Me? A Missionary to the Arctic?
Where in the world is Atqasuk, Alaska? I soon found out. It is a tiny Eskimo village in the arctic that can only be reached by a small single- or twin-engine airplane. The closest grocery store is a 20-minute flight away, so all food items need to be ordered or brought with me to the village.
In November 2013, I received an email asking if I would consider applying for a long-term substitute position as a school counselor. A few days later, I received another email asking if I would be willing to accept the job. I asked for a few days to pray about it and eventually decided to accept the position. I had always wanted to live in Alaska ever since visiting several years ago, and I figured now was my chance, so why not?
Plans were quickly made and packing commenced. I discovered from asking many questions that life would be much more difficult than in other places in the U.S. For one, life in the village is certainly different. There are no malls, stores, restaurants or other places to “go out” to. I have found that I have done a lot of reading, writing and thinking over the past few months, as there is little else to do other than take long walks with my dog, Puppy.
Before I arrived in the village, I found out that there is a small interdenominational church that meets weekly as well as a small group of teachers meeting weekly on Sundays and Wednesdays. I was happy to join this group of teachers (and have gone to the small village church a few times as well). Even though they are not Seventh-day Adventist groups, we still focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
There are struggles in the village. I am an outsider, and the people here take time to learn to trust you. Even those teachers who have been here a long time are still treated as outsiders; we will never be Inupiat. That being said, most villagers have been welcoming. When meeting people while walking through the village, at the post office, at the clinic or at the little store, I find people are always happy to say hello and be friendly.
All in all, my experience has been a positive one. Yes, I still miss fresh fruit and vegetables—I keep on dreaming about fresh peaches, berries, jicama, cucumbers and tomatoes. It is still hard to plan months in advance for ordering groceries, and it is still hard to form relationships with parents of the students with whom I work. But all in all, I wouldn’t trade my experience here in Atqasuk, Alaska, for anything.
God knew what was best, and I trusted Him to lead. Ps. 25:4–6 says, “Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” That is my prayer today, that God will continue to lead me and teach me so that I will be a light in a dark world, shining brightly for all to see.
Do you have an interest in teaching in Alaska? If so, go to alaskaconference.org.