Our youth group is serving this week in Mountain Village. Mountain Village is a community of 800 people in western Alaska. It is the first mountain from the mouth of the Yukon River. The mouth of the Yukon is 67 miles away.
We’ve only been here three days but it’s been an exciting three days. The people are warm and welcoming. The first night I joined a family for subsistence fishing. Watching the father and his two sons work together was fascinating. There was no wasted energy and no abrupt moves. In two hours we harvested seven kings and one chum. They shared a king with us. Acts 17:25 says, “He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” God provides for His people.
Sunday we worshiped at the Covenant Church. Samaritan’s Purse has built a beautiful church building in Mountain Village. At the potluck afterwards more people came than expected. The king was definitely needed!
That afternoon a 96 year old man died. We joined his family and friends in a sweltering home singing hymns together to grieve his death. The younger generation brought water to the elders as they sang. The body lay on the floor. We listened as the elders worshiped in Yupik.
There is nothing like death to snap life into perspective. Ecclesiastes 3:1,2 and 11 says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- a time to give birth and a time to die…. He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
We lead Vacation Bible School every day from 2 to 4 PM. The action is fast paced- games, verses, snack, singing and Bible lesson. Watching our teenagers lead 35 plus young people with short attention spans is exciting! Our verse for the week is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Mountain Village is connected to St. Mary’s by a road of twenty miles. Very early Tuesday morning a terrible accident took place. A Dodge truck containing for young men rolled. All were medevacked to Anchorage. One died from internal bleeding. In Psalm 90 Moses meditated on the brevity of human life. He watched his generation die in the wilderness. He wrote, “So teach us to number our days, so that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Life is short.
We hiked the mountain. We hiked up the mountain and enjoyed the breeze. As far as we could see there was tundra and water. The mighty Yukon rolled by. The Yukon-Kuskokwim delta is one of the largest deltas in the entire world. It is as large as the entire state of Louisiana. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands,” Psalm 19:1-2.
Everyone drinks spring water. The city has its own water supply but you can’t beat the spring water. Along the banks of the Yukon is a pipe with spring water rushing out. On a hot summer day people gather at the spring. It reminds me of ancient times. The social center in ancient times was the village well. In John 4 Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well. She drew her water at noon- the hottest time of the day. She was a social outcast. She’d had five husbands and was living with a man at the time.
Jesus went out of His way to meet with her. He offered her living water. Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
In the evenings we reach out to the teenagers. They listened fascinated as we explained that every time we open the Bible God speaks. We know God through the Bible. A greater miracle than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace is the supernatural Book God has given them in the Bible.
Several listened intently last night as we explained true faith. Faith involves all three parts of a person. First, saving faith involves the mind. We must understand certain facts. We are sinners. Jesus died for us. He is God. He paid for our sins and rose again.
Second, it involves the heart. We must mourn over our sin. Saving faith impacts the emotions. Jesus said that we must hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). As a starving person craves food or as a dehydrated person longs for water, so we must desire salvation. Third, faith involves the will. Faith in Jesus Christ will impact a person’s life. James, the half brother of Jesus, describes this as living faith. James thundered, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 3:17).
There is a rhythm and rhyme to life in Alaska. The long, hot days of summer give way to hunting, fires and an abundant harvest. God promised Noah, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). These are the best days of our lives!
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.