Sunday, January 29, 2012

100 Degrees Below Freezing

We have officially been in Galena for one year! January 20th of 2011 my family touched down in Galena and began an epic journey of experiencing God's faithfulness, provision, and loving kindness. I could not be more happy to be serving where the Lord has led us to serve.

The past couple of weeks have been bitterly cold. Please don't hear me say that in a complaining way. That's just the way that life is here, and it is one of the unique aspects that affects what ministry looks like in the interior of Alaska. Saturday the 28th saw temperatures around town that were -70 and colder. That's 100 degrees colder than the freezing point of water.  In these climates, air begins to 'pocket' itself into super chilled low spots. A 10 foot elevation change may result in a 10 degree temperature difference. One of the painful trials that comes with temperatures like this is that fuel oil (a main source of energy for heat in many houses) starts to gel. This means that it will not pass through the small copper lines to feed the boilers, toyo stoves, and monitors. I helped gather up electric heaters so that community members who were unable to heat their homes would be able to heat the lines enough for them to fuel their main heat sources. Sunday the 29th was a sweet albeit challenging church service. The day started at -58 and didn't really come off of that number. Most vehicles will not start at these temperatures. Ours was no accception. We decided to cancel Sunday School and potluck, since dorm students are not allowed off campus when it's this cold. Most of my congregation that attended WALKED to church, some from almost 2 miles away. Did I mention it was -58!! One of the teachers who's van did start offered to pick us up. We also picked up the Fox family, but before we could get them in the van I had to scare off a moose that was in their driveway. Oh the things you get to do to make church happen in the bush. I am so humbled by the hunger for fellowship, worship, and teaching that I see in my church. Think about you love your church family and crave the corporate praise of God  irregardless of the challenge of getting there?

I preached on the Great Commission concerning the understanding that we as disciples of Jesus are called to "teach them to obey all that I have commanded." It is not merely enough that we teach what Jesus commanded. We must OBEY what Jesus commanded. The mark of a mature disciple is not how much you know, it's how much you OBEY of what you know. We also talked about the need for disciples to remain teachable. Like leather that is hard, at first, becomes soft with use, so we too can bend to the will of the Lord even when he asks us to do difficult things. I then asked the church to share what God has been teaching them, or stretching in them. It was a great encouragement for the body to see each other wrestling with life through the lens of obedience to Christ's commands.

Things you can be praying for:
  • A warm front. No explanation needed.
  • I will be traveling to Anchorage on Tuesday and Soldotna on Wednesday to attend a men's retreat put on by Arctic Barnabas. Pray that God would allow me to connect with missionries from all over the state as we seek to bring the Gospel to every corner of Alaska.
  • Pray for my family as they remain in Galena.
  • Pray for myself and Brad Fox to have wisdom in mentoring young men in Galena. 
  • Pray that the church would continue to have the resources and energy to meet the physical needs of their neighbors, coworkers, and friends.
Thank you for your continued prayer, support, and love for us. Please let us know if we can serve you in any way.
Chris Kopp
PO BOX 252
Galena AK 99741

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hardship and friendship

First of all: HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope that so far 2012 has found you blessed, and able to serve the Lord and the people around you in many ways. I apologize about the tardiness of this update, but as you will read in a moment, things have been......busy There has been a great many opportunities to develop the virtue of patience since my last update. Physical hardships have abounded since the cold snap that rolled in at Christmas, but I have been so impressed by the believers as I have watched them meet each others needs, and the needs of those around them.

Our Christmas Eve service was very enjoyable. We had about 45 people who attended, and had 10 or 11 people that shared different music, and led Christmas carols. It was very simple and very sweet. Christmas morning the church met again for our normal Sunday service, but we did not meet for potluck. It was that weekend that it started getting cold. It was about -38 by the end of Christmas day and it just got colder as the week progressed. Many people in town and in the church began to have problems with pipes freezing, and vehicles not working. So a large part of that week was spent at different peoples homes helping to thaw pipes.

New Years Eve we celebrated at my brothers house and popped fireworks on the slough behind his home. It was so cold that the wax on the candle that we were using to light the fireworks wouldn't melt sufficiently to keep the fire burning.  New Years day we saw -54 at our house. Another couple at church said their thermometer was reading -60. We still had church! It was a light crowd but we celebrated the morning together. After that weekend was when the real hardships started to develop for people.

Let me explain a couple of things about the functions of life in the village of Galena. Most homes do not have running water coming from the city. They have tanks in their homes that have to be filled every week or so, or they have a well. There are a few (our home in that few) that has city piped water. Most houses in Galena have tanked water. They either haul this themselves (the cheapest way) or have the city deliver the water. The same is true about the sewer systems of the houses. Most have septic tanks that have to be pumped when they are full. We also do not have a garbage pickup service. There are two dumpster location in town that you can bring your trash to, or you can drive out to the dump yourself which is 7 miles outside of town (almost at the end of the road). I'm explaining this to you so that you understand what has been endured in the past two weeks.

Problem one: Water station freezes. The pump house where individuals go to haul their own water freezes, thus inhibiting anyone from hauling water themselves. Luckily they can have it delivered by the cuty water truckl. Unfortunately, it freezes on a weekend, and a water delivery call-out on a weekend is an additional $100. This was a minor problem compared to the next problem.

Problem two: Trash truck failure. Apparently hydraulics and -45 below do not mix well with each other. The city asked all residents to hold their trash until further notice, or haul it to the dump themselves. This however pails in comparison to the final problem.

Problem Three: Sewer truck failure. Apparently nothing mixes well with 45 below for an extended period of time. The one sewer truck for the city had a motor malfunction that stopped it from being able to move. So sewer tanks that  were in need of pumping when it broke down were full for about 9 days. That means no flushing toilets, no showers, no laundry and nothing down the drain.

A couple of days ago I posted a "You know you're in Bush Alaska when..." post here is an additional one that was discussed right after that post. 
Lady from Church "Chris, did you get your honey bucket back from the other people that borrowed it? Can we borrow it?"
Me: "Yes I did and you are more than welcome to use it."
Her: "You know you live in Bush Alaska when you borrow a honey bucket from your pastor and you're not the first to borrow it."
Shell: "You know you're in Bush Alaska when your pastor owns a honey bucket."
Me: "You know you're in Bush Alaska when you know what a honey bucket is."

For those that don't know, a honey bucket is a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat lid. Ah the glamor of Alaska missions. We have been fairing exceedingly well through all of this. We have had no major problem with our own home situation. So it has freed me to be able to help others. Thanks so much for praying for us and for our church and community.

Last Sunday we kicked off a short series on the Great Commission called Discipleship. This Sunday I began teaching the adult Sunday School class a curriculum that I wrote called "To be a Hebrew" on Hebraic roots in the New Testament. We're looking at the Blood Covenant of the Old Testament, the Tabernacle, and the Feasts of Israel. I don't know if anyone else is as excited about it as me, but it should be a lot of fun.

Things you can be praying for:
- Shell and three other SEND Missionary wives will be attending a Ladies Retreat in Soldotna, AK next weekend with Arctic Barnabas. Pray for their safety, and encouragement there.
- Pray for me because I'll have all three kids to myself from Thursday to Sunday. My goal is to have as many at the end as I started with. 
- Pray for the SEND Missionaries (Brad and Madeline Fox, Martin and Silke Hornfischer, Josh and Theresa Kaufield) as they struggle with their homes in this long cold snap. Also pray that they would have clarity to know where and how to best serve the community and make relationships with people.
- Pray for warmer weather. I think my church would hurt me if I didn't ask you to pray for this.
- YoungLife volunteers will be traveling this coming weekend to attend the YL All Staff Meeting. Pray that God gives them encouragement and a fresh vision for reaching native Alaskan teens with the Gospel.
- Bible Church Youth Group will be starting back this Tuesday. Pray that we can continue to develop relationships with students, and model Godly love and wisdom to them.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Boiling water at 50 Below

Got some curious questions about boiling water and 50 below temperatures. So I though this might help. You are supposed to throw it out a second story window and it won't hit the ground, but all our windows are froze shut. So without further adieu...BOILING WATER AT 50 BELOW!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

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

You know you’re in Bush Alaska when…
  1. You do not find anything strange about the statement, “It warmed up to -31 today.”
  2. A half gallon of liquid bleach from the local store costs more than a movie ticket in the city.
  3. You understand what it means to “torch” your engine block so that your truck will start.
  4. You’ve been depressed because you want a snack, have looked in the pantry, not seen anything you wanted, and realized that it is EVERYTHING you have for the rest of the year.
  5. You know what happens when you throw boiling water in the air when it is -50.
  6. You regularly eat food that is past its “sell-by” date.
  7. A night out on the town consists of eating a snickers bar down by the river.
  8. The “riff-raff” at the local “mall” will not mug you, but might eat you. 
  9. You’ve tried to find something for $1.72 so that you qualify for free shipping on Amazon.
  10. Your physical address is made up, and sending something General Delivery will actually get to you.
  11. Your village posts announcements on the radio station like “The City of Galena asks all residents to conserve any room they have left in their sewage tanks. The truck is still broken down and may not be operational at all this week.” And “To all Galena citizens and businesses, the city is asking you to hold your trash until further notice because of the trash truck failure in the cold weather. 
  12. Your family in the lower 48 Google's directions from their house to yours and Google says "You cannot get there from here." 
  13. You love Jesus and the people that live here so much that you choose to deal with the above mentioned things so that God can be glorified, and people can meet Jesus.
Thanks for the faithful love and prayer you have given us over the past year.