Waaqa, (hello) everyone! It’s been a while. The morning after returning on our flight from Chevak, Nate started his first day of in-service, so we have been off and running with the usual whirlwind of back-to-school activities as only a household of two teachers, two grade schoolers and one toddler can be. It has been hard to stop and take the time to continue processing our trip to Chevak and all that God taught us while there. Thank you for your patience!
Today, I will start by looking ahead…to this weekend! Nate and I will be leaving Friday morning and heading up to Anchorage for the Young Life Alaska State Conference which takes place in Wasilla. There, we will be meeting with at least 5 folks from Chevak (more introductions later), Native Alaskans from other villages, and hundreds of faithful followers who love Jesus and love young people from around the state. The conference will generally focus on Discipleship and how it looks. For folks from the Bush, special time will be set aside to ask how villages can use the tools offered by Young Life to bring the Gospel to the young people in their own village through discipleship. So. Pumped.
But, before I talk more about the future, it seems appropriate to go back in time about a decade… [Cue wavy flashback music]. To a time and place far, far away…
A time with these two young pups decided they wanted to be missionary teachers, but realized with a thud that attending a private Christian university for undergrad and grad school would leave you considerably in the red… So, why not try being missionaries that happen to get paid pretty well by teaching in the Bush?
Yes, it seemed like a good idea. When God made it clear through the very first school we interviewed with that, yes, it was indeed HIS plan, we packed up our bags and headed to Chevak, Alaska.
Man, it was hard. Most Sundays were spent crying on the couch, missing our families, our normalities, our Starbucks, our weekends free from work, for crying out loud. The kids were difficult to love. They talked back. They wouldn’t do their work. A couple kids told Nate later that they are mean to teachers at first to see if they can get them to leave.
“God, are you sure this is your plan? Help! We can’t do this! Lord, help us to love these kids!“
That last sentence may not sound like much of a prayer, but they may have been the most powerful 7 word prayer we have ever said in our lives. The Bible makes promises like this one in Psalms 34:7, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” As we have learned, this does not mean God gives us whatever we want whenever we want it. No, it means that as we find our every delight and joy in Him, he will change the desires of our heart to match His own.
In other words, when we said, “God, help us to love these kids,” He said a big loud, “YOU BETCHA!”
Now, it’s time for some introductions. We met this guy in line at the Anchorage airport Starbuck’s on our way back to Chevak from our third Christmas break there. He was surrounded by some Native kids talking excitedly and sporting a YL sticker on his water bottle.
Name: Brent Cunningham.
Occupation: Former Director for Young Life in Sitka, Alaska.
Current Regional Director of Young Life for the entire State of Alaska.
Doer of such amazing escapades as this.
Die-Hard Lover of Jesus and People.
We introduced ourselves to Brent, then sat on a bench with him for two hours and shared our hearts with each other for Jesus, kids and, particularly, kids in the village. We prayed. We hugged. We got contact info. We grinned. We all wondered where this new friendship might go.
The following school-year Brent called to see if he and a team of folks from Sitka could stay a few nights at our place while they came to visit Chevak in January. Sitka is home to Mount Edgecumbe High School, a boarding school for some of the best and brightest Native Alaskan kids from around the state. MEHS has a thriving Young Life program and many of the kids meet Jesus while there, only to return to the darkness of their village when through with school. Brent and Annie (a friend of mine from GFU) and the rest were traveling to some of the villages to get an idea of what life in the Bush is like for these kids.
Each night and morning of their visit, we would have a little Bible study and prayer time. Nate and I were preparing to leave Chevak that year because we had found out that fall that I was expecting our first child, so these times of prayer for Chevak felt somewhat conflicting in our hearts.
The last night, we spent a lot of time praying specifically for the kids in Chevak. As we started to pray for them, a great fountain opened up in our souls. Nate and I began to weep. But, we were not sad. Brent asked us an important question. “God gives us tears for a reason. Why are you crying?”
The only way to describe our tears is to say that God dropped into our hearts an overwhelming dropperful of His Ocean of Love for these kids.
We had prayed and He delivered. The desire of our heart lined up with His own and. BOOM. Love unspeakable and full of glory. We realized that gradually and slowly, He had helped us to fall in love with these ragamuffin kids from a place called nowhere.
Brent and the rest took off the next morning. Nate and I realized that God was calling us to one last year in the village, even though that meant ten months of putting our infant in childcare. We left Chevak after the following school year, knowing that God was using that 5th year for His Glory to teach us much and display His love through our lives.
And when we left, we had a hunch He was not done with us there…
(Story Continued here).