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Sitting in the airport awaiting a flight out of Anchorage, Alaska, I discover latent superpowers, long dormant. Blue sparks leap the synapse between my finger and the metal seat back. It's not unusual for an editor to receive static. But my newly acquired ability to impart such is, well, shocking.
The dry cold of Alaska has bequeathed this special gift. I've just spent several days in the Bristol Bay fishing frontier of the state, rubbing shoulders with dedicated members like Rod Rau, Dillingham Adventist School teacher, and Joe Chythlook, native leader. On a frosty night that dipped to 20 below zero, I endured two hours in Joe's authentic native "steam" room, a seriously sweaty sauna with the unmistakeable sensation of climbing into a habanero pepper.
Adventist roots are deep here. Depression-era pages of the GLEANER tell the progressive story of families who settled nearby on the shores of Lake Aleknagik, one of the seed beds of Adventist work in western Alaska.
Along with Ken Crawford, Alaska Conference president, Wendell Downs, Dillingham Church pastor, and others, I trekked several miles across the iced-over lake to where a mission school once operated. There, decades ago, rough, rugged and willing pioneers stretched their spiritual feet forward in faith that God would part the waters for a clear path. And He did.
Among our Adventist believers in Dillingham and Togiak, on the edge of a frozen sea, I discovered a core group of people who are the fruit of that early mission school. One of them was heretofore mentioned Joe Chythlook, who went on to Walla Walla University. Since then, he and his wife, Molly, have not only led out in the church's mission but have become tribal leaders far beyond the Adventist circle.
The costs of progress here seem, at first, staggering. A bag of Doritos in Dillingham costs nearly 10 dollars. One trip to an outlying village may cost upwards of a thousand dollars. But the opportunities in Alaska have always outweighed the cost.
There are few mission fields bigger than Alaska — or closer at hand. And no opportunity provides a better target for Northwest members to make a difference for an Alaska-sized challenge.
I know of several items on Ken Crawford's prayer list. Opportunities are on the table right now to procure radio stations to cover the bulk of Alaska's population — perhaps the only economical way to share the Adventist message over such a vast land. And, throughout the vast arctic bush, mission outposts await volunteer leaders.
The 2011–12 winter was record-breaking for parts of Alaska. Snow drifts in Anchorage at times were stacked in piles more than six stories tall. Those huge obstacles are melting into puddles now.
I know Ken is praying that God will likewise melt the barriers that bar the way for our Alaska mission field. These apparent obstacles are truly divine opportunities. Like the snow, they will disappear quickly when the way is cleared for the Son to shine.
"It's not unusual for an editor to receive static. But my newly acquired ability to impart such is, well, shocking."