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Month: December 2016

Merry Moose-mas!

Merry Moose-mas!

Before we moved to Port Graham the only kind of hunting I did was for a good deal at my favorite home décor store.  I could move silently down the aisles and quickly scope out all the red tag sales until I found the perfect deal.  After paying for my prize, I’d bag it and pack it home.  Quick, easy, no mess.

Then we moved to Alaska.

Here in Alaska hunting looks a little different.  Oh it still involves moving silently down the aisles (of trees) and scoping out your surroundings (to make sure you’re not being followed by any number of hungry four-legged creatures), and the head of the prize can still be used in home décor but that’s about where the similarities begin and end.  I’m still growing accustomed to this sort of hunting…and decorating.

Moose hunting is a big deal in the village and this year’s hunt did not disappoint.  Never having seen a moose up close and personal before, and thinking we could help pack it back to the village, we hopped on our ATV and drove out to the site.  If you’ve ever wondered how big a moose is, imagine a minivan with hair and hooves and you’d have a pretty good idea of the size.  Then imagine having to pack that hairy minivan with hooves through a swampy field, up a treacherous hill, and down a gravel road to the village.  Now I know why meat is so expensive!

The minivan, er, I mean moose, was disassembled and stuffed into hunting backpacks.  Anxious to help, and ignoring the butcher’s sideways glance and raised eyebrow, I confidently stepped up to receive one of the backpacks loaded with delicious moose ribs. “Load me up!  I’ve got this!”  Three steps later I was questioning my ability to carry the pack through the field and back up the steep hill to the truck but I was not going to ask for help.  No way.

Now I am not the most coordinated of people, and gravity seems to have a stronger pull on me than the average person so it was no surprise when on the way up the hill I stepped into a hidden two-foot hole, fell forward into Maddie who flung out her arms to balance herself and subsequently nailed me in the noggin with her elbow. Little stars danced around my head, and for a moment I thought I saw Elvis singing in the field. Standing back up and dusting off my pride, I continued up the hill.

With each step the backpack got heavier and I slowed to a snail’s pace.  When I was half way up the hill (which seemed like Mt. Everest at this point) my foot slipped off a log and my top-heavy load pulled me backwards.  Instantly I transformed into a human windmill trying to prevent the inevitable fall, and when I finally landed I looked like a turtle on its back–there was no way I was going to get out of this one on my own.  At that moment I heard a rustling in the bushes above me and all of the sudden it occurred to me that I was wandering in bear country with a blood-soaked, meat-laden backpack attached to me.  I was like a giant bear Kong!  Just before my imagination had me in the jaws of a hungry black bear the rustling stopped and out popped the village Chief.  I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised, but the Chief recovered much more quickly than I did and made no attempt to hide his amusement at my predicament.  After he recovered from his side-splitting laughter, he climbed down the hill, lifted my pack and helped this turtle get back on her feet.

Once I had regained my composure, I had to admit my little mishap with the moose ribs (I like to think of it as tenderizing the meat) was a pretty good reminder about the Christian life.  You see, life loads up our packs with all kinds of anxieties and burdens, but we think we’re strong, independent and capable of bearing that heavy load without anyone’s help.  We’ve got this, right?  But the longer we carry that burden on our own, the heavier it gets and we often stumble and fall under the weight of it all.  But God never intended for us to carry our burdens alone!  He gave us each other and commanded that we “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

As we look in the rear view mirror for this year, we are greatly humbled by the number of people who have helped us carry our load. Without the power of the Holy Spirit and your prayers, encouragement, and support we would be as ineffective as a turtle on its back.  We are truly grateful for your love and friendship.  May you be richly blessed this Christmas season and in the new year ahead.

With love,

Steve, Audrey, Klaira and Maddie

 

The Great Equalizer

The Great Equalizer

Image result for Rose On GravestoneIt is a cold and snowy December afternoon when the small plane pulls to a stop on the village runway.  Many villagers have gathered to welcome home one of their own, but this is not a joyful reunion.

We stand at a distance and watch as the family disembarks and then turns to wait silently for their 2-year-old son to join them.  Moments later a small wooden casket emerges from the belly of the plane.  Their son is home.

As the local pastoral family our presence is expected in this sacred moment; as a Chaplain I long to comfort the family; as a mother the haunting scene brings me to my knees and a tidal wave of deep grief floods my being.

A short while later we join the silent procession of villagers as they walk the little boy to his final resting place on a hill overlooking the bay.  It is as if a vacuum has sucked all the oxygen out of the air as the men lower the flower-laden casket into the ground and begin to cover it.  If only the hole in our hearts could be filled so easily!

As I look around at the tear-stained faces I am reminded that death is the Great Equalizer.  It cares nothing for age, wealth, fame, position, health or happiness.  It shows no favoritism.  It takes everything and owes nothing.

The family’s pain will lessen over time but it will never disappear completely, and the question of why will not be answered on this side of heaven.  Don’t wait another minute to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them.  You might not get another chance.