A mission adventure North to Alaska

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A team from Glendale, Calif., spends a week repairing the Hoonah, Alaska Corps.

by Barbara Sloan – 

The Hoonah, Alaska corps building, recently repaired by a group of Salvationists from Glendale, Calif.

We were somewhere in the middle of nowhere! As we stood on the deck of the Alaska Ferry Taku, we approached the tree-lined shore of remote Chichagof Island, and the Tlingit village of Hoonah. A steel-gray sky hung overhead, and a cool rain fell lightly. A humpback whale came swimming past, as baitfish churned hotspots on the surface. We had come to Alaska—often billed as “The Last Frontier”—with great anticipation, in hopes of making a difference. Six eager professionals: two plumbers (both ARC graduates), a handyman, a Warner Bros. employee, an insurance broker (ARC graduate), and me—their fearless leader—afraid of bears and not very fond of touching fish—all responding to the challenge of Acts 1:8 and being empowered by God’s Spirit as we experienced the opportunity to carry out our mission task.

So we journeyed to Hoonah, the largest Tlingit village in Alaska, with a population of about 850. Hoonah is a fishing and logging village, dating from when the Northwest Trading Company built the first store in 1880. We came ashore to repair/replace the corps restroom plumbing and completely paint the exterior of the officer’s quarters. How in the world were we going to accomplish this in one week? We first prayed that the Lord would help us organize everything, and he did! As we worked, we talked about what it means to serve the Lord. After we finished, it was a joy to share God’s faithfulness. We were grateful that the rains had stopped; grateful that Captain Loni Upshaw provided the basic necessities of food and shelter, as well as love, caring, nurturing, and encouragement as we worked together for one week. Captain Loni has been taking the light of the gospel to those living in darkness across the North. Her vision is to see lives transformed, families changed, and entire communities touched by the light of our hope in Jesus Christ, a hope that they can share.

What we learned from this experience is that the people of Hoonah are proud to be Alaskans. You can see it in the clothes they wear—T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats decorated with Alaskana. You can hear it in the enthusiastic way they talk about their state. Sometimes it’s hard to hush them up! They’re proud to be bigger than Texas. They’re proud to have more mountains, rivers, glaciers, and volcanoes than anywhere else in the US. Most of all, they’re proud to be different.

What does it take to be a summer missionary in the Far North? Well, it’s a life of extremely long days in summer. You have to be crazy enough to begin an impossible task but prudent enough to depend on God to complete it. “When people make themselves available for service, they can always be used by God in a mighty way,” says Mark Cade, an ARC graduate who participated in the mission. “This trip was a wonderful time of personal growth and reflection for me.”

We are grateful for God’s faithfulness in continuing to call out missionaries and for the support of THQ, enabling us to go to the field. We poured out our hearts before the Father and stood in amazement to watch what he did.


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