There is something about anniversaries that makes us very reflective. It was a year ago today that Steve and I stepped off a tiny bush plane into the unknown world of Port Graham, Alaska. The streets were deserted on that frigid Monday morning and my spirits felt as dreary as the weather.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I found.
Understandably, the villagers we met that day were kind but cautious—was this just another white family moving to Port Graham for the thrill of remote living?
After our village tour, the Chief drove us up to the site of our future home, the church. My spirits sank further still as I walked into the cold, stark building, void of any personal touches. Fighting back tears, I wandered through the rooms wondering how I was ever going to make this into a home for my family.
None too soon, it was time to fly back home.
Home…the place where our family and friends lived; a beautiful house with plenty of space and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood; a comfortable salary with benefits; the backdrop of so many wonderful memories; a place we knew well and a culture we understood. Was God really asking us to leave everything behind and follow Him into the unknown?
Over the next weeks and months as we went through the motions of “letting go” of our comfortable life, I would often pour out my heart to God. Sometimes I would be angry with Him for asking us to give up the life I felt entitled to (after all, hadn’t HE provided it for us?!). Sometimes I cried on His shoulder for the tremendous sense of loss we felt as our worldly possessions found other homes, we said good-bye to our pets, and friends turned their backs on us. And sometimes I just wanted to know why.
Retrospectively, I can clearly see God’s hands masterfully carving out a new home for our family, and I can hear His still small voice speaking truth into my anger, sadness and fear.
When I bemoaned leaving my family and friends, God reminded me that He “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). And then He opened the hearts of the community to welcome us.
When I complained, “We can’t live in a church—we need a house!” God pointed out that living in His house is a privilege. David said, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:4-5) And then God provided the means for us to transform the church building into a beautiful place of worship on Sundays and a warm and welcoming home during the week.
When I worry about finances, God smiles and promises, “[I] will meet all your needs according to the riches of [my] glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19). And He has.
When I fret about the lack of sunshine in the winter, God gently says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). And then He surprises us with care packages of Vitamin D and Happy Lights from our thoughtful friends!
When I remind Him that I am not “Pastor’s wife” material, He fully agrees with me but explains, “Now [I], the God of peace,…[will] equip you in every good thing to do [my] will, working in [you] that which is pleasing in [my] sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21). And then He gives me grace as I step into that role.
When I ask, “What is there to do in Port Graham?” He quietly recites, “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). And then He quiets the noise and fills my soul with an inexplicable peace.
And in those moments when fear of the unknown is lurking at my doorstep, God shouts, “…do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10). And that is exactly what He continues to do.
Today as I reminisce back to that unforgettable trip one year ago, I am humbled by God’s patience with me as I struggled to obey His calling, and I am grateful that we serve a God whose “ways are higher than our ways” and whose “thoughts are higher than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). For if God had given me what I thought I wanted, I would have missed out on the tremendous blessing of being able to call Port Graham…home.