Monday, May 23, 2011

School's Out for Summer!!

For a video of the Yukon river breakup click HERE
I've been hearing teachers everywhere singing the short song bit from Alice Cooper's "Schools out for Summer" over the past week. On Saturday, Galena bid a fond adieu' to all 200 of the dorm teenagers and sent them home to villages and cities all across the state. Most of the teenagers that attend the Bible Church do not live in Galena, and those that do are mostly going on vacation, as is most of everyone else in the church. Time for the annual shopping spree, trips to see family, and some leisure vacation too. Several of the native families are going to "fish camp" this summer. In Athabaskan culture, and other native Alaskan cultures,  families traditionally move to a different location during the Summer to catch salmon. They'll use set nets, dip nets, or some will use a traditional fish wheel, though there are fewer that use this method today.

This past week was a very eventful week. Last Saturday was Galena Prom. The GILA and the City School join together, and it was a very special event. The community is invited to for a portion of the evening, so Shell and I found a baby sitter (thank you Amanda) and threw down some Cajun Two Step to "Johnny Be Good".  Last Sunday was GILA students' last Sunday to attend church with us. I was so proud of those Godly students. Even though they attended prom, AND the after prom that was held at the school until 6am, they still made up their minds to come to church AND stay awake!! I really had to remind myself that these students don't have ANYONE here telling them to go to church. I preached on "Sending Just Like Jesus" and concluded the series that we had been doing by looking at Acts 1:8. I challenged them to bring the Gospel home, and if there wasn't a Bible believing church in their village, to start one.

Wednesday was a devastating day in Galena. We had another fire. A gentleman in town was cooking dog food for his sled dogs (a normal practice of sled dog owners) when his fire that was in a 55 gallon drum was carried by the wind to nearby grass. It quickly spread to his home, shop, back yard, and even began to burn a neighboring home. We heard the city siren go off as we were out splitting fire wood. I (like every other available man in Galena) raced in the direction of the smoke and began fighting the acre wide fire. We were unable to save the house or the shop, but managed to put the fire out on the neighboring house and we prevented the fire from moving beyond the property (there are dense woods that border the property on all sides). One dog died of smoke inhalation, but I was able to save another dog that was chained to his dog house. I burned my hand on the chain because it was so hot, and the dog had ember burns over his body. The Dog was flown to Fairbanks for veterinary treatment. The man lost everything in that fire, but the community has really rallied around him for support. They held a raffle Saturday night and raised over $7000 for him. I think when I return from my trip south that I will speak with the the volunteer fire chief and find out what I need to do to "officially" be on the volunteer fire department.

Thursday night Galena Bible Church hosted the 2011 Graduate Baccalaureate Service. This was a voluntary church service for graduating seniors and their families. We had over twenty of the thirty five seniors, and the church was full!! One of the church council members gave a challenge to the students, and several students from the church sang "Carry Your Candle". Karrie Anderson lead the congregation in a couple of songs, and the high school principle represented the Catholic Church in Galena by praying a blessing over the students at the close of the service.

This Sunday was our last Sunday with several of the dorm staff. We have a desire as a church to be a sending church. As such we had those individuals not returning for next school year to come forward, and we prayed over them. These believers have done an amazing job of showing students Christ's love and will be sorely missed. We are looking forward to the new families that are moving in to take their positions for next year. Several of them are believers.

We are in a mad rush to complete our final projects before leaving Galena for a month. Firewood still needs to be cut split and stacked. Grocery lists still need to be inventoried and completed (12 months of groceries is a lot of work to plan for). Building materials still need to be priced and itemized for summer projects. With that this will be our last blog post until we return to Galena, July 9th.

Things you can be praying for over the coming month:
- Pray for safety in the many legs of our journey south and our return.
- Pray for our support raising endeavors as we speak with individuals and churches.
- Pray  that in the midst of our schedule while traveling, we might find some to rest.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Community Involvement

Yukon River Looking East. Still frozen, but expected to break up this week.
I have often speculated over the passage in Matthew 5 that says "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." What a difficult thing to do. Too often our pride in our 'good works' hinders others' ability to 'glorify our Father'. They only see US in the good work. How are we to do this then? If we give the cliche' Christian answer that "Well its not me but God", it comes across as shallow and really doesn't make any sense to an unbelieving ear. I think the answer comes from Jesus' previous explanation of what it means to live 'happy'. He says "Blessed are the...", or rather "Happy are the..." in the Greek understanding. Good works then become not so much 'special' works, but ordinary works done 'happy'. Do we live our life in such a way that the world knows that we are 'happy'? Happy to live, happy to serve, happy to follow Christ, happy to love God and people.
A look out our Kitchen window. Compare this with one of our first posts here.
This week was one of community involvement for Shell and I. Tuesday, the school hosted an Activities Fair where they highlighted all of the sports, arts, and clubs that are offered in the community. For a community of this size it is remarkable what is offered to students. Several of the students that attend the Bible Church were given awards for their involvement in these activities.

Thursday afternoon I participated in the Galena Wellness Council which is a volunteer group of community members who are seeking to stem the tide of suicide in Galena and villages represented at GILA. Many good ideas were presented, and we are praying about what we can do to support the efforts.

Friday night, I popped in to see if transportation was needed at an event for seniors and teens. They ate traditional native food and watched a movie called "Spirit of the Wind" which is a story of a local native man named George Attla. Shell went to the Ladies' Lunch on Friday to fellowship with ladies in the community.  Saturday, we attended the Open House for the Civil Air Patrol unit which is part of the aviation program offered at GILA. My kids loved seeing all the airplanes that had been flown in by local pilots and it was a great opportunity for us to spend time with members of the community.

Things you can be praying for this week:
- Galena Bible Church will be hosting a Baccalaureate service for 35 seniors on May 19th. Pray that we have an opportunity to share the grace of Christ with these students and their families.
- Pray for the river's break up. This week the ice should be moving in the river, and this is always a very dangerous time because of the swift ability of the river to flood. Pray that God would protect us and that the break up would be uneventful.
- Praise!! - We had a church that gave $1250 toward our Summer projects, which brings our donated total to $3650. We still need about $5000 more to complete all our projects so please keep this in prayer.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Alaskan Redpoll. Photo by Keith Ramos
Spring is fully under way now in Galena. We have night temperatures that are staying just above freezing and this is allowing the massive snow fall this year to finally melt! I have determined that the proper attire for this season may be scuba gear being that everything is wet. The Sun is up by 4 am and it is still dusk at midnight. Here comes "the land of the midnight sun"!!

Galena Bible Church had an awesome Easter weekend. Saturday morning we held a work day at the church building and did some major Spring cleaning. I'm so blessed by the servant-hearted nature of God's people. In the afternoon, the Good News Kids Club held a community Easter egg hunt and club meeting at the church.
Me telling the story of the real Easter Egg. It was a regular egg with the inside blown out. That way when I cracked it open it was empty, just like the tomb!
Bright Easter Eggs are easier to find when everything is still white!

We had 32 children that came from the community. Kids Club is lead by a lady at the Bible Church, who teaches the older children of the church to actually lead the club. They lead the games, songs, missionary story, and Bible verse memory time. It's really awesome to see them leading their piers to know Christ!

Hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures that were taken on Easter Sunday. As of yet, I do not have them. We had 73 in attendance on Easter Sunday morning! It was the first time I have counted how many were there. We have had several Sundays that have looked about that full since we have been here. The amazing part is the composition of the congregation. There were two 15 passenger vans of students from the dorm, and 5 or 6 others that found rides with other people. So over half of our congregation was in High School! We had our normal potluck after church, but had a breakfast theme. It was a delicious success!

Along with the many highs of ministry there is also ministry that is eternally important, but not enjoyable at all. Spring has historically been the time when suicide takes place at a much higher rate in the villages. This has been told to me by more people than I can count. It seems contrary to what one would think, since the sun is shining, and it is much warmer outside. Galena lost a young man in this way on Good Friday. He grew up in Galena and his parents still live here. His body was returned to Galena for burial and many people came from villages around to support the family. I visited with the family several times during the week and attended the funeral which was done in the same way as I have previously written. One family that is a part of our Church was related to this man. They also lost another relative in the next village over on Good Friday who died of hypothermia.

Thus is life in Spring. We praise God for the privilege of participating in the work that he is doing. We pray that just as new life begins in Spring, so also would new life begin in the lives of people who would come to know the author of Spring.

Things you can be praying for:
- We still lack the full funds to accomplish our projects for the Summer. Would you please pray and consider how you could help meet these financial needs.
- Pray that HOPE would out weigh despair in the lives of young men in the bush. Pray that we would have opportunity to give Hope to the hurting.
- Pray for us as we continue to make travel plans.