I'm back to civilization after two weeks of zero communication with the outside world. My beard was getting pretty wild out there, let me tell you. Brooks Range Bible Camp was an experience like I've never had before, and I'm extremely grateful to Kingdom Air Corps for giving me the opportunity to go.
My role at the camp was to capture photos and videos to combine into a video recap of the week for the kids to take home with them. I was also able to spend time with the kids - especially when Krystal, a girl from Anaktuvuk, was taking photos for me from time to time.
I think the way I'll do this is share (at least most of) my journaling with you here. At the end of this blog you'll get to see the two videos I created for the two weeks of camp.
July 10, 2017
The long cross country flight to Northern Alaska is difficult to put into words. Once we passed by Denali National Park, we entered into true wilderness country. Forests, streams, rivers, and hills are scattered between mountain ranges far and wide for hours of bush plane flight time. Completely untouched earth but for the "winter trail" and rare cabin with its own marker on the flight chart.
I know it doesn't hold a candle to the vast, wild lands of Russia- but it does hold its own when it comes to beautiful landscapes.
|"Fireweed" flowers get their name from their ability to grow in quickly after wildfires.|
|Benj flying the "Orange blob" Cessna 170|
The flight to Nenana took us about 2.5-3 hours in our Cessna Skyhawk 172. After fueling up there, we flew to Alakakket and awaited Dwayne's report on the conditions for flying the rest of the way to camp. We met the Fox family (Brad and Madeline) who are missionaries with SEND in Alakakket. After some dinner, we hadn't heard back from Dwayne so we spent the night there in the "hall". I slept on the bench with just my fleece as a pillow.
July 11, 2017
We had breakfast and coffee at the "Tribe" office building. They were so kind to feed us with pancakes and sausage! The native people are very hospitable.
We flew out after breakfast and arrived to camp at Crevice Creek just in time for lunch. Total flight time from King Ranch to the Brooks Range Camp was about 6 hours I think.
After lunch we setup all the "cabins" with tarps and bunks. There was a bit of free time so Ben & Chelsea, Josiah, Isaiah and I went to the river and I scoured for fishing spots. We didn't find any but Isaiah told me where to go next time. So many mosquitos!
After dinner we had a big group of us staff play some basketball knockout. I lost one out of four or five games.
Showered and went to bed, no darkness at all here.
July 12, 2017
Staff meetings are every morning at 8-9, then breakfast. We started sending planes out at around 10am to go pickup kids from Alakakket and Anaktuvuk. I went with the first planes to Anaktuvuk to capture the kids' excitement from the ground.
The flight over the Brooks Range mountains was incredible. Once we arrived kids swarmed the plane before we had a chance to even unbuckle from our seats. Everyone wants to be on the fist planes to Camp. I ended up staying there in the village until the last group of kids were flown to camp.
I was given a tour of the village from Devlin. He showed me their store, police department, church, museum, basketball courts (the local favorite sport), and school. After my time with Devlin I was invited over to Vera and Todd's home for lunch. She fed me sourdough pancakes, and I had a great time conversing with them. We talked about their village, Alaska, their history, and I talked with Todd about the gospel. Todd loves to hunt and fish so we had a great time talking about that. He fried up some Caribou for me to try - what a treat! It is definitely one of the best tasting game I've had. Their two grandkids (Sarah and Kailey) had fun taking my hat, playing some "magic" tricks, and playing hide and seek. They drew me a couple pictures :). Their hospitality was a blessing and they said I would be welcome there anytime I come back. If I go back, I will definitely go fishing with Todd!
The rest of the day has been a bit hectic. There are 45 kids this year! That's over 10 more than any previous year. We had a great time singing worship songs and hearing from Brad Fox for chapel. Brad is teaching chapels this week on the theme of God's power to rescue. Tonight's session was about God rescuing Israel from Egypt.
|Group picture from the first week|
July 13, 2017
Took pictures of games outside today. Several kids have asked to take pictures, so I've let them a bit :). Helped with dishes for breakfast and dinner to help relieve counselors and staff. One of the native girls (Krystal) who is now a counselor has been going around with my camera taking photos for me that I couldn't otherwise get. It's been great, and has given me a chance to spend time with a few of the kids.
The boys all love playing basketball. A couple of them have been having an extra hard time with staying plugged in with the group. They struggle getting along with the other kids and get upset very easily. It's sad to watch but I've tried spending time with them especially, to help out their counselors and minister to them with my time and attention. These are hard situations because you want those who do pay attention to get the most out of the week, and these kids seem a distraction to everything right and good. But do we ignore the "trouble" kids? Are they a lost cause? Or are they exactly who Christ came to save and minister to? What would He have done? He often picked out of large, religious crowds the least liked and most "distracting" people to minister to. He chooses the weak and the foolish to shame the strong and the wise of this world.
July 14, 2017
Last night and today I was able to spend more time with Keasean. He loves sports, especially basketball. He makes up rules for all kinds of games, which he always seems to win :).
I also spent some time with one of the cabins after our chapel session with Brad. I was able to direct some conversation with the Gospel and how they can put their faith in Christ. Afterwards I joined a staff prayer group for the kids and their counselors. It has been a true blessing to see God working, and to trust Him more and more with difficult situations.
July 15, 2017
Today I mostly worked on finishing the video to show this evening to the kids. It turned out really well and everyone enjoyed it. Really thankful to have Krystal taking photos for me during these times and others. She is great with portraits and gets shots I probably wouldn't be able to get.
Brad closed out chapels with practical ways the kids can continue walking with God. I really appreciate his teaching this week and his work up here the past few years. It's not an easy place to minister.
Dwayne came back tonight and everyone swarmed him for the next few hours. He did the scream run with all the kids.
I'm praying for the Lord to continue to work on my heart. I've grown to love these kids and wonder if I could be willing to take the gospel call to one of these villages, especially Anaktuvuk Pass. I've been blessed with so much more knowledge of God and His Word than these people have. I feel the responsibility to share the grace and love I've been given. Most of these kids have no one to disciple them outside of these two weeks of the year. Who will go?
July 24, 2017
I wasn't disciplined enough to keep a journal for the second week of camp. But I will try to at least mention highlights.
On our day off (Monday) between weeks a group of us hiked up Gunsight Mountain. It was the most bushwhacking I've ever done! We are truly in Alaska wilderness backcountry.We crossed rivers, did balancing acts through the swampy tundras, stumbled through trees, and charged through bushes trying to not trip over ourselves while fending off the constant onslaught of mosquitos. We were thankful to not run into any bears in the thick bush. The view from the top was awesome! Worth the hard work. We planted a flag at the top which we all signed. Pilots were able to see it from the air later! We decided to take a different path down which turned into a long adventurous trek. We all ended very wet and dirty from hiking through the marshes around some lakes.
|Crossing the Allen River|
|Enjoying the views on the hike up|
|Ormun atop dead tree that only lived a few minutes after this picture was taken|
|Finally past the trees and brush, on to the peak!|
|Views are starting to get good|
|View from the top, you can see the runway at camp on the left side - it points right to the four lakes|
|Absolutely stunning views of the John River and surrounding mountains.|
|Our beautiful little flag we planted at the peak, signed by everyone. It was later seen by pilots flying by on the way to Anaktuvuk.|
|Our happy hiking group! (Left to right: Caitlin, Ormun, Lena, Tanya, Drew, me)|
|For my mom :)|
|Hard to make out (I only had my phone!) but there is a grizzly and her cub in the more open trees. Kinda a brown blob just above and right of the center of this photo.|
|One of the lakes we went by on our hike out.|
|Panorama version of the above photo.|
The teen week was much different. Much more relaxed in ways, yet more serious/deep for chapels and conversations with the kids. Basketball was a good connection point for me with several of them. I really appreciate how Nate Weimer preached the chapels. He boldly presented the gospel on day one and moved right into teaching about how the Spirit works in our lives. He taught on many aspects of how Christians ought to grow and become more like Christ. He presented a lot of ideas but did a great job of communicating the key concepts in a way they could easily grasp and take home. It was easy to see his heart for these kids, echoing our hearts for them to grow and become leaders in their villages.
I was able to join a couple of the cabin times again, and helped direct conversations a bit. Other times I joined the staff prayer times, which were really good. We were always blessed to lay our requests before the Lord and see our prayers answered so consistently. We once lifted up a specific cabin and heard the next morning that they had a long really good talk with their kids.
|Gorgeous sunset, gorgeous plane, how can you go wrong?|
|Beautiful rainbow during sunset.|
|Sunsets in Brooks Range were INCREDIBLE!|
|Panorama view of the sun going down behind the mountains.|
I have felt more and more burdened for these guys and their people. There were several guys that seemed genuinely interested in growing more.
Thanks for reading, caring, and praying for me during my time here in Alaska.