Oregon Youth Team Travels to Remote Alaska

For the third consecutive summer, last year my family and I participated in a mission trip to Saint Lawrence Island, in Alaska.

Some ask me if it was an exciting trip; all I can say is that “exciting” is an understatement. Primitive transportation, plumbing (if you’re lucky), prices soaring, limited communication—all describe the villages where we worked.

For the past nine years, the Oregon Conference has sponsored a vacation Bible school (VBS) team to St. Lawrence Island, about 140 miles from Nome, 40 miles from Russia. It has two villages: Gambell and Savoonga, with about 600 native Siberian Yupiks each.

Children and adults, alike, appreciate our ministry. We were gone 19 days, including travel time, and our team of 11 provided VBS programs for about 60 children, daily, during our week on the Island.

It was a learning experience for the children, as well as for our team of eight youths and three adult sponsors. Our team consisted of my mom and dad, Jan and Dennis Jorgenson; my sister Marina Jorgenson; Cody Canada; Jeff Prine; Walter Spidal; Tasha Wold; Katie Schwartz; Caitlin McNabb; our wonderful cook, Amy Deming; and 12-year-old me, Jennifer.

Though our purpose was to present VBS to the younger children, we felt a need to reach out to teenagers, as well. So evenings, we would hold “Teen Nite.” Not nearly as structured as VBS, it provided a place for teens to hang out in a Christian environment. We sang, had worship, played games, and sometimes just sat and talked.

Some days, we took walks to the beach or around the village with the teens, learning a lot about the culture of the Siberian Yupiks. This helped immensely when it came to connecting with the younger children.

Ray of Hope

Children don’t get a lot of visitors on the Island. So they eagerly await summertime when VBS comes around. They love us and completely look up to us. With their adorable smiles, I wish I could take them home with me.

They enjoy taking us to their favorite spots on the beach or playground and showing us where they live.

Visiting Savoonga and Gambell made me think of how fortunate I am to have the hope that God will come again and take me home with Him. We gave the villagers a brief look into God’s Word, but that bit of light offers them only a ray of hope.

It’s a real blessing to see 60 children, not much younger than myself, soaking up the good news about Jesus. I was moved to see young people 15, 16, even 17 years of age sitting in awe at the stories we told about.

Though Portland, Ore., where I come from is one of the larger cities in the Northwest and Gambell and Savoonga are two of the smallest, our friendships will last our lifetime on earth, and I hope for eternity in heaven.

January 01, 2003 / Oregon Conference