St. Lawrence Island Adds to Christ's Kingdom

August 24, 2020 | Church | Petu Chris Koonooka

In mid-March, Arctic Mission Adventure volunteer Petu "Chris" Koonooka, elder of the Gambell Seventh-day Adventist Church, started Bible studies with Ina Koonooka, 19, and Ila James, 17. Fear of the COVID-19 pandemic inspired them to study in preparation to be ready for Christ’s return.

Each evening, the four would review two Native New Day lessons in addition to regular Tuesday and Saturday evening meetings. The small group continued to meet during the pandemic. Some Sabbath services would be just have three in attendance because folks were remaining indoors. 

Solomon Koonooka, 23, joined in the studies and also used the Native New Day lessons. As they neared the end of the series, Ina and Ila were convicted by the Holy Spirit and chose to be baptized. Chris reviewed the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church with Ina and Ila, who were anxious for baptism, and a request was made for the pastor to come to Gambell. However, due to regional travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus, it was not possible.

Tobin Dodge, Arctic Mission director, spoke with the conference, and approval was granted for Chris to conduct the baptisms. Meanwhile, Solomon made the decision to be baptized as well. The date was set for May 16, 2020, which coincided with the birthday of the person both Ina and Ila were named after, which made the day even more special. 

Using pots of heated water, the church prepared a small swimming pool that former Gambell Church pastor Leon Ringering left behind for baptisms. During the service, a Yupik folklore story was shared and verses from Matt. 2:11–17 and 28:18–20 and Rev. 14: 6–7 were read.

The water wasn’t as warm as hoped, but that didn’t stop them — even Eskimos get cold! Tears of joy were shed from grandmas, and a happy atmosphere was felt by all. We know there was cheering in heaven by happy angels. No longer afraid, the three newest members of the Gambell Church found peace in God.