Archive for the 'Evangelism' Category

IMPRESSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS (Alaska Journal 2)

 “Bush Alaska” refers to communities in the vast state of Alaska that you can’t drive into or out of. Commercial transportation is limited to air or water. OK, we’ll include dogsleds and even “Ice Road Truckers” if you insist. If you read Part 1, you know that I spent two weeks recently in Galena, Alaska working with other volunteers to repair Yukon River Flood damage. The longest excursion possible on Galena’s fourteen miles of roads was to“The Mall”, as the landfill was called. Locals actually did “shop” there. Even in Alaska, my trash just could be your treasure. We visited“The Mall” on Sunday afternoons to look for bears, moose, or other wildlife (not the locals mentioned above) who were “shopping” at “The Mall”.

Here are three impressions (and their implications) from my brief experience of “Bush Alaska”. 

  • Life is hard—just ordinary everyday life. Options are extremely limited. Everything takes longer, costs more, and requires significantly more effort. For example: The store is days or weeks away. One of our team ordered (online!) some caulk from an orange-colored “big box” store so that we could complete a project. It took three days to arrive by air. The shipping cost as much as those few tubes of caulk.  Installing and insulating a floor required far greater care than typical “Lower 48″ construction. Sealing in heated air and sealing out -60 or colder outside air is critical. In addition,moisture cannot be allowed to condense in the insulation. Condensation forms ice balls, which melt when the weather warms and ruin the insulation. Every staple-hole and other opening in the vapor barrier has to be covered with ubiquitous red tape. C) Hunting is about survival, not sport. A moose head complete with antlers greeted us as we arrived for our first day of work. The neighbors had gotten their moose. The family would eat well all winter. They spent much of the next few days in the yard (too cold for flies) butchering and wrapping the meat for the freezer. We’d noticed large screw eyes in the center of the main room of most of the homes. One day someone saw a chunk of meat hanging from one. Folks routinely hang the meat to cure it right in the center of the house as they have for—a long time. Hundreds of families had lost freezers full of meat when the flood had hit last May and power was lost. Those freezers were immediately flown out in order to prevent disease from spreading in the community. As moose season drew to a close in late September, we shared both the joy of families with full freezers and the anxiety of those who hadn’t yet gotten their moose. It was a legitimate and serious subject for prayer during Sunday worship.               

IMPLICATION—[Of course even the hardships in Galena pale in comparison to the Philippines typhoon we’re only now beginning to comprehend.] 1) Let’s appreciate how blessed we are and whine less. 2) Let’s be real. Everybody has hard stuff they’re going through, even though they may be hiding it well. Let’s cut each other some slack.

  • We learned firsthand the agony and the ecstasy of “Your tax dollars at work”.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had been on the scene from the beginning, even though the disastrous flood made very little “Lower 48” news. FEMA paid transportation, food, and housing costs for about one hundred faith-based volunteers who served for at least two weeks. Americorps staff and volunteers were on the scene from the beginning doing the really hard dirty work. At their best, these two agencies and others empowered the recovery process for the community. Every morning our team leaders met with representatives of FEMA, Americorps, the Army Corps of Engineers, and state and local agencies to coordinate the overall scope of work. “When it was good (to paraphrase a nursery rhyme), it was very, very good, but when it was bad, it was horrid.” Some days we heard how synergy flowed as all these folks sat around the same table and discovered how they could work together so the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Other days we heard apparently inexplicable bureaucratic decisions. We understood that everyone had rules to follow, bosses to please, and funds for which to account. Sometimes the rules facilitated  healing and hope. Other times they became roadblocks. Sometimes the bureaucrats and our leaders were equally puzzled or frustrated.

IMPLICATION—Doing away with “government” sounds like a great quick fix, but it’s neither realistic nor humane. Broken as it is, our system serves millions of vulnerable people in important ways. Let’s keep working on it together so that it works more effectively to serve all the people of our great country.

  • Those Baptists weren’t doing evangelism exactly my way, but at least they were doing something! One day we built shelves in the Bible Church’s community pantry. I overheard volunteers from a large Texas Baptist church discuss their church planting mission in Mexico. I heard them asking the right questions! Who lives here? What’s the culture like? What are the needs and the strengths of this village? What language(s) do people speak? What sort of person will relate well to these people? I learned that the mission board through whom their church was working required that in-depth study of a potential new mission field before a missionary was sent out.

 IMPLICATION:  We mainline folk still cover our ears whenever we hear the e(vangelism)-word. Worse yet, we assume that our “target audience” is just like us. If they were, they’d already be members of our church! Reaching the mission field that is our own community requires the same rigorous study as if we were going into a foreign mission field. Do we care enough about our neighbors to do that work, in order to increase the chance that they’ll discover how Loved they are?

NEXT TIME—WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM CHURCHES SERVING IN A DISASTER ZONE?


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