Recently I had another opportunity to experience the “other” Alaska. The Alaska that is not on the road system. Even though I have spent most of my life in Alaska, it has mostly been in the places connected by our roads. A team from our church went to Emmonak to do some work on some missions buildings there. It was five days of long hours trying to get as much done as we could while we were there.
I could talk about the physical work we did there, I really think we made a lot of difference to the missionaries who live there. But the trip was much more than the work. The people of Emmonak are wonderful people. We met some people in the five days we were there even though they were working hard at their jobs and also gillnetting salmon in the Yukon River. We were warmly received and had help and assistance when we needed it.
The limitations of bush Alaska come to the forefront soon after the plane touches down on the runway outside of the village. In a large way, if you do not bring what you need with you, you will pretty much go without it or, pay dearly to have it. In many cases, the price of commodities tended to be 4 or 5 times the price we might expect to pay locally in Kenai. Fuel was a relative bargain at $6.50 per gallon. Weather is a huge factor as well. Rain. Wind. Constants that always need to be contended with. It takes a serious commitment to live and do ministry for some of these reasons.
The children were wonderful. Curious and starved for your attention. They loved to be involved in everything we were doing. Whether it was paint or digging in the ground, they wanted to be doing exactly what we were doing. Names seem to be very important to them and we were often asked what our names were. They seemed to love the interaction with the strangers in their village. There is very little for young people to do in a place like Emmonak. And they have great hunger to be involved with something or someone.
It occurred to me that Emmonak is one village out of many that has many needs. They don’t get the attention that other places in the world like Haiti or Japan, but they still have needs. My heart was affected by this situation in our own back yard. I think many more people would be similarly affected if they had the opportunity to set foot in a place like Emmonak. It may not be a place that is in the news, but it need not be if it has a place in our hearts.
Matthew 25:40 (NKJV) And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Stephen Brown has been the pastor of Kenai New Life Assembly of God for the past 22 years.