ALASKA Envoys Rick & Patsy Barton Angoon, Alaska
How do you say the word envoy?
ENVOY CORRINE ERICKSON distributes food from the pantry at Cordova, Alaska
BY JENNI RAGLAND
When they were first “assigned” to the small fishing village of Angoon, Alaska, Envoys Rick and Patsy Barton were given a few words of advice–become involved in your community. They have never forgotten that advice. Since then, they have often been reminded that they are only supposed to work 40 hours a week. They just chuckle and continue “fishing” for the Lord.
Living in a small village of 600 brings many challenges. The island is accessible by plane (weather permitting) or ferry. There are two small stores in Angoon–no barber or beauty shop, dry cleaner or movie theatres. A “quick” trip to Juneau to load the van with groceries and supplies is a 12-hour ferry ride each way. Alcoholism and unemployment are extremely high. Their door is always open for comfort and encouragement.
For the Bartons, there is no typical day. Most mornings Envoy Patsy broadcasts a 15-minute devotional to the community over the CB radio. Then it may be off to open the food pantry or visit the senior center. Youth programs and Home League are well attended, filling a need for social activity in the village. League of Mercy visits to the sick or elderly often includes sharing of fish, clams or berries. Envoy Rick is a certified emergency trauma technician. With no hospital in the village, he receives calls at all hours to assist with medical situations. He also serves as coordinator for the local search and rescue unit and is a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Association.
Through the daily challenges they face, the Barton’s are ministering where God needs them. “The Lord just seems to prepare the way. We have been called to serve through the ministry of The Salvation Army, and we know God is in control.” They are encouraged as they see God’s faithfulness through the harvesting of “fish” in the village of Angoon.
A Heart for the Hurting
Envoy Corrine Erickson – Cordova Outpost, Alaska
The programs may not be traditional, but the heart for ministry at the Cordova (Alaska) Outpost is thriving under the leadership of Envoy Corrine Erickson. Working out of a cramped two-story building on Main Street, Envoy Erickson reaches out to the lost and lonely in the community.
Erickson was working with the Faith Lutheran Mission when she first became acquainted with The Salvation Army. She heard Army leaders from Anchorage were coming to town and went to find out who was overseeing the service extension work in Cordova, since she could never reach anyone. She left the meeting with a new job–outreach worker for The Salvation Army.
Twenty-three years later she is still serving. During the summer it is not unusual to see the envoy out on the streets until 2:00 am ministering to the homeless and discouraged. The effects of alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and unemployment can seem almost insurmountable in the small fishing community of 2,500. But she knows this is where God wants her to be, saying “I’ve got to be here for the hurting people.” Her small, but faithful, congregation keeps coming back because they know they are loved.
Working alone is difficult and many times leaves her emotionally and physically drained. But her vision and passion for the ministry of the Army is alive. Others are now beginning to capture that passion. Her woman’s Bible study group has taken on the building as their project. They are going to help sort donations, build storage shelves in the chapel and organize the storage area.
Perhaps Envoy Corrine sums up it up best when she says, “When the day seems long and dreary and you get a little discouraged, God provides the littlest encouragement that puts you back on the right path.”
That’s why she is in Cordova, Alaska, working to win one soul at a time for God’s kingdom.