Wear your fishing gear at the Petersburg Corps

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How one family found a spiritual home.

by Joel Harmon – 

Josef was only 7-years-old when he first arrived at the Petersburg Corps’ after-school drop-in center in 2004. As Josef became involved with the Adventure Corps program, we realized that he was not one of the best-behaved kids. He tried our patience but we stuck with him and watched him mature throughout the year.

Josef seemed to grow up overnight. In 2005, we invited him to attend church—he was there the next week and has not missed a Sunday since. It wasn’t long until his two younger siblings were also jumping in the corps’ van that arrived to pick them up every Sunday morning.

Gayle, the children’s mother, said she wanted her kids to grow up knowing about “all the God stuff.” She had been baptized in a Lutheran church as a child, but drifted away during her teenage years because she “didn’t want to be thought of as one of those weird ‘religious’ types.”

God did not desert Gayle, though, watching over her through a tragic cannery accident at work, a rough marriage and alcohol addiction. She has now been sober for over a year.

Gayle’s 3-year-old daughter had faithfully prayed for her mother, and one day when the corps’ van arrived, Gayle jumped in with her kids. She said she initially went with them to make sure they were behaving themselves, but now she too comes every week—as much for herself as for her kids.

“I’m learning a lot and feel more at peace. I have to push myself to go sometimes, but then I feel better after I’ve gone to church,” Gayle said. “I would feel a loss if I didn’t go. I know there is something there.”

Gayle was drawn to the messages and the warmth of God’s word at the Petersburg Corps. She said, “You accept anybody and everybody. You don’t have to dress up. Here it doesn’t matter if people are in their fishing gear or their best dresses—you let the people come right off the streets.”

Petersburg may not have an overflowing congregation or abundant resources but God does not need numbers or dollar signs to change lives. God is moving mightily in this wonderful, small Alaskan town.

Captain Joel Harmon and his wife Rhonda
are corps officers in Petersburg, Alaska.

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