It has been my privilege to be a member of some amazing, generous, hard-working missions teams the past two summers. We have traveled to two different off-the-road destinations in Alaska, most often referred to as "the Bush." It is a very expensive and pre-planning intensive endeavor to "go." Fortunately, M.A.R.C. (Mission Avaiation and Repair Center) in Soldotna with the use of Samaritan's Purse aircraft has helped with the difficult part of transporting a dozen or more people. You want to thoroughly think through what you will need before you leave as there are no home improvement stores in the neighborhood. For instance, we had to replace a P-trap which had cracked and was spilling water every time a shower was used. Two days and $80 dollars later, we had what we needed from the "big city" of Nome, 120 miles away.
In a week of being so far away from the familiar surroundings of the central peninsula, you begin to appreciate the unique challenges and dynamics of lving in the Bush. It is almost a foreign travel experience. They do use the same money (can you say $9 dollars for a gallon of milk?), and most speak the English language, but the culture and often the food, the pace of life, what is important and attention to things like clocks are all very different. We were able to witness the taking of a seal in the Yukon River while we were there. It seemed like the whole town was instantly involved. Not what you might call a "Disneyland experience." An adventure for us, dinner for them.
If any of this sounds like a complaint, it isn't. Being immersed in a foreign culture made me much more understanding of life in off-the-road-system Alaska. It helped me understand the lives of those who live there better, from their perspective. In all, it made me more sensitive to the issues they face. It has made me even more eager to help meet the needs of "Bush Alaska than before.
It tells me a lot of why God sent His Son, Jesus to earth to become one of us.
"And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us ..." -- John 1:14 (NKJV)
He came so that He might experience the same things we experience. He came that He might taste of things so foreign, like fatigue, pain and even death. He came to be one of us so that He could not only relate to us, but help us in our greatest needs because He understands from our perspective. We are not alone, we are not without help. Through Jesus, we have hope.
Stephen Brown is a pastor at Kenai New Life Assembly of God.