He is our superhero today and every day.
I think our team is ready to be humble superheroes to the people in Anchor Point and anyone else we might meet along the way. We want to thank everyone for their generosity and support for this opportunity to humbly serve; for what is a mission trip without humble, super support? THANK YOU!
And remember… Do Good! Seek Peace! And Go After It!
Your sister in Christ,
This year’s team is packed and ready to go. Bryan, Mary Anne, Jen, Luke, Hannah and Matt are excited to get to Anchor Point, reunited with the community, and share the transforming love of Christ.
This year’s VBS is SUPERHERO CENTRAL, where the children will discover their strength in God. Our verse for the week is Psalm 34:14b – “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” or as the children will cheer “Do good! Seek peace and go after it!” while wearing the capes and masks.
We are scheduled to leave Columbia at 11am on Thursday, but we don’t get to Anchorage until 2am Friday. It’ll be a long day for us, but your prayers for our travels and transitions will carry us through.
Keep watching for updates!
Most weeks, I’m excited to see Friday come. However, that was not the case this week. Today was the final day of our Maker Fun Factory VBS in Anchor Point. The week went by so quickly – it seems that we were just heading down to the Penninsula to get set up. This past week in Anchor Point has been amazing. We had 46 students ranging from 2 to 18 years old. Of those, 16 were new to us, coming with friends and family to join us. While I always look forward to renewing our relationships from previous years, I love expanding that circle to include new students in the sharing of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. As our relationships grow deeper and wider in the community, we can continue to share the transforming love of Christ with the families in Anchor Point.
In addition to the songs, crafts, games, and stories this year at VBS, we participated in Operation Kid-to-Kid. This is where the students at VBS get to share God’s blessings through their offering to help children in other parts of the world. This year, the focus was on clean water for children in Peru. Each day we talked about how blessed we were to have safe water for drinking and cooking, and that $5 would provide a child in Peru clean weather for 1 year. When we talked about this on Monday, our kiddos set a very ambitious goal for themselves. They set a target of collecting $400 in offering for the week. When the total were calculated today, they did not meet their goal – they surpassed it by $100! Through the enthusiasm and generousity of our Ancho Point children, we will be able to help 101 children in Peru! Wow God!
The ending of Alaska VBS is always bittersweet to me. This is my 5th year, and I’m never quite ready for it to be over. Looking back over the years, I think I have ended up with the Friday blog post for most of those years (Thanks, alphabetical order!). While I’ve shared many of my thoughts on our time here in previous years, there was one thing that stood out to me this year. This year we have several little-bit ties, ages 2 and 3. Due to some logistical issues, we do not run a parallelpre-school program like we would at Campus. Rather, we run the regular program and try to accommodate as needed for out little ones. It can occasionally be quite challening (I never seem t ohare enough to hands!), but the reward was days like today watching these tiny friends sing and dance with gusto. It just shows how powerful God’s word is.
In the end, there were lots of hugs and since everyone hated to say goodbye, we settled on “Until next year!” And maybe some more hugs. Then we started the pack up and clean up process, setting the church back to rights and returning the much appreciated supplies. We had a final lunch at the church of delicious salmon, provided by our friend Nellie. From there we went and checked on our ‘property’ – a lot for sale down the road that overlooks the bay and the volcanoes that we keep threatening to buy – one last time for the summer. Then it was time to hit the road. We stopped near Cooper Landing at Russian River Falls for one last hike. We met a guide on the trail who had just scared a bear off the trail seconds earlier. While we had been hoping to see a bear from a safe distance (i.e., from a well protected viewing platform above the natural salmon ladder), that was a little closer than we were wanting. We did complete the hike, but made sure to make enough noise to announce our presence to deter unwanted visitors. From there we drove to the other side of the Penninsula to Seward. We’re currently staying at Resurrection Lutheran Church before setting out on an excursion tomorrow morning, with the hope of seeing a whale (or 10).
Thank you all again for your prayers and support. Without them, this mission trip would not be possible.
In Christ – Mary Anne
Today we woke up from our beds, that happen to be church pews last night, at 6:30 A.M. It probably was not all of our favorite things to wake up that early, but we were getting up for a good reason. Today we were blessed to be able to go on an eight hour boat tour. It was probably the most sunny day we’ve seen in Alaska so far, which worked out perfectly. We had checked in and waited to board. As we boarded we were told it was a sold out boat tour and the boat was filled. Even from the beginning the views were absolutely amazing. It makes me really thank God for creating such beautiful nature. We had miraculous luck with our sightings. In total we saw: various amounts of birds (including Horned and Tufted Puffins, a Bald Eagle and many different kinds of gulls), at least 8 Humpback Whales, Harbor Seals, a Sea Otter, Stellar Sea Lions, and even a Killer Whale! I had even teared up at one point during the tour. We were in a spot where there were about 3 or 4 whales eating, so they were surfacing a lot. Being in nature and seeing the animals in their own habitat really remind me of God’s amazing work. Not only did the animals amaze, but the glaciers and mountains were astonishing! Everything really took my breathe away and I really have to thank the Maker for everything. After the great boat ride, we went to downtown Seward and ate. We are nowhere our way back to Anchorage where we will go to church in the morning and leave really late tomorrow night for home! I feel extra blessed today to be surrounded by so many of God’s creations. He was really with us today to let us have a safe boat ride and to let us see so many extraordinary things. I think it was a perfect tie-in to our VBS lessons. Throughout the week we talked about the creation and how God is always with us and is always for us, He definitely showed us through this tour his amazing creations.
Today was our fourth day at Maker Fun Factory VBS. Our main focus of the day was, God will always love you! (Wow God!). One thing that really stuck out to me today was how serious the kids were during the bible story. The story was about Jesus’ journey to the cross, starting with the Passover meal where He is betrayed. Yesterday we had some difficulty during the bible story using our ears and not using our mouths. Today was very different. One of the things the kids did was write sins on paper hearts and place them on the cross. This was to help them visualize that even the sins that they commit, some 2000 years later, Jesus took to the cross with him when he died. But the story didn’t end there. We went on to share the good news about how Jesus rose from the grave and conquered sin and death. It was also important to point out to the kids that Jesus was not angry with them for the sins that they put on the cross. We let them know that Jesus forgave them and that He loves them very much.
After VBS today, two very special ladies brought us lunch. Nelly and Sarah made fish tacos for us, with a rhubarb, blueberry, and strawberry pie for dessert. I had been having a headache for most of the morning and when we were finished with lunch, Nelly came over to me and placed her hands on me and asked everyone to come and say a prayer for me. They all gathered around and Jen stared by saying a prayer in English and Nelly ended saying a prayer in Yupik, which is her native tounge. The love of Christ that is felt and shared by Nelly never ceases to amaze me.
Sarah also brought us some supplies so that we could continue our work sharing the transforming love of Christ, by painting the men’s restroom at the church here in Anchor Point. We had to move some of the things that are stored in there out before we could paint, and in the process of doing that we found some mold growing at the base of one of the walls. We cleaned that up and painted that room as well as the nursery room where we keep all of our supplies during the day. When we had finished our project in Anchor Point we headed out to Homer to do a little painting in their youth room. We only got to paint one wall but they were very appreciative. While I was putting some of the wall plates back up from the previous day’s painting project, I found a thank you card with our name on it tucked into the pile of wall plates. Through the words of the card, it was very evident that the love that we were sharing was being received with joy.
We ended our day by going down to the beach in Anchor Point, and using some of the coal that we had gathered the days before, we had a cookout on the beach. We didn’t get done cooking until about midnight and we were racing the tide coming in, which Autum took upon herself to remind every chance she got. But at last we had our meal cooked over the coals, with the sun setting over the volcanoes of the pacific ring of fire. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Just another reminder that God is always with us, and that His love is never ending.
Your brother in Christ,
Even on day 6 my body still hasn’t gotten used to the late sunset and early sunrise. It has been a little hard waking up each morning, but the motivation of getting to teach the kids VBS wakes me up. Today our bible point was “God is always with you!” I think this was a good underlining thought for the day. Since the power was out yesterday, I did not get to show my KidVid yesterday. So, fitting in two videos in a short amount of time was a little difficult, but God is always with you. I think as the days go on I realize that I can’t only focus on overthinking how well I do with the kids, but trusting in God that He will help me teach them. The energy in the kids each day really is a God sighting.
Today in VBS, we really stressed that God is always with you and that you don’t have to feel alone. I think this Bible point was very comforting. The prep for the snacks and videos were a little stressful for the day, but as always it all worked out! After VBS today, we finished painting the other room’s walls in the church in Homer. Where we found out that my 6-foot wingspan is very helpful to reach the high parts of the walls! After that we then went down to the Homer Spit to do some shopping.
The views everywhere in Alaska have me awestruck, and constantly remind me of God’s creations! On our way home, we got to see a moose on the side of the road, another great God sighting! Throughout the day, the thought that I was not alone, because of God, was a really great reminder. I think this thought will help with the rest of the trip, either teaching the kids or traveling. I am truly blessed to experience this great adventure, with God by my side!
It all started with a shower that turned bitter cold.
Huh? What am I talking about?
While I was showering this morning, the lights flickered and then went out. At the moment that I was covered with soap, the water turned the coldest I’ve ever felt. That was just the start of the day’s adventure.
The question the team had to quickly answer was, how do we do VBS in the dark? The answer, remarkably well.
We did a little rewrite of the schedule, relocating a craft, and making the Spotlight Video truly a spotlight activity. With the MacGyver ingenuity our teams have developed over the years, we were able to amplify the music off of Gretchen’s phone for Sing and Play. Mary Anne and Luke performed their skit by battery powered flicker lights. Crafts was in the most natural lighted room and games was in the dark sanctuary. Bible Story Adventures worked out well for Luke who had built a room for the kids to hide in as a part of Rahab’s story. He needed it to be dark, and it sure was. Our closing was also modified due to the lack of video capability, so Mary Anne got creative with the Spotlight video by having the kids act it out on the spot.
The things the team learned today is 1) when God is For Us (the Bible point for the day), even a little lack of electricity can’t be against us. And 2) the kids in Anchor Point can be remarkably understanding and responsible when drastic changes have to be made with short notice.
We enjoyed lunch in the dark and then off to Homer to paint the preschool rooms. One room finished and one room prepped for paint tomorrow. Dinner on the Spit, a walk on the beach, and back to Anchor Pont to prepped for VBS tomorrow.
Oh, almost forgot, the electricity did come back on about 2pm.
GOD IS FOR YOU! WOW, GOD!