After 8 long months of preparation, we’re officially on our way to Alaska–Praise God! With 2,700 miles between Oregon and the remote Alaskan village of Port Graham, we’re all set for the long road trip to our new home. Thank you to everyone who helped with our endless hours of packing and preparation, for the many warm good-byes, the gifts, and the prayers. We feel so loved and will treasure our time and memories with all of you.
Over the last eight months Klaira and Maddie have stood quietly in the background, watching as God put all the details of our move to Alaska in place. They willingly gave away most of their belongings, they accepted the loss of the comforts of home, and they quietly bore the burden of saying good-bye to their friends and Grandparents. They never got angry and they never complained. They watched God answer all of our prayers, all that is except for the prayer that was most dear to their hearts: a good home for their beloved cats, Molly and Taylor.
Outwardly Steve and I reminded the girls that God had taken care of all the details thus far and we assured them that He would also provide a loving home for Molly and Taylor; inwardly, we pleaded with God to answer their one simple prayer.
It is said that God is never early and never late, He is always right on time. But when your child’s innocent faith hangs in the balance, it is so easy to want to hurry Him! One week before we moved, God answered our prayer in a big way–not only did He provide a home for Molly and Taylor, He also solidified our girls’ faith in His ability to provide for us when we are obedient to His calling in our lives.
A very special thank you to the Popkes for providing the purr-fect home for Molly and Taylor. And thank you, God, for showing us yet again that you are faithful.
Once upon a time, five months ago to be exact, we asked God to radically change our lives. [Warning: If you ask God to radically change your life, you better be prepared for Him to RADICALLY change your life!]
Six months earlier….
In June, God laid on Steve’s heart to study the ominous book of Revelation. I was less than enthused about jumping into the future with seven-headed dragons, locusts with human faces, and death and destruction like the world has never seen (Hollywood really ought to make a movie out of that Book—it would be a best seller, I’m sure). I’m more a Book-of-Ruth-kind-of-girl myself, but seeing the excitement in Steve’s eyes as he talked about studying something more “guy-like”, I acquiesced.
On July 7th, we arrived at Revelation 3:14-22. Let me provide you with an excerpt: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are luke-warm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17.
Wow! Can you say two-by-four between the eyes? The Holy Spirit convicted us right then and there, and that’s when we asked God to radically change our lives.
One day later (God doesn’t waste time) Steve called me from work and dropped the bomb, “Sweetie, God just released me from my job at Quiet Waters Outreach (QWO). He has asked me to resign. My 18-year-anniversary with QWO is next February, which will give the Board time to find my replacement.”
I looked outside to see if pigs were flying, the sky was falling, or a seven-headed dragon was on my doorstep—did Steve REALLY just tell me that he was resigning from QWO, our ONLY source of income, with NOTHING ELSE TO GO TO?! Well, I didn’t see any pigs, clouds, or seven-headed dragons on my porch….just my neighbor. And being the sensitive wife that I am, I told Steve, “Hold that thought, I’m going to have to call you back. Our neighbor is knocking at the door.”
I opened the door and managed to smile and say, “Hi Amy. What brings you here?” (I am embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t ever had the neighbor over to our house before!) And as if my day had not been strange enough, Amy says, “I wanted to tell you that if you ever want to sell your house, I would like to buy it. If you are interested, I have to tell you that I can’t buy it till February.” Uh, wow! I give her the tour and she says, “Sold.”
Steve gave his 7-month notice to the Board of Directors that week, and then we waited. “Ok, God, we did what you asked, and in seven months we will have no income. We don’t want to rush you or anything but now would be a good time to tell us what we are to do next!”
His answer, “I want you to be missionaries.” LOL! Us, missionaries? As in, sell everything you own and move to Africa? Ha, ha, funny, funny. No really God, what do You want us to do?
“I want you to be missionaries. And if you think I’m kidding, read Mark 10:17-31.” Hmmmm, what is that passage? Let me provide you with an excerpt: “’….One thing you lack,” [Jesus] said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
Ouch! We realized that we had been building and maintaining our own kingdom instead of God’s. At that moment of realization, God confirmed it by playing Colton Dixon’s song “More of You” on the radio. Ok. We get it. Less of us, more of you. We want to experience YOU, God, in a big way.
During the next month, God led us on a journey of researching mission fields: Ireland, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Haiti, and finally, Dominican Republic. On August 16, God shut the last door on those countries. Feeling a little weary and slightly irritated I looked at Steve and said, “Why can’t we just find a tiny town in a cold place (I don’t DO heat!) that needs a pastor and someone to just love on the townsfolk?” Steve retorted, “I don’t WANT to be a pastor!” Famous last words…
The next day, August 17, Steve Googled “long-term mission opportunities in cold places”. And what should appear but “Alaska Village Missions”. Their village mission opportunity was tailor-made for us. Excitedly, we requested information. Silence. No response. So we contacted two other organizations that send missionaries to remote Alaskan villages. We prayed that God would narrow our search down to one organization and one village. We were granted interviews with the other organizations but God closed the doors on both of them.
On that very day, September 15, when God closed the last door, the Director of Alaska Village Missions (AVM) Ray Arno, responded to our request for information. He said AVM had one village opportunity in Port Graham, and that opportunity had just opened up. After a lengthy conversation with Steve, he invited us to apply.
A few days later a good friend of mine called and said, “Audrey, I have been praying for you and the Lord keeps prompting me to give you a verse. It is Revelation 3:8.”
REVELATION 3?! Isn’t that the chapter that started this whole adventure? I couldn’t remember any positive encouragement coming from Chapter 3 so I hesitantly looked it up: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:8a
On October 15, the Director of AVM called and told us the Board approved our applications and would like meet us in person.
Through the generous donation of air miles from the Maxfield family (thank you, Jenn and David!), Steve and I were able to fly up to Alaska for an interview with the Board of Directors on November 10th. The Board welcomed us to AVM, but we still had to be invited by the villagers of Port Graham.
We have been told by numerous people that the Natives of Alaska are not particularly fond of outsiders, so we arrived in Port Graham wondering how God was going to break down the walls and open the doors for us to connect with the villagers. We didn’t have to wonder very long.
“Remote” in Alaska means you can only get there by submitting yourself to a terrifying bush plane ride that will bring you as close to meeting God as you can come without actually seeing him face to face. Port Graham is remote. I have never been so happy to feel the earth beneath my feet!
The Director of AVM had arranged for the village Chief, Pat, to meet us at the airstrip and give us a tour of Port Graham. Pat was understandably very reserved for the first thirty minutes as he graciously showed us around and told us about the village, but when Steve and Pat started talking about fishing, all the walls came down. Pat took us to the local community center, post office, general store and health clinic to introduce us to several of the villagers. He even took us for a ride around the bay in his fishing boat. God is good.
Fast forward to today. As of November 16th, we have officially joined the AVM team and are moving forward in this radical adventure to experience God. QWO found a new Director to replace Steve, we are meeting with our neighbor next week to finalize the sale of our house, we are looking for homes for our dog and two cats (adoption, anyone? 🙂 ), we’re getting rid of most of our worldly goods, and we’re excited.
We hope you will stay tuned as we embark on our adventure with God. And if God nudges your heart to study the book of Revelation, you might want to invest in some moving boxes!
In His Service,
We asked God to narrow down our search for a mission field to one organization and one place. He narrowed it down to Alaska Village Missions (AVM), and AVM had one village opportunity: Port Graham, Alaska. Here are some interesting facts about Port Graham:
Location: Port Graham is located on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, about 35 miles southwest of Homer (as the crow flies).
Population: 125 people, most of whom are Native Alutiiq.
Language: English and Sugt’sten
Access: Put on your wings–air or water–because there are no access roads to Port Graham. But once you arrive, you will can hop an ATV and zip around the village.
School: The local K-12 school has two teachers and 28 students.
Businesses: There is a post office (mail is flown in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), small health clinic, community center, library, K-12 school, Christian Church, Russian Orthodox Church, two small grocery stores, and a fish hatchery.
Living: The Native culture and subsistence lifestyle of fishing, hunting, and berry picking are still in practice today.
Weather: 29” of rainfall and 56” of snowfall annually; temperatures reach a high of 70° F in the summer, and drop to a low of 0°F in the winter (Ahhhh, that’s perfect! ;-)).
Night and Day: Yes, it has long hours of darkness in the winter (Steve plans to take a happy light and lots of Vitamin D!); and extended hours of light in the summer. In the dead of winter, the amount of light is approximately 6 hours; in the summer, we will see 19 hours of light.
Prices: Gas $5.50/gallon, Milk $12/gallon, Butter $6/pound, Cat Litter $45 (compared to $12 at Costco), a plane ticket for the 15 minute ride to and from Homer is $172. Yikes!
Church: The church we will be serving has 12 members (including kids!).