August 16, 2006

Arctic Camp Meeting

capThis is the first of a weekly journal of my travels and experiences as president of the Alaska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. I felt that it would be worthwhile sharing with you my observations and thoughts from my travels around Alaska. We are a small conference in a vast territory, and somehow we must stay connected.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It was a gray and windy Friday morning on March 31 as we lift off Merrill Airfield. Our Cessna 206 climbs through the clouds and levels off in bright sunshine at 11,500 feet. My flying buddies are Jim Kincaid, executive secretary for the conference and a longtime bush pilot in Alaska, and Daniel Maccarone, a youth speaker and young entrepreneur from Anchorage.

We are starting a 10-day camp meeting tour that we do yearly, covering all the churches in the Southeast.
Departing from Yakutat, we opt for Jim’s favorite part of the trip, so for the next 400 miles we fly at 400 feet and follow the beach. This part of Alaska is beautiful, wild, and remote with thousands of swans migrating up the coastline and every slough and backwater dotted with the majestic birds.
We land at Ketchikan, and Pastor Charles Geary is waiting for us. The airport there is located on an island, so we catch a ferry to the mainland. The town is perched on the side of a hill, and was once a logging boomtown. The Adventist church here was once the hub of all the work in this part of the world, so the church building is a large three-story structure in the center of town.
2006 1523 page16Their sister church in the district is Craig, and many of the members are here to join our camp meeting for the weekend. Craig is a fishing town on the Prince of Wales Island. It is the largest island in the United States.
It’s Friday evening and we enjoy a soup-and-sandwich supper, and then prepare for our country gospel concert. The church members turn out in force, and we have a great sing-along. These folks know how to sing! Sabbath morning we have another sing-along. Then Daniel Maccarone gives an animated sermon on being supercommitted as Christians.
After Sunday morning breakfast and a short service we pack up and head for Wrangell. Once you are in the southeast of Alaska, the distances are not great between towns, but accessible only by ferry. As we fly north along the numerous and nameless fjords and bays, I am again awestruck by the rugged and wild beauty of the coastline of southeast Alaska. Nowhere in the world is there such rich scenery. I can’t seem to get enough of it and can’t begin to describe it.
Wrangell is another former logging boomtown that continues to shrink in population. The little town is now down to 1,400 people, but the church here continues to thrive. They are working to get a radio station up and running. They also run Camp Lorraine on Vank Island. It is a beautiful spot nestled on the north side of the island in a large bay. It is a real outreach.
After two days in Wrangell we head for Petersburg. It’s only a 20-minute flight. Petersburg is an amazing little town. Developed by Norwegian fishermen in the late 1800s, it still retains the look and flavor of their ancestry, even down to the wooden streets and the Sons of Norway Lodge. It is one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen.
Several years ago, Maranatha came in and built a beautiful new church here. It is a quality structure complete with an attached apartment for the pastor. But the membership here is small and struggling. They desperately need an infusion of missionary-minded folks willing to lead out in ministry here.
After two days in Petersburg and some very enjoyable meetings, we are off again to Sitka. Developed as a Russian outpost by a man named Baranof, it was the seat of trading and export of Alaska pelts. The church sits on the edge of the bay with panoramic views of the ocean, seals, and sea lions. One has to be a good speaker here to keep people’s attention! They have a church school in the basement with the same view; their playground is at the edge of the ocean. What a setting!
Early Sabbath morning we are packed and off to Juneau. We arrive and are escorted to church for setup. Juneau is another beautiful city that sits perched on the side of a hill. Juneau is an eclectic church with such diversity, it is amazing. Philippine, Alaska Native, South American, Caucasian, and African-American all worship together. They are family, and one feels the warmth as soon as one walks into the church.
One of the nice things about Juneau is that after a 10-day trip, my wife flies in and meets me at the church. After a great service and fellowship meal we all head for a hike at Mendenhall Glacier a few miles north of town. It is a spectacular glacier but has seen a dramatic amount of receding from global warming. In summer they have dog teams stationed at the top of the glacier. Helicopters fly people there, and you can camp on the glacier and go for rides.
After a great fellowship brunch on Sunday morning, we hold another concert and worship. We then head for the plane and trip home.
It was a wonderful trip. I was blessed by it.
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