Documenting Life

Last summer Kathryn came out to Port Alsworth to help document Tanalian Bible Camp’s ministry.  She was finishing up a photography degree at the Art Institute of Colorado.  Not only did she work on photos and video for camp, but she invested in the lives of the staff members while she was here. Here’s some of her work for TBC
  The past two weeks she came back to help do the same for the Tanalian Leadership Center.  It has been so refreshing and encouraging having her here.  God used her creative perspective on life and wonderful suggestions for books to renew my heart and mind in several ways.  Everyday we’ve had conversations that direct my heart back to the Truth of who God is in my life.  One thing I will never forget her saying many times is, “Thank you God for always providing more than enough.”  It’s so true.  He really does. Over the past few weeks I have been truly reminded the He provides for what I need even when I don’t know what that is.  He also is faithful and gives me many things that I don’t need, but want.

I plan to be pretty busy with camp this summer as well as working part time at the new General Store in Port Alsworth. Sometimes I get discouraged and just choose not to even dream up the things I’d like to do. This summer I have lots of things that I want to do.  I have laid all those things at the feet of Jesus.  I don’t know what this summer holds, but I know that God wants me to ask for the things I want.  I just can’t put my hope in those things.  He’ll provide everything that I need, but I am excited to ask for the frivolous things I want. It’s up to Him what actually happens.  This summer will be wonderful no matter what it holds because all the good and perfect things that it will hold are gifts from Jesus.

Summer Highlights

Each season in Port Alsworth brings about new experiences and things to learn.  Each time the seasons I change I find new reasons to love this place I have grown to call home.  I have definitely kept busy this summer, but have found time to play and enjoy the abnormally warm and sunny weather.  You’ll get no complaints from me about the 80 degree days and clear blue skies!  Here are some of my favorite moments and events from the summer.

GRACE: Several weeks back there was an unexpected visitor in Port Alsworth that quickly won the hearts of many.  Her name is Grace and was a 3 week old baby beaver.  I think you can see why she was a hit!

GracetheBeaver3      GracetheBeaver8

You can read more about Grace’s story and see pictures on my friend Kathryn’s blog. (Photo credit goes to Kathryn Bronn)

TANALIAN HIKE: I have done a good amount of hiking this summer, but one of my favorite hikes was with 3 lovely ladies that I met because they came out to work for Tanalian Bible Camp.  We had a wonderful time sharing what God has done in our lives (despite the high winds and temperature changes along the way).  I was disappointed when I realized I never took a pictures of us together, but here’s a shot from one of our stops along the way.

CIMG2117FOURTH OF JULY: On the 4th of July we had a major picnic that everyone in town was invited to.  It was a blast to celebrate with so many people under a giant tarp hung over a playhouse and bulldozer.  It was wonderful just eating and chatting with friends.  I realized how much I love these ladies and am grateful for the different ways that they each enrich my life.  I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly fortunate I am to have them.  I am not sure I would have made it through this last year without them.IMG_2234TANALIAN BIBLE CAMP:  I ended up spending a couple weeks in the camp kitchen and really enjoyed it.  I got to know some of the summer staff pretty well and made some great friends. I was refreshed because I got to spend time building different kinds of relationships, catch up with old friends, and intentionally mentor one of the girls on staff.  After sharing my testimony one night at camp, a girl on staff for three weeks asked me to meet with her.  I am not sure whether it was more beneficial for her or for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I will and do miss many of the staff members that came through this summer.  I am so glad that they got to experience camp and a small taste of Port Alsworth and look forward to seeing many of them back again.1016928_10151724027957629_1559481594_n

CONTINUED MENTORING:  This summer IMG_2251has also been time for me to continue mentoring in a different way.  Our friendships are growing stronger, but there has been a marked shift in how we relate – in a good way. It’s always a treat to spend time with Sophia and Girla (TLC students who have stayed in Port Alsworth for the summer).  I love them more each day and am certain God has amazing things in store for the two of them in the future.  They impress me with their maturity and faith whenever I spend time with them.

CAMPING WITH VALOR:  Another one of my favorite highlights was going on a camping trip with some girl cadets who came up through Valor, a ministry of Campus Crusade. I was asked to share my story with them.  I was told that I had up to two hours to share about what God has done in my life.  It was incredible how many of the things God has taught me struck a chord with each of them.  I also had the opportunity to facilitate a low-ropes Team Adventure Challenge Course day with them.  It was a blast spending time with those lovely young ladies.  An added bonus was one of the staff members happened to be a college classmate I hadn’t seen in 5 or so years.  I also thoroughly enjoyed trying out my “cozy” two-man tent with Sarah.  We stayed up way to late chatting and laughing.  It is not a night I will soon forget.

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PICKING THE NET: I have also learned some valuable skills this summer.  One thing that I have been waiting to do since I moved here was establish residency so I could go out and pick the gill net.  Well, my time has come.  I was able to go out and pick the net with Eric and Jon.  However, later in the day neither of them was around to drive the boat.  So Sarah and I, completely undeterred by this decide that we can go out in a canoe.  It was slightly awkward, but we got the job done even with Ellah, our extra little passenger who thought we were going to tip and freeze to death.  All the salmon and lake trout were then vacuum sealed and the preparations for winter are started.

EVEN MORE SUMMARY: To fill in some gaps in the summer, I also checked off three more Alaskan towns; Kenai, Soldotna, and Fairbanks. Summer is a great time to go hiking, kayaking, and just adventuring with others.  As much as I have enjoyed the activities of the summer the best part has just been making friendships with the wonderful people of Port Alsworth and growing in the relationships I already have.  I may not be rich, but my life most definitely is.

A Thanksgiving to Remember

It all started a couple months back when a friend I met at TBC, Katie Russ, came up with the brilliant idea of a summer staff reunion.  The idea sounded crazy at first and definitely too idealistic to actually happen.  But then plans started to form and the idea became reality.

On Monday, November 21 the festivities began when Jacob and Abby (and a cardboard cutout of Anne’s head) arrived from California at about 1am (Thank you buy one get one free Starbucks holiday drinks!).  Scott joined the party Tuesday evening and then we sat and waited for the “roadtrippers” to arrive.  Faithe and Liz left Wyoming early Monday morning and made a stop in Fort Collins, Colorado to pick up Katie and Whitney, spent the night, picked up Rachael in Topeka, Kansas and then continued the long drive to Chicago (with a short detour to Missouri).  They finally arrived at approximately 2:35am on Wednesday.  Needless to say, I have wonderful friends. It was a joy to catch up, laugh, stayed up way too late, reminisce, and make new memories.

Wednesday was a pretty low-key relaxing day.  We slept in and then ate breakfast all together (once the guys came over from the house they stayed at across town.  Thanks Wood family for the use of your house!)  However, a camp reunion wouldn’t be complete without a Skype chat with James (the TBC director), Sharon (his wife), Eric (the director of TLC) and Sarah (Eric’s wife).  It was great to all be “together” again and talk about life.

Thanksgiving Day was when my world’s collided.  My entire family came over for Thanksgiving dinner – my parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law and nephews.  If you did the math that’s 16 people – in my house – for Thanksgiving dinner.  My issue with food amounts (mentioned in the previous post) took over again and we had enough food to feed twice that many people.  It was delicious, there was just way too much. Who knew a 25lb turkey would have that much meat?  We had all the traditional goods and more: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, an hors d’oeuvres tray (with pickles, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, etc.), rolls, fruit salad, pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, sparkling grape juice, and cranberry apple crisp!   When I write it all out it sounds like a lot, but when I was planning it seemed completely reasonable.

Somehow after eating all that we managed to go out and play at the park with my nephews and run off some energy.  My family, especially my nephews, loved spending time with these camp people that they had heard so much about.  All in all, it was a fabulous day of being Thankful for my family and for my friends who have become like family.  I think Scott put it well when he said that the summer staff chose to be family and put up with each others’ shortcomings.  Rachael, being her creative self, brought a “Thanksgiving Tree” and we all made leaves and wrote what we’re thankful for one them.

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Friday morning we all decided to head to Chicago for the day (minus Abby who had to fly back to CA that morning).  Scott and I did a whirlwind tour of the city including Moody, Giordano’s, Oak Street Beach, Cloudgate (aka The Bean) & Millennium Park, the Signature Room (96th floor) of the Hancock, the Watertower, Ghiradelli & the Hersey Factory, the Art Institute, and even a ride on the El. When we got back to my house I completely crashed, especially after seeing 3:30am three out of the four previous days.

It’s hard to sum up the week but it was capped off with a couple games of Four on a Couch, a poetry reading by Scott, playing frisbee, taking pictures with Anne’s face, a musical performance by Whitney, a competitive game of Quelf, some humorous rounds of Truth or Truth, sharing what God’s doing in our lives, a trip to Jalapeno Nacho, a couple trips to Elmhurst, a crazy game of Pilgrim’s Progress, trying Nutella on different types of food, several trips to Midway, and countless pots of coffee.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite of mine, but this one has got to top all the rest!

Gratitude

I am so completely grateful for this summer.  I am completely amazed and humbled that I got to spend two months in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, serving the one and only Almighty God.  It was truly a privilege to have the opportunity to just pack my bags and go.
God taught me a great deal this summer and sometimes I think we need to be taken out of our everyday routine to learn lessons that we wouldn’t otherwise learn.  I learned unity in a way I have never experienced it before.  I learned how to trust people and be vulnerable even when I want to run away.  I learned deeper theology and I saw God’s love in ways I never had before.  How to love others in a deeper, more selfless way.  What hard work and faith really mean.  That taking a leap of faith and cutting the ropes that hold us back is not only terrifying exhilarating, but is something that all believers are called to do.  I learned how to listen more closely and that sometimes not exchanging words at all is more intimate that sharing words.
God has given me abundantly more than I could ask or imagine even without this trip, but this was an experience I won’t soon forget.  The reality that I was able to get 2 months off of work and am able just to go back to work is unheard of and definitely a work of God.  The friendships that were developed on the mutual love of Christ were edifying and uplifting.  The beautiful mountains and lakes surrounding me were breathtaking and awe inspiring.  The stillness and silence at night was calming and peaceful.  The stories that the children shared were heart wrenching and devastating.  But the hope of Christ was shared boldly.  Each of these 300+ children heard what it means to have a Christ-centered life.  To be a part of sharing that hope, love, and life with these kids was truly a blessing.
It was also so encouraging to be a part of the community of Port Alsworth.  It is one amazing “town.”  I cannot begin to explain the community I was a part of and how much I miss the people I got to interact with on a daily basis.  It will be wonderful to be reunited with those dear friends again.
To sum up what’s in my heart right now it would be an overwhelming gratitude that is completely filling my heart and pouring out.  I can’t even contain how much I loved spending my summer this way.  Not only because of the beautiful location, the excellent staff, or the seemingly endless supply of food, but because of the need these village kids have for Christ and how much God worked.  Seeing God’s work done so faithfully and comprehensively is invigorating and motivating to me.
I think this is something that I’ve been needing to process through. I have finally been able to eloquently and insufficiently been able to semi put into words what’s been on my heart. However,  I think satisfactorily enough that I will finally be able to get some sleep.

This Summer’s Adventure

Well, I am finding that not knowing is one of a few things:
  • Confusing
  • Frustrating
  • Refreshing
You may not agree with me on this. I usually like to know what’s going on. It’s comforting knowing what’s coming next in life, but sometimes surprises are nice. However, surprises are only nice if they are in their truest form. If you know one is coming it’s not a surprise. It’s anxiety. At least for me.
Lately I’ve been coming to learn that surprises from God do not need to be mixtures of confusion and frustration for me (as they usually are), but they are completely refreshing. Let me explain.
In mid December when my unsettled feelings about going to the the middle east started, God brought one of our missionaries to our church. He was there one Sunday and was talking about the camp his family runs in Alaska. I had volunteered there for a week in 2009 and I loved it. As we were talking I was getting really excited about the ministry all over again.
As the weeks went by Alaska kept getting brought up. It was a consistent pricking of my heart and definitely a prodding from God. By mid January I was completely confused and was not sure where God was leading me. It didn’t make sense to me to change my plans. I have even been asked to share in front of the church that I was planning on going to the middle east. It was somewhat humbling to have shared what I thought was going to happen and maybe God was going to change those plans.
So by early February I really sensed that God was closing one door and opening another. I planned a meeting with our missionaries and talked about me spending two months in Alaska. After the conversation all I felt was an overwhelming sense of being in God’s will. I knew that was it. I was supposed to spend my summer serving at Tanalian Bible Camp in a small town about 200 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska.
Don’t get me wrong, Alaska is hands down the most beautiful place I have been. It’s simply breath-taking, but that is not what is drawing my heart back there. I spent a week living in a cabin with 5 third grade girls who desperately wanted to be loved. I saw them struggle to accept love, saw hurt in their eyes, and a desire to have something to hope for. I have an a compassion and love for them that I know is completely inhuman. I can honestly say, I would not have it if my God had not placed it in my heart. There is such a sense of hopelessness, fear, and insignificance within the children that fly into Tanalian Bible Camp over the summers and I want to share with them the hope and the love that can be experienced only in Jesus Christ.
That’s where my heart is. I can’t wait for the rest of me to join it up there this summer.
“The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9