Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let me tell you about the toughest man I've ever met...

The toughest man I've ever met caused a tree to grow that would make a 125# timber which he would carry up hill for half a mile with no blood pressure to fuel his muscles. He created Iron ore in the dirt that would one day be formed into nails that would pierce his hands and feet. He formed infants in their mothers wombs who would one day scream into his face "CRUCIFY HIM!!" He made the water drank by Roman soldiers which was spit into his beaten face. He took a spear to his side which showed that his heart had been broken. He showed his strength when they tried to take his life, but in actuality "He gave up his spirit." But these are not why I believe he is the toughest man I have ever met. I believe he is the toughest man I've ever met because three days after his corpse was put in the grave and Hell thought that it had victory and death was the ultimate reality for this life and ALL...HOPE...WAS...GONE...

Happy Easter and All hail King Jesus!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moose, Blizzards, and Prom dresses?

Last years calf, 10' from our deck.
Snow storm on April 7th. Photo care of Keith Ramos.
If Galena is anything, it is out of the ordinary. In recent days we've experienced sub zero nights, and 40+ days. Snow and sunshine, all in the same day. Two weeks ago we accumulated 10 to 12 inches of snow. This week it looks like we'll be seeing the ground soon. The days are getting longer. The sun is up well before 6am, and it's still twilight at midnight. The roads are slushy and the snow machining is coming to an end.
KIYU posted today that the unofficial snowfall for Galena this winter was 97 inches of snow.
What a great season to do ministry!
Photo care of Adrian Johnson.
This past week Galena Bible Church partnered with Galena YoungLife in ministry to dorm kids through a very practical teen event. PROM. Yes, Bush students have prom too, but there is a different problem to overcome here. There are no stores to buy formal wear for a dance. So last year a young lady in Big Lake, Alaska took it upon herself to collect donated prom and bridesmaid dresses and have them brought to Galena. This year she focused on collecting plus size dresses and menswear. Galena Bible Church was set up with racks of dresses and dress shirts, ties and high heels, full length mirrors and changing rooms.
Thursday night the boys were allowed to come and choose their attire and were fitted accordingly. Friday night the girls did likewise.  We even had ladies from the community volunteer their time and sewing abilities to do alterations.
One of the volunteers that came out to help with these events this year was a lady who is a professional nutritionist and a strong Christian. When she was a teenager she struggled with eating disorders and self image. On Saturday she shared a talk at the Church called "Beautiful You" to dorm girls and women from the community, in which she shared her story and how she found beauty through who Christ had made her to be. That evening the ladies of YoungLife and Galena Bible Church hosted a fashion show for girls from GILA and the community to attend.

Innovation, creativity, and flexibility are foundational elements of ministry here, and we were so excited to see teens being loved by God's people who had truely become "all things to all people".

Sunday's service was packed this past weekend. We had to add extra chairs in the back again. What a blessing. We have been preaching through a series called "Just like Jesus" looking at the character and actions of Jesus in areas like: Temptation, Endurance, and Generosity. In coming weeks we will be looking at Forgiveness, Anger (yes Jesus did get angry a time or two), Service, and Love. Please pray that these messages empower the Church to be just like Jesus.

Things you can be praying for:
- This Saturday Galena Bible Church is hosting the Kids Club Community Easter Egg Hunt. I've been asked to give an object lesson to the children that participate. Pray that God gives me wisdom and creativity to show how much Christ loves them.
- Summer Projects. We have had a couple of churches say they would like to help contribute financially to help with our summer construction projects, but we are still needing a significant amount towards our goal of $9000.
- Pray for us as we make Summer travel plans. We will be out of Alaska from May 31st until June 29th. Pray that God fits all the pieces together for support raising, moving our remaining stuff, and family vacation time. If your church would like to have us speak during that time please let me know ASAP.

Monday, April 4, 2011

You know you're in Bush Alaska when...

Sunrise over the hills south of Galena across the Yukon River. Photo by Keith Ramos.
        This is our local public radio website .  Reading this helps us stay aware of things that are going on around town. There have been some 'funny' announcements that make you go, "You know you're in Bush Alaska when..." I thought you could chuckle as you read and gain an insight into our bush culture. From the site in recent weeks:

- To all KIYU members, channel 10 television in Galena is now off the air do to malfunctions yesterday afternoon. We will be sending the transmitter to the lower 48 for repairs which could take a while.

- The Nulato fuel depot is now limiting out of Towner’s to 5 gallons of gas per day while in Nulato. Gas will be available when leaving to travel back home.

- The Huslia 36th Annual Koyukuk River Championship is scheduled for April 8th thru the 10th. April 9th is the wedding between ************& ************** and a live band will be playing each night. Everyone is invited. For more information, contact: ****************, *************** or Speedy @ ***********.

This past week was a normal Galena week. By normal I mean really busy. Last weekend was the Galena Spring carnival. This was a great opportunity to get outside and see a lot of people. All the events take place on the Yukon river. There is a dogsled race everyday, youth cross country ski race, 5 mile snowshoe race, and an Ice picking competition. The ice picking event involves men digging through the 2+ feet of snow on the river and with a 6 foot steel shank, picking a whole through the 3+ feet of ice. First one to hit water wins a $100. It was a unique window into the events that fill a normal part of life here. Many families still mush dogs. Snow shoeing is a normal practice while checking traplines. Ice picking is traditionally done for fishing and for setting beaver traps. Galena Bible church moved our Sunday potluck to a house by the river and enjoyed a great time of fellowship, even with some people who wandered in off the street. 

This week also saw grief for the city. One of the long time village elders passed away in Fairbanks and was brought back to Galena for burial. A Viewing (Wake) is held for 2 days at the community hall. The body is not left alone for the full 48hrs. People drink coffee and play cards in the room, and it really is a very social event. In the mean time, men from the village go prepare a grave. This is no simple task. Galena's cemetery is located 10 miles up river, 5 miles of which is a road, the other 5 being a atv/snow-go trail. There is no heavy machinery at the grave site, so all graves are dug by hand. The ground is also frozen, so a fire is built on the grave site to thaw the ground. The fire is removed and the mud is drug out until frozen ground is reached. The fire is then rebuilt to thaw the ground again. This is done until a depth of 6' is reached. I was told that this grave took 5 men 2 days to dig. The service was done in the catholic style (since Galena is a catholic village). The funeral was very well attended and the community hall was full. A small group is usually all that make the trip to the grave side. The casket is loaded onto a sled and pulled behind a snow-go (Snow mobile for those everywhere else) to the grave. The casket is then lowered into the grave and the men shovel the dirt back into the hole. The final part of a native funeral is the 'potlatch'. It happens the evening of the funeral. A moose was killed and prepared for the event. Speeches are given and the individuals life is remembered and honored. Traditional Athabaskan practice is to burn food for the person's journey to the next life. This is mixed with the catholic belief of praying for the dead. In the Summer, some members of this family will go back to the cemetery and will build a small (3' tall)  house over the grave. It is called a spirit house. You can see examples of this HERE.

There were so many other events that took place this week as well:
- Riff-n-Hook Music festival : an opportunity for students throughout the community to develop musical abilities through voice and instrument.  Several students from the church participated and even performed a couple worship songs at community wide events.
- Alaska's state walk against Domestic Violence
- And Hauling Wood (have you noticed a pattern with this one?)

Shell and I LOVE these people. The church is growing and allowing tradition to give way to the work of the Gospel. Thank you so much for your continued support and prayer. May God grant you this kind of love for the culture he has placed you in.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Learning to ask

Dog team on the Yukon

            Accepting God's leading to serve  in Galena has caused me to grow in the area of "asking". Most of us don't really ask for things, we just work toward getting them ourselves. We don't ask for the promotion.  We work hard and hope someone is paying attention. We don't ask for a vehicle (unless you're a teenager). We save our money and buy the one we want. We, as a culture, value independence. We value the 'Do-It-Yourselfer' mentality.
             Alaska is a DIYer's paradise in that sense. There is much to be done, and in a lot of situations there is no one that can do it for you. As I've said before, there's no auto body shop here to fix the van. We just bang it out ourselves, literally. So if you want to be independent, this certainly can be the place for you.
             However, God has been showing me over the past several years just how dependent He wants us to be. Dependent both on He Himself, and dependent on those believers around us. The position that I find myself in is that my income comes totally from the generosity of churches and individuals who send support to Galena Bible Church, who then pays me a salary. I had to ask those churches and people to give. That was an uncomfortable thing to do. "So would you like to give your hard earned money away? It's for Jesus!" feels cheesy when I say it. It makes me feel weak, and totally not independent. Plus there is the aspect that people may not give, or may stop giving. What then? Where's the security? Ah, that's right, I don't find my security in finances or employment. I find my security in Christ. Am I walking with Him? Yes. Am I doing what He commanded me to do? Yes. Am I truly dependent on Him for my next breathe? Truly, I am!

Matthew 7:7-8 says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

              Sure doesn't sound like independence to me. I've learned that when we do not allow people to help in our lives, we rob them of a blessing. Have you ever noticed that you are more willing to go help someone else than to ask for help yourself? Do you feel blessed to get to help someone else? Let us not fear dependence. I believe it's part of how the world will know that we are Christ's disciples. (John 13:34-35

So, on to asking...
We have several large projects that we are working towards this Summer for the Galena Bible Church. We need financial support, and physical support, to get these projects done. I want to ask if you, or your small group/Sunday school class, or church would be willing to take on a part of one of these projects. 
Some of my woodpile. Logs are 9' long. This is 9 sled loads of wood.
 We have a need for 4 projects to be accomplished, but 2 of them must happen. A wood burning stove is one of the two priorities for projects this Summer. As I have mentioned before, the cost of heating the parsonage with fuel oil is really expensive. It'll cost about $2500 to do this project, and would take 2-3 people 2-3 days to do the work. It will easily pay for itself double in the first winter.

Galena Bible Church's One Restroom
This is the inner workings of the sewer tank (look for the red tank), water tank (large upright white tank), and boiler system. Notice the crack running along the sewer tank just behind the 5 gallon bucket. It has grown since I took this picture in February.
The second and equally critical project is the sewer tank replacement in the church. The water tank that you see above is crushing the sewer tank. We are planning on building a room under the church building to house a new water and sewer tank.  It is impossible to remove the sewer tank without demolishing the bathroom. This room under the building will free up space for us to hopefully do a third project. This would be to add a second bathroom (so we would actually have a His/Her's setup).

scaled drawing of possible floor plan after summer work.          
The final project and lowest in priority, but highly desired, would be to have a kitchen setup in the church. We cook a potluck every Sunday for dorm kids, and it would be so helpful to have the building set up better for helping keep food hot. As of right now we simply have Crockpots plugged in everywhere. 

So that's the 'ask'. Can you help? If so please feel free to contact me. And as always, if I can be of any service to you, don't hesitate to ask. 

Things to pray for this week:
- Safe travels for the missionary Hornfischer family as they travel to Anchorage for grocery shopping. 
- Pray for the Christian leaders in Galena to be encouraged, and that their family life would be blessed.
- Pray for the Christian individuals who are applying for positions in Galena for next school year.