Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Hopes

I was filled with hope as I read Monte Church's newsletter about advances in Native ministries. It reminded me of advances I have seen with the Arctic Mission Adventure. We have seen two positions filled with people who are interested in others. The funding for Arctic Mission Adventure and Conference Radio Outreach have a good start toward their goals. A Native elder was baptized in Fairbanks. We have become closer to the people of Selawik. Warren has made great progress on the auto-streaming 3ABN radio software and should have it finished very soon.

So instead of New Year's resolutions this year, I have a list of hopes and prayers for the new year.

1. Seeing low power Adventist radio stations begin to cover bush Alaska
2. See a plan for Adventist television in the bush.
3. Complete the funding for the Arctic Mission Adventure and Conference Radio Outreach
4. See Adventist parsonages filled across bush Alaska
5. See more mission trips providing VBS, evangelistic meeting, and various opening wedge contacts.

I want to see Alaska natives filled with the hope for their lives and families that only Jesus can bring.

A very hopeful New Year to all of you,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking back at joy

We are just two weeks from our three year anniversary of moving here. How does it feel? Well, Selawik has become familiar and comfortable, at least most of the time. We have become part of the community. We truly enjoy the people and the place.

Yet, we still have no major triumphs. We have been asked for more mission stories on our blog. I want to satisfy that desire, but honestly I'm not sure what counts as a "mission story". If it is conversion stories, we don't have any. We are still trying to learn the key that will change people's hearts here. Often it feels like one step forward, one step back. We also feel a need to maintain privacy: people here are reading our blog. As I have been considering my lastest posts, they seem rather morbid. Such is life out here. People have much more opportunity to gather for a funeral than for the rare wedding. In fact, people have been flying to Buckland because there has been a death (or two) there this week.

Still there are bright notes of joy among the negative noise of death and pain. We cannot hope to see victory in the lives of many here unless they learn to hear them. Here are a few of ours, if they count as "mission stories" I am glad.

Warren hopes to have the software to automatically stream 3ABN radio ready before we leave in January for pastor's meetings. Also we were excited to learn from Warren's Dad that the FCC allows unregistered TV stations where there are no broadcast stations i.e. bush Alaska (we only have cable not broadcast TV.) Now we want to explore that option.

Some kids came over this weekend and we decorated the Christmas tree in the church (we don't have room in the house). I was happy to see C again, it has been a long time. Then I got to tell the story of the shepherds and the story of baby Moses and Miriam because the children said they didn't know them. R even listened attentively to both of them. Then I got to play "basketball" with girls, this gave me a renewed desire to go to open gym time for exercise and getting closer to the kids here.

As I spent hours with P's family last week, grieving with them, rubbing their backs as they cried, sharing food with them, and learning more about all that takes place before the funeral, I become even closer to them. I even got to say "I love you" in Inupiaq. But I also learned more about myself and my weaknesses. I need to daily lay all of my plans at Jesus' feet and in the words of Christmas spiritual "Rise up shepherd and follow"

Joy to the world,

Monday, December 8, 2008

This is war!

This last week has been particularly hard for us. First, our vacuum sewer line froze all last week, so Warren's days were filled with carrying bucket after bucket outside after showers and during clothes washing. Then, we were confronted with teenage suicide for the first time last Monday. That was quite painful; we didn't know the girl but we did know some of her friends. We also know her younger sister. We are making plans for getting to know the teens better, so we can share the hope of Jesus with them. We have also been working on a plan for suicide and depression training for ourselves since this summer, but the wheels have been turning slowly. We need to speed that up. After every death, I would wonder how long it would be until it was someone really close to me, someone whose loss would tear my insides apart. Today I found out.

I went out to check the mail and pick up a few things for Christmas at the store. It was very windy and I enjoyed the mini-adventure. Little did I know what lay ahead. After I returned, I found out that P had killed herself. I spent the rest of the afternoon with her family, trying to comfort them, especially D who had spent all night trying to stop her. She ended her life sometime today while he slept. I cared so much for P and wanted her to walk beside D as he followed Jesus. I know she had suffered a lot in life and I wanted to get closer to her, but she held us back.

One night last week Warren and I were struck separately with the impression that we are under attack. Things seemed to have stacked themselves against our ministry. I hate what Satan is doing to the people here. Yet there has been good news. We have had good discussions with a number of people. It feels so good to be able to fellowship with the people here. Yet we know that we are in a war and we need to be covered in the armor everyday. Please pray we will have wisdom and strength; we feel so small compared to the job that stands before us.

To arms,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Yesterday was the funeral of Ruthie Ramoth Sampson. Her loss is deeply felt. Her sudden stroke and subsequent death made the front page of Anchorage Daily News (November 20). She had a service in Shungnak, where she was pastoring with her husband, before her funeral here. This was the largest funeral we have seen here. Groups from a number of villages got up to sing songs. Her metal casket was purchased instead of the usual locally made wooden ones.

She did an amazing amount of things in her fifty some years. Her work included much of the work on the Maniilaq book of elders' memories, providing the English voice in the Maniilaq video for the women elders,aiding the Inupiaq Bible translation, and assistance with the Rosetta Stone Inupiaq software (which we recently discovered and are enjoying greatly). She traveled extensively visiting places such as Greenland and Norway. She also lived in Japan for a time.

Roger and Diane Merrill had a friend who flew them up for the funeral. They came with a young man Ace who had recently joined them from Weimar. He has a very interesting background. God has lead him though many things and he is excited about sharing with the native people. We pray that God will continue to lead in his life. Our talks during our visit with him and the Merrills as well as Ruthie's sudden death renewed in our minds that our time in short and we need to live like it is. I am praying for wisdom to warn those around without offending unnecessarily. I do not want anyone to say to me "You never told me."


Sunday, November 16, 2008

While I was away...

While I was in Washington, I had a little anxiety that when I returned I would find someone I knew had died since someone drowned during our last trip out. I was almost right. When we returned I learned in Inupiaq class that a group had gone through the ice, but they managed to get out. A few days later D came to the house and told us that he and his cousin were the ones who had gone through. I was so glad that he is still alive, it would be so hard knowing that this boy I know so well was gone.

Praising God,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Family Ties

My family is filling my thoughts as I prepare to leave today to go to my grandpa Virgil's memorial. Though I am sad to be parted from him, I am glad his pain is over. Mostly I am thinking of getting to see my family that I haven't seen for over a year. It is hard being so far from them at times. Yet this is a choice I have made. Why? Because I have another family to consider. My grandpa did the same many years ago. He remained a bachelor even though apparently he didn't have a lack of interested women. Then he met my grandma who was alone with three children and decided to help her. His current widow had suffered through some bad marriages forced upon her. He married her to show her what a good marriage could be like. Like my grandpa I have a duty of love. Selawik is full of people who need a clearer picture of the loving God I serve. The more I get to know them the more like family they are.

I feel I am making progress with Inupiaq since I happened to discover that Rosetta Stone has done an Inupiaq version of their language software. We still attend Inupiaq classes at school, but the learning is slower there since the teacher doesn't use the immersion method and speaks much more English than Inupiaq. It is cultural learning for us and a chance to show our interest in them. Some of the stories he tells show how much fear of the supernatural still exists even with committed Christians here. I want to see the true power of the gospel to sweep through the Arctic. They have a belief in God, but they don't yet know his power and love.

Let me introduce you to some of my family here. There is Virgil next door who I jokingly call “Dada” which is Inupiaq for grandfather. Last week we were able to connect with M and had a wonderful visit with her and her husband,. They had questions about Revelation that we hope to be able to answer when we return. We also getting to know L and her husband J who is trying to quit drinking. There is also P whose son D has quit drinking but she is struggling. She is proud of him, but she has conflicting feelings when she sees the change in his life. There is K who always has a sweet smile and a hug when we meet in town, but her friends and relatives like to tempt her and then take advantage of her by stealing or worse. There is Pauline Ramoth's family, our neighbors, who are all very dear to us. We had a wonderful church service last week with all of our regular members there. We had our chairs in a circle and I was able to relax and truly worship with family. Yes, we are surrounded by family here.

In Jesus,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vanity Fair vs. Abundant Life

We are seeing our American way of life collapsing around us. I have been reading about how our prosperity has been built on the work of others more and more as the years have passed. And I blush to realize that our country has become an oppressing force in the word. I am as guilty of this greed and apathy as anyone else. I repent again of my vain lifestyle as I see more deeply how vain it truly is.

God in the Bible frequently warns the rich and calls the rich and powerful bloodthirsty and violent. (Prov. 23:4; Prov. 28:20; Is 1:15-17; Jer 7:6; Jer 22:17; James 5:16; Rev 18:11-19, and many others) From the time of Noah through to Jesus, this scathing rebuke is repeated again and again. What if we could see the blows we deal to others by our extravagance? Did that wonderful intemperate meal leave someone else hungry? Could that gorgeous new outfit mean someone wears rags? What if that darling new thing decorating the house causes someone to shiver through the night? Does that new car force a neighbor around the world to go without shoes? If thoughts like these make you ashamed, I am glad. God is not pleased and I believe that we will all soon see Him face to face.

What if we went back to the basics, while not forsaking the greatest benefit of modern life- medical advances. What would that look like?

As part of a school project with my girls, we learned a lot about farming. It was very eye-opening to discover that a vegetarian family could produce almost all they needed to eat or wear in about two acres of fertile land.

Of course, there are things that would still need to be produced or made by others. It would be inefficient for farmers to make cloth, for example. But all could live simply either on a small farm or making products. There ought to be time enough for all to engage in artistic, intellectual, scientific and spiritual pursuits. Everyone could do what they loved best and share freely as they produced more than they needed, trusting that all others are doing the same.

But of course, I know that is never going to happen this side of heaven. So why bring it up? Because it shows how the modern world has chosen vanity over the abundance of the earth. The world has become increasingly urban, which means less farming and other production. Especially has this been true in America, where the last thirty years have seen a move from a product-based economy to a service-based one. This means that most American jobs now focus on transferring money from one business to another, while our farmers and skilled craftsmen are becoming an endangered breed. The third world is not willing or able to support our empty, frantic race for pleasure any longer. For myself, I plan to give much more careful thought to my spending so that I don't trade the vanity of the moment for the abundant life.

In the words of John Huss, "Beware of adorning thy house more than thy soul... Be pious and humble with the poor and consume not thy substance in feasting. Shouldst not thou amend thy life and refrain from superfluities, I fear that thou wilt be severely chastened, as I am myself... But, I conjure thee, by the mercy of our Lord, not to imitate me in any of the vanities into which thou has seen me fall."

In the words of Jesus, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?"

- Verity

Friday, August 29, 2008

Selawik VBS Captures Hearts

The theme for this year's VBS, directed by Julie Marsh (from Palmer, Alaska), was "Castles and Crowns". Focusing on Bible kings and queens, the stories, songs and skits aim to win the hearts of children to the love of Jesus.

Our first day of VBS opened with over 75 kids in attendance. Fortunately, we had the use of the Selawik school gymnasium, so we had adequate room for the group. However, the acoustics and smooth-rolling floor made for distracting background noise and lots of kids using "heelies" (heel roller skates in their shoes). Nevertheless, we noticed most of the kids actually joining in and singing the songs by the end of VBS, and we pray that there will be a lasting impact on their lives here and for eternity.

Our Bible stories were masterfully told by Rhonda Kack and Heather Merrill (with a brief stint by yours truly-- I need to beef up on my interest-holding techniques for kids). Our songs were led by Heather Merrill, with assistance from myself and the girls. Our skits had Hannah Merrill and Madelaine Kack as King and Queen, and Kyla Olson as Jester "Jane". Verity and I had a short stint as Queen and King as well. We split our group between crafts and games, with Julie leading crafts, and Madelaine, Hannah and Holly Merrill leading games. Meanwhile the rest of us assisted wherever needed. Brian Banning was a very important "behind the scenes" helper, assisting with everything from carrying food and crafts (heavy lifting), policing the building (keeping kids in order, gently but firmly), assisting with the computers and sound system, to washing dishes. Yes, dishes!

One thing perhaps unusual about our VBS is that we provided a full meal for the kids. Our first day, we started with the meal, but subsequently, we put it at the end, to provide a cleaner start to the VBS. Having the meal was not only a draw for the kids, but it also helped provide for a real need, and gave us time to get to know the kids better. It definitely doubled the amount of work needed to put on the VBS, but after seeing the blessing it was this year, we plan to do it again next year.

Lest you think VBS itself was the whole story though-- we must assure you that there was an exciting back story to the occasion. The story involves two sets of missed flights, delayed luggage, lots of last minute work, each of us alternately getting sick during the week, borrowed puppies, lost puppies, borrowed babies, ... Well, you'll have to ask the participants for more of the details than I can share in this brief blog!

However, one of the exciting things we had was that a Buckland elder "happened" to be seated next to Heather Merrill on the flight in to Kotzebue. Not only was the meeting encouraging to both Heather and the elder, but he gave our group an invitation to come to Buckland for VBS. We want to begin planning early next year so we can do a VBS in both Buckland and Selawik.

Plan to join us, in person if possible, and with any other support you can give if not. Keep God's mission in Arctic Alaska in your prayers.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

What a blessing!

First, I want to say that campmeeting was wonderful. God's spirit was truly there. Warren and I were excited to see the passion build for the mission in Alaska.

Unfortunately, while we were out of Selawik the greed monster reared it's head in my life. I spent about two or three weeks alternating shopping for kuspuk fabric and kuspuk sewing. First, I reduced my expectations. But finally I felt called to give up fabric I had bought for myself and dedicate to use in a kuspuk for someone else. When I did so, my kuspuk obsession gradually went away and I felt free again. God is so good. I wondered who I would be making this kuspuk for, I couldn't think of anyone who had a strong need for one, but I knew the fabric wasn't mine anymore.

A few days after our return, I had a visit of multiple blessings. Circumstances brought me to our new friend Mabel Berry's house. I noticed her kuspuk was quite worn, and planned to offer to make her the new kuspuk I would make. First, though I got to enjoy a good talk with her.

Then, I got to “talk” with her friendly great-grandson, Franklin who is about five months old. We were given some baby boys' clothes which I planned to give away up here. I offered them to Franklin's father. This was great for them, because he has only older sisters, so he wears girls clothes a lot.

Next, Mabel offered me some plant cuttings. I was so delighted because I had gotten some empty hanging planters at a sale a few months before, so I needed some cuttings, but hadn't asked yet. Ship a potted plant – I don't think so:-) I was even more delighted when she told me the plant was called Morning Prayer. I can't think of a better name for a plant I was given before I asked.

Finally it was time to leave, I was getting ready to broach the subject of the kuspuk, when Mabel started to talk about how her kuspuk had been damaged. It was much worse than I had seen. So I told her about my plan and told her I would make her a new kuspuk. Making a kuspuk for her feels much better than making one for myself.

Last night we held a Saturday evening vespers to give her a chance to get to church. It was so good to fellowship together with her. That was the greatest blessing of all.

Blessed in giving,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Comings and Goings

We will be in the Anchorage/Mat-su area until August. We hope to see many of you as well as to use our time to plan our return to Selawik. There are many things we need to improve and change.

Our Selawik Seekers Pathfinder club started well, but attendance has dwindled especially after school let out. We did get became well acquainted with a girl who stood out from the first time we met her. In her words from our first meeting “teacher says I talk too much”. Talkativeness is not a common trait here. She and her sister became two of our strongest attendees. Last week they moved to Kiana with their parents. Today they called us which we really enjoyed. We will miss them, but it may help us as we have been discussing moving out in visiting other villages which has been in the back of our minds to do since we came. Now we have an entry point in to Kiana, a reason to go.

Today we had an encouraging talk with a woman who has recently moved to Selawik. Her sons seemed different, more respectful when Warren met them last week and invited them over. It was a real pleasure to meet her. I hope to become closer to her after our return.

Last week we had a real rainstorm. The girls wanted to go out in it, so the girls and I all got our raincoats on. It only took a short walk to get us quite wet, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Later I was reminded that rain like that is what the church needs to experience. We need to get deeper into the Bible and much, much deeper into prayer. The rain is there waiting if we will just walk out into it. The Holy Spirit calls “Come on in, the rain's great” I want to experience all the Spirit has for me, pray for me and I will pray for you.

(Showers of) Blessings,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

That no man might buy or sell...

I awoke in the early hours of the morning, thinking of Sabbath-keeping in the context of Revelation 13. As I meditated, the phrase "...that no man might buy or sell..." (verse 17) came to the forefront of my mind.

From my Bible study, I believe that Revelation 13 describes religious persecution which will be implemented just before Jesus returns. While not wishing to judge any man's relationship with God, I believe that the Roman Papacy fulfills the criteria of the first beast of Revelation 13. I believe that the "image to the beast" formed in Revelation 13 will be a combination of church and state government much like the Papacy had during the Dark Ages. So far, this is nothing different than the reformers believed in the 16th century.

Revelation 13:15 describes enforced image worship, if we take the language literally. We can find Bible precedent for enforced breaking of God's law, however it might be implemented. Daniel 3 and 6 dealt with the second and first commandments respectively. No government is likely to enforce breaking of the last six commandments (they are common sense by any reasonable human standard). However, the first four commandments would be likely targets for governments to attack. While the language of Revelation 13 literally sounds like enforced image worship (2nd commandment), knowing that the Beast is not an animal should tell us the "worship" is more than bowing down to a statue.

Reading Revelation 14:7, I see a reference to the Sabbath commandment of Exodus 20:8-11. Knowing that the Papacy considers the change from a Saturday-Sabbath to Sunday-worship to be a mark of it's authority, I expect that when religious people gain control of government, they will try to implement Sunday legislation. And in fact, there are people today pushing for that (including the Pope). The Sabbath is the main commandment that people have a hard time seeing a reason for. It is the only one that begins with "Remember..." and yet it's the one that most people want to forget!

However, simply enforcing Sunday-worship would not cause my conscience any worries-- I'd be happy to worship God on any day of the week. The more pressing issue will be, what about the Sabbath of God, given in Eden, written in stone (Ex. 31 and 34), kept throughout history (including by Jesus and the Apostles), and that will be celebrated in the New Earth (Is. 66:23)?

I've heard much speculation about how the Beast of Revelation 13 might bring persecution to bear and prevent buying and selling-- everything from bar codes to computer chips or credit cards. And I'm not ruling those out. However, if Sabbath-keeping is the issue here, perhaps the most effective way the Beast could force allegiance would simply be to try to force Sabbath-breaking. One way I've heard suggested that could be done would be switching to a 6-day week (Sabbath being a work day). And anybody not complying would lose their job, and thus their income. However, I had in the past thought in the back of my mind that this would not affect me if I was self-employed.

Now, back to my early morning meditation. As I considered the words, "...that no man might buy or sell..." (Rev. 13:17), a startling thought suddenly struck me. What more direct way could there be than to force "buying and selling" to be done on Sabbath? What if even self-employed people would have to break Sabbath in order to survive economically? There would be no need to identify people who had or did not have the mark in a vast government database. Those who were true to God's command would be unable to purchase needed supplies. And what if self-employed people were unable to make business transactions needed to gain their income, on any day but Sabbath?

Now, I can see how even many Seventh-day Adventists might rationalize doing a little Sabbath buying and selling. After all, many of us must admit to having done it "in emergencies only". And what if our daily lives were emergencies? (See Jer. 17:24, Neh. 13:15-22 regarding Sabbath buying and selling).

There are major hurdles to this kind of enforcement (one being that merchants wouldn't like having only one day to sell). I don't really know how the end time events will unfold, but I believe God can impress us with things important to know. I would be interested in hearing feedback and Bible study regarding this subject.

Perhaps it is time we started keeping the Sabbath more faithfully. Not because we think we'll be saved that way-- no-- but as a faithful commitment to the God we love and serve. How can we witness to others if we are inconsistent in any area of our lives? It's time we start developing strength of character that will stand the test. Will we be true to God though all the world stand against us? Perhaps it's time for us to be more faithful in speaking often to one another and thinking upon His name.

"Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not." (Malachi 3:16-18)

- Warren

God works in mysterious ways

Last Friday, while our family was enjoying a stroll back from the mail, we came across a loud argument in progress. It turned out to be a young intoxicated man threatening himself and others, while the others were trying to get him to go home and sleep it off. When my initial efforts to help were rejected, we went on home and finished our Sabbath preparations. However, I couldn't get the young man off my mind, and wondered and prayed about if I should have tried harder to intervene.

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, Verity and I were enjoying the evening air outside when we again heard loud voices. The same young man had been going at it all afternoon with anyone who passed by, it seemed. Verity and I decided to see what we could do this time, so we went back to the scene, stopping to pray as we went. On arrival, another young man who was trying to calm the guy down, said something like "Here comes the pastor, talk to him". So I was in the "hot seat". I offered to take a walk with the guy, while Verity offered to talk with his girlfriend, who was still trying to calm him down.

The entire stroll was punctuated with angry outbursts (not at me, fortunately). Talking to him about Jesus calmed him down though. To make a long story short, while returning from our stroll, my friend became unable to walk. I offered him a place to sleep it off, since nobody else wanted to take him in. Another friend of his offered to ride him home on a 4 wheeler, but he kept trying to jump off while it was going. Finally, we got him to our parsonage, where after half an hour or more of agitated talk and some shouting, he finally went to sleep in my arms. When I finally got to bed myself, it was 2:30 am.

The next morning, having sobered up somewhat, my new friend was very embarrassed at what he had done. However, we have been happy to have him visit three times since then. He has resolved to "stay dry" and has begun reading a Bible and Steps to Christ. Please pray for him that he will continue to grow more attracted to Jesus and desire to have a relationship with Him.

This has been a breakthrough for us, as we have made our first spiritual-minded contact in this age range (21). Pray that it will bear fruit with this young man sharing with his friends.

- Warren

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Historic Meetings in Selawik

Last month we had a very special native campmeeting. It began with a health fair on Thursday afternoon following by the first of three days of meeting based on the Power of the Cross Revealed Series. If you have watched or attended the Revelation Now series hosted by the O'Malley church in Anchorage, you may have noticed our speaker, Darlene Heckler. She led the children in singing “Jesus Loves Me” in Inupiaq to open the second meeting. She is a Selawik native, so we were all excited to have her present Jesus to her friends and relatives. The health fair went well with the whole school attending, yet we wish had had more adults and been more prepared for the younger grades. Though we prepared for a larger group by meeting at the school,we were encouraged by the small group who attended. (We would have had less if we had met in our church.) And there was power there. We all agreed that this only the beginning; next year may be better.

Darlene is an exciting person to be around. She is passionate about how God has touched her life. It was hard to her to come, since she has a lot of bad memories here. When her mother died about eight years ago, she said she would not come back. (She had been a teacher here, but had moved two years before.) We first met her last December at her sister's wedding, for which Warren was asked to help with the music. We were mutually encouraged when we discovered each other. Darlene has a dream of traveling to the villages and sharing what she has learned as she follows Jesus. Please pray that she will be empowered in her desire to share.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Does He Know Me?

People seem to admire that our family has moved here to the Arctic and think we are very courageous and have sacrificed a lot. Please do not think that of us; pride is the worst of sins– it does not seem to want to die. Yes, our home is smaller and it is colder. Yes, it was a big step for us. But we have sacrificed nothing. Instead, we receive countless blessings each day. We are so rich, it is hard to describe.

Yet I want more. I want to pray more. I want to hear God more every day. I want to be more dependent on him. I want to be more compassionate. I want to give more of myself away. I want to share more of the wonders I see with my family and those around me.

Jesus tells of the separating of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. Do I see Jesus hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison? Yes, I do. Around the world food prices are rising and people are becoming desperate and afraid. The food crisis is being caused by droughts around the world. People are thirsty. The world is full of people who do not know about Jesus, they are equivalent to the stranger or Gentile to the Jews. The church is also full of people who are naked because they need fuller understanding of how to be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. There are many people who are suffering because they do not know how to care for their health or how good it feels when you do. There are people who are struggling to be able to live and share the good news of Jesus with those around them.

What can I do? I can’t go there to help them. But I can’t ignore them either. We still have money. Frankly, I don’t see how the world can go on with business as usual with droughts, a food crisis, and a growing
financial crisis. I want to disburse my remaining assets while I still can. I want to know Jesus and I want Jesus to know me. How about you?


P.S. We received great news this week. We had heard a rumor that the Adventist company at Barrow had drifted apart after their lay leader Ken Robbins’ job was transferred out of Barrow. But they are still meeting as strong as ever, their location had just changed. Praise God!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Better late than never post

Here is an e-mail from Manokotak that might fit into your blog We have received a request for baptism, so the work is growing in Manokotak.

Thank you guys for coming over. I enjoyed the sabbath day! I am going to miss H and the other 2! I'm just so surprised at how many people that I've told by email, they never showed up at all. But just like Florie said, the devil threw all he could to make people not show up. Friday evening, M showed up and stayed all through out the bible study and asked if they were done when they were done. I guess he had fun learning. I always pray for someone from this village to be converted, someone who speaks well in yupik and for that person to become a 7th Day Adventist pastor for Manokotak. I also pray for a church to be built and for more people to convert to our church. This is such a very hard village. They'd rather stick with people who study with moravian church goers. A little discouraging.
Aright, I gotta get going here.
Take Care

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On Life and Death

Here are some of my thoughts recently on life and death

On death, today Selawik is holding its third funeral of the last three weeks. Orren and Roy had both been sick for some time. Ira died the same day as his brother, Roy. Ira and Roy left a brother and sister as the last of eleven siblings. At Ira's funeral on Friday, we discovered Sara's Inupiaq name was the same as his, Paniyaaqluq. Louis, our Inupiaq teacher shared how he owes his life to Ira, his uncle, who stepped in as the one to comfort him as a baby when crying would turn him blue. We are beginning to see how connected they are in Selawik. Warren has gotten to experience that community spirit in coffin-making and grave-digging. They really do take care of each other.

On life, at Orren's funeral, the main speaker referred to the original Greek meaning of a word in the Bible text he was using. I have observed that the people here come in all personalities, shapes, sizes, and educational levels. Yet, incidents like this have showed me that it is not as hard as I thought to transition to life outside Selawik. The differences between us are mostly only in personalities. We are trying to study their culture, but they are acquiring our culture as fast as we are figuring out theirs, or so it seems.

On life and death, I want to ask you to pray for Elvis Jr. (Yes, Elvis. He's five and is called Junior). He is very sick, and going back into the hospital today. He has a cyst in his lung, and has a tube going to his heart as I understand. He was moved to outpatient for about a week. He is such a sweet boy and the medical care horror stories I have heard from people here have me very worried. I don't know why natives seem to get less quality care, but I want Elvis Jr. to come home alive and well.

On life again, I have good news, sort of. Warren and I have been discussing having Adventurers and Pathfinders Clubs here probably since before we came. Finally “Selawik Seekers” has been born. We have had two Adventurers Club meetings, mostly set-up, but some classwork too. We have ordered materials for Pathfinders and will make a plan when those arrive. We will need wisdom to structure the meetings to work with Inupiaq culture, but we will not be alone. Debbie Reiswig has experience for which we are most grateful.

To life,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another house fire causes death

A recent Selawik house fire, the third one (second house fire) in two months, claimed the life of a woman. I received a call about the fire around 5 am, Friday February 8th. As I was getting my outdoor gear on, someone came to the door to get our fire extinguisher.

Arriving on the scene (the house was only four down from our church), I found one fire hose already hooked up and spraying the front and side of the house. Helping get a second one hooked up, we had a valve lever break off. I was able to help by supplying a pair of pliers to open the valve. Other than that, there wasn't much I could do to help.

Nobody seemed to know if the occupant had escaped the house, and nobody had a fireproof suit and breathing mask to make it possible to go into the burning house to check. We later learned of the woman's death. She was found near the wood burning stove. Rumor has it that she had mentioned the stove being dangerous, prior to the fire.

We are saddened especially by this loss of life, and have considered how such losses could be prevented in the future:

  • Fire alarms need to be provided for all houses that don't have them. You can get fire alarms for $10 or less at Home Depot.
  • Heating and electrical systems need to be held to safety standards.
  • Education, exit plans, fire drills.
  • Better and more fire fighting equipment.
  • Fire rescue equipment (suits and masks, etc.)
One additional thought about fire safety. Using fire extinguishers (10 or more at times) from outside burning houses seems to me to mostly worsen fire danger. The extinguishers cannot stop the fire at the point where you can't get into the house. But using them up leaves the neighbors without a first-line defense. So unless fire extinguishers are handed out by the city, I don't think using them enmasse at a fire is much good. (I've seen them used at all three recent fires, but to no avail).

Having another death in the village brings home once again the urgency of our mission here in Selawik. Yet it is not only Selawik that is a mission. There are millions of people in this world going to Christ-less graves all around us. Do we really realize how serious this salvation issue is? Do we care for others enough to do something about it? What have you done for someone's salvation- today?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Let Them Come

We have a core group of kids who like to come and visit but vary in regularity. We may not see them for weeks and then they may come all at once. I try to make myself free to join in a game or have an activity for them. But sometimes when I am tired and don't have a plan, then I feel at such a loss for what I should be doing, that I just watch them in a stupor. I like these kids, but a group of 5-10 of them all talking at once do that to me.

Lately, my trust and respect issues with them have had more sting than usual for me. Yet I have also been having plenty of “I love being here” and “I belong here” moments. Meshing these two opposite feelings in my mind, I came to the conclusion that these kids really are special to me.

Our Valentine's Day cookie decorating as they watched The Jesus Movie for Children seemed to go rather well. They loved having their pictures taken as always. Despite all the things they have done and said to us, I still see the all good times we have together. So when I hear that nerve-racking pounding on our door, I let them come.

I am so glad Jesus never turns us away, despite all we have done to hurt him. God is so good to us, we are just beginning to discover how much.



Eleven visitors packed to the ceiling

Thursday, January 31, 2008

God's Laundry Soap

Events in my own life and those of friends and family have reinforced in my mind the idea that God is in the process of preparing His "elect", his chosen people, to be ready to meet Him when he returns in the near future. (For those of you not familiar with Seventh-day Adventist teaching, this is what we call the doctrine of the Investigative or Pre-Advent Judgment).

The idea that God wants to cleanse His people before His return is found in many places in Scripture (the Day of Atonement-Leviticus 23; Cleansing the Sanctuary-Daniel 8; Robe of Righteousness-Zechariah 3; Isaiah 61:10; Ten Virgins-Matthew 25; Without Sin-Hebrews 9:26-28; Laodicea=Judgment-Revelation 3:14; Hour of Judgment-Revelation 14:7; Overcometh-Revelation 2,3,21; Close of Probation-Revelation 8:5 and 22:11). While many have focused on the "fear factor" of coming Judgment, whether before or at Christ's return, there is a positive message in this for us if we love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

I had never noticed until my attention was drawn to it recently, that Malachi 2:17-3:5 is another Old Testament reference to God's effort to cleanse and prepare us for His return. I really like this passage as it clarifies several things that people have gotten confused.

The entire book of Malachi is a call of love from God, regarding the false accusations being made against Him, and His true witness about our state of affairs. I recommend you read the entire book in one sitting, to get an overview of what it's saying. It's a short book, so it shouldn't take long.

The passage in Malachi 2:17-3:5 (chapter divisions are arbitrary) discusses how God is accused of allowing wickedness to continue without punishment. He responds that His professed followers are not ready for Him to come back in judgment. However, He is a refiner of silver, and like laundry soap. He wants to clean up our lives so we will give a pure offering to Him. Then He can come back and deal with the problem of sin. Note that we are the Spiritual Sons of Levi mentioned in the chapter, since we are to be Kings and Priests unto God (Revelation 1:6, 5:10).

I don't have to be afraid of the pre-Advent judgment, except in the sense of "Fear God and give glory to Him". If I love and reverence God enough to let Him remove sin from me-- to let Him be laundry soap and a refining fire in my life-- I have nothing to fear from the Judgment. In Malachi 3:17, God promises that those who speak often of His name will be remembered in His book, and will be His jewels when he returns. That's good news to me and I hope to you too.

"When He cometh, When He cometh
To make up His jewels
All the pure ones, all the bright ones
His loved and His own

Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning
They shall shine in their beauty
Bright gems for His crown"

"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)

God bless in your life as he refines you for His soon return, and as you work to "turn many to righteousness".


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reality Check

Early this morning I had one of those dreams that leaves you with more to think about after it is over. While it was in no way prophetic, I feel that it left me with truth that I need to share. Skipping all the strange unnecessary dream elements, the main part of the dream was about a woman approached by an angel who was extremely distressed by the lack of respect shown to "the baby/child" (Jesus). The angel told her she would receive visits every Sunday night. Thus a movement was started at the woman's home which later started a prominent evangelistic center in her town. Jesus visited these meetings which was very exciting to those attended. Then as happens in dreams I became one of the crowd at a meeting. I was skeptical that God was truly behind these meetings. To me Sunday didn't feel like God's first choice of a day to meet and angels don't interact with us in the way the angel met the woman. But then I told myself I wanted to be closer to Jesus and if this was Jesus...I cautiously reached out to touch his hand. The love felt so strong and real, it was hard to resist. Saying that this experience was false felt like turning and moving into the outer darkness.

When I awoke and pondered the dream I finally came to the conclusion that this is what it will be like in the days not far ahead of us. The delusion will be very strong as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:23-24. The love of the false Christ will feel so real. We must learn to walk by faith and not by sight and we must begin today. While I am not advocating a dry, formal religion neither can we accept any doctrine or leader that does not agree with the Bible. Feelings will be no more of an indication that we are in God's will than they were for Jesus on the cross.

Reality is also a problem for the people here in Selawik. Spiritual manifestations are common. A church member recently shared with Warren things that are seen by the villagers here as well as things he has seen personally. Our friend believes that these things are exactly what they appeared to be. This is a real challenge. Apparently Bible reading alone has not been enough to combat error here. Naturally we cannot say that these things are just imagined, yet we must find a way to show that not everything we see is what it seems. Please pray that we will have wisdom.

The great controversy between good and evil is strong and people need to know what is true and what is false. Are you becoming more grounded in the truth every day? Are you sharing truth with others in ways they understand?


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gospel with a Twisted Tongue

When we came here we understood that we would be doing cross- cultural ministry. So we were interested in learning Inupiaq their native language. However since resources are hard to get and there is no one here that we couldn't speak to in English it didn't seem essential. Still the first spring we were here, Warren got to talk to the Inupiaq teacher at the school and he invited us to come learn. We considered joining the class, but we weren't sure how the school would welcome home schoolers and adult sit-ins. Also we weren't sure when the class was held and where it would fit in our schedule. Gradually we forgot about it.

Then at potluck one Sabbath a couple months ago, the members were all talking in Inupiaq to each other. It seemed that maybe we should try to learn after all, so when Warren introduced me to the teacher at a party, I nudged him. The teacher, Louis Skin encouraged us again to attend. Thus in early December we started to study half an hour a day with one of the kindergarten classes. Warren and I alternate taking the girls so we both can learn.

Inupiaq has a 24 letter alphabet. All of the letters have only one sound, but many of the sounds are new to us and it is difficult for me to hear the difference between some of them. One friend has never learned Inupiaq and says he doesn't have the twisted tongue (His wife says "How can you be Inupiat and not speak Inupiaq?") There are two G's, three N's, and four L's . And some of them aren't the same as English, the T is really a D for example. The girls are doing well though. Abby learned the Inupiaq Pledge of Allegiance in just a few weeks.

I am glad we have finally taken this step, it is really bringing us closer to the people here. One neighbor is excited about our attempt to learn and gives us little vocabulary lessons. Louis tells the girls they will turn to Eskimos. I just wish it hadn't taken us two years to start. It is a good way to join in with the community and make new friends. Naturally, the people we know well are more likely to listen to us when we see opportunities than a stranger who comes to their door. I am learning so much more than Inupiaq, I am learning more of their culture as well. I must get to know the people and how they see the world if I want to share how I see the world. Are you out there share?



Monday, January 7, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Have you managed to keep any of your New Year's Resolutions, thus far?  Or did you even bother making them this year?  Making resolutions for personal improvement may be helpful, if only to help us keep track of our progress (or lack thereof) toward our personal goals.  But spiritual goals are also important.

Proverbs 24:16 reminds us that "a just person falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."  (Lest you be discouraged when you fall eight or more times, note that this is a symbolic number.  See Matthew 18:21-22).  Falling is part of the human condition, but rising up again is what sets apart the just (or righteous) person.  This seems to be a Bible pattern that might seem surprising at first glance.  Apparently, what distinguishes the righteous and the wicked in God's sight is their response when warned of their sin.  (Ezekiel 3:19-21 seems to describe this well).

Psalm 40:2 reminds us that though we cannot rise up again by our own strength, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."  Jesus is the one who God set up to "give repentance to Israel" (Acts 5:31).  (See also 2 Timothy 2:25).  So even the ability to repent (that is, to "turn around again" and go in the right way) is a gift of God.  What distinguishes the righteous then, is only our choice to accept the gift of repentance, and forgiveness which has been given us.

Once we accept the gift of repentance and forgiveness, God not only brings us out of the "horrible pit" we have fallen into, but sets our feet on the rock of a renewed life in him, so we need not fall again.  However, lest we be discouraged, 1 John 2:1 reminds us, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."  God wants us to see the pattern of things in our lives that lead us to fall, and learn to trust Him for strength to stay on the rock where He has placed us, so we don't fall again.  But if we do fall, He is there to pull us out again.

We fall far too often, it is true.  Yet we need to trust God's plan for our recovery.  "Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ"  (Philippians 1:6).  Like Paul, I pray that we all may be strengthened inwardly by God's Spirit so that Jesus will live in our hearts by faith.  This is the way that we all can understand the love of Christ, which is beyond our understanding.  This is how we can be filled with the fullness of God.  God is able to do much more than we ask Him to, or think He is able to accomplish.  It will be to His glory for us to overcome our inherited and developed tendencies to sin.  (Ephesians 3:16-21)

Just as we encourage and lift up our daughter Miriam when she stumbles, God doesn't give up on us.  Keep rising up-- in God's strength.