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

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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.

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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!”

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

 

 

Yours,

Kate Mirly

Many Mansions in Alaska

by Bryan Ross

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

During our journey to Anchor Point yesterday, we received some news that had the potential to present quite an obstacle to our team.  Our contact person in Anchor Point texted us to tell us that the church is having boiler problems, and as such there is no hot water.  For the rest of the drive we looked forward to a week of ice-cold showers and having to boil water to wash dishes.  We persevered, and despite some shivering and chattering teeth last night, we managed to shower and get ourselves bedded down for the evening.  What we realized in the middle of the night, as the temperature dropped outside, was that the lack of a working boiler didn’t just mean no hot water, but also no heat for the church.   But again, despite the forecast for lower temperatures for the evenings in the upcoming week, we persevered and traveled to the town of Homer to worship with our sister congregation at Faith Lutheran.  It was during and after lunch that our housing prospects changed.  Hearing about our lack of heat and hot water in Anchor Point, the congregation at Faith generously offered to us their church building for the week, giving us a place to sleep and shower and prepare and eat our meals.  What a blessing!  But God was not done, and had even more blessings in store for us.  The Pastor of the church in Anchor Point, also knowing of our misfortune, told us that because he will be traveling to Seattle this week, offered us his house.  If we wanted to sleep there, shower, do laundry, or anything we needed, he was offering his home to us.  So in a matter of hours we went from having difficulties and discomfort to having our choice of places to live.  Thanks to God for giving us friends, thousands of miles from our home, to care for us while we at the same time are here serving their neighbors.

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Faith Lutheran Church – Homer, Alaska

It is now 11:30 at night, and it will be getting dark soon, so I will say good night from Alaska.  The church has been decorated.  The snacks and games are prepared.  And God’s servants are filled with His Holy Spirit and ready to share the good news of Jesus to the children of Anchor Point tomorrow!

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Pastor Kent and Mary Anne hanging decorations

Using our Gifts Humbly

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ. Today was our first full day in Alaska, after our travel day. We got up early, had breakfast, did a morning devotion, packed up and headed south from Anchorage to Anchor Point. We saw some amazing examples of God’s great creation along the way. We saw some wildlife, beautiful mountains, and even a glacier!

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The devotion from this morning talked about the faith of the Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). In verse 10 Jesus says “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” What a compliment! This Roman centurion, who humbles himself in front of Jesus, by telling Him that he is not worthy of Jesus even entering his house, is told by God himself that one of his greatest gifts is his faith. The centurion has told Jesus how important and high ranking he is in Rome, and yet says that he is not worthy of Jesus even entering his house. This brought out a discussion of how we can use our gifts that the good Lord gives us while still being humble. Part of being humble is realizing that God has given you a gift to be good at something, and using that gift to the best of your ability. Some people look at others, such as athletes, or scholars and say, “well they are just showing off”, and while that may be true in some cases, I feel that those people are taking the gifts that they have been given and using them to the best of their ability, much like the centurion used his faith to heal his servant, without Jesus even stepping foot in his house!

Another great example of this is something that we got to see for the first time today. On our way out of Anchorage we had the privilege of seeing some Dall Sheep on a high ridge along the highway. As we watched them we started talking about how they walked around on the steep ridge without any trouble at all.

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These sheep, even the little ones, have been given a gift from God, and you can bet that they use it to the best of their ability. They have tiny pointed hooves, and yet they walk and jump around effortlessly on the edge of these very steep rocks. While much of their gift is God given instinct, it is something that they are instructed in when they are little and requires practice for the rest of their lives, much like our faith. We are here in Anchor Point, Alaska to instruct and help the children of this community practice their faith and their other wonderful God given gifts, much like the Dall Sheep do every day.

Your brother in Christ,

Luke

In the beginning…

Greetings from Anchorage!

After a long day of traveling yesterday, our team woke up this morning excited to get started. All the AMC teams heading out to sites this coming week met for an orientation with Ruth Zellar, our AMC serve the event coordinator. Typically, we’ve been one of the last teams to come come up each year, with the AMC ‘season’ ending right after we return home. That’s generally meant that only a couple of other small teams are heading out to sites at the same time that we are. This year there were at least 5 other teams represented at orientation – it was quite the full house!  By show of hands, it was the first time participating in an AMC event for several of those at the orientation today. On the other end of that spectrum, for the team leaders of the Minnesota team this is their 18th year!  But, it was clear that no matter your level of experience, everyone in that room this morning was excited and passionate to share the message of the Gospel here in Alaska.

While it was lovely to catch up with some familiar faces, this morning’s orientation was bittersweet. Ruth is retiring at the end of the month.  But we had the opportunity to meet Brittany Baumgartner, our new coordinator. Her husband is the Pastor in Chugiak (just north of Anchorage).  Though we will miss seeing Ruth, I know that Brittany will do a great job continuing the work of AMC.

 

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Brittany and Ruth

After orientation, our team headed out with our lists and shopped for the supplies that are needed for this week at VBS. While we are blessed to be able to borrow a great deal of what is needed from the church in Homer and the people around Anchor Point, there were still several items that we needed to get before leaving Anchorage and heading south to the Kenai Penninsula.

From there, we decided to head north for a little site seeing. We were blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather today – we definitely thought of you all at home while we were enjoying the sunny 70° day! We decided to head up to Talkeetna on the off chance that we might be able to see Denali (Mt McKinley). We were in luck! Though there was some cloud coverage, we got a pretty good look at her. Such a powerful reminder of the beauty of God’s creation.

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That white pointy thing in the background is a mountain!

Even though today was a fun day it was very important for our team. While we know each other through shared worship at church, and different combinations of individuals have different levels of connection prior to this trip, today was an opportunity for us to establish our team dynamic. Each year that I’ve participated in AMC, the team dynamic has been unique – with every member contributing something different and important. What took almost 2 dozen adults and youth leaders to do at the VBS at Campus last month, we will be doing with 6 team members, for roughly the same amount of students. Our unity as a team benefits our kiddos in Anchor Point, strengthening our message of God’s love.

Time to head to bed now.  Tomorrow we will head down to Anchor Point and start the on-site preparations for Monday.  I’m so excited!  Please continue to pray for our team and for the children and families that we are preparing to serve.

In Christ –

Mary Anne

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Denali through the clouds