Most people have definite favorites when it comes to holidays. My mother’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. She loved to cook and have all of her kids gathered together. Unlike Christmas, with its expectations and anxieties, she could relax in her element. For others, one season bleeds seamlessly into the next with thankfulness for all of our earthly needs being met along with celebrating the joy of our salvation, Jesus our Lord.
So with that last thought in mind, Elijah and Lisa Nelles, Carissa Wittig, and I flew to the village of Venetie and stayed from November 3rd-5th. Elijah is originally from Venetie. This summer, he and Lisa were working on a building project while the other members of their Vacation Bible School team, worked with the children. Our idea was to have a mini Vacation Bible School gathering with the younger ones and afterward share food with the community. Margo Simple, the Episcopalian priest in the village, negotiated very comfortable accommodations for us at the Early Childhood building. It was close to the newly renovated Youth Center where we taught the children and shared meals.
The children who had attended Vacation Bible School this summer were glad to see us. Our lesson was on the life of Moses; starting with his genealogy of God's people and how God used him to accomplish His plan of building a nation through whom the savior of the world would come. We shared songs, crafts, and games making for a long, fun-filled evening.
Because we gave the lesson in the youth center, many teens were coming and going watching what we were doing. Afterwards, as we were able to spend time talking to them, several shared with Elijah, especially, how they were struggling with making good decisions and asked if there was a program or activity we could bring for them when we returned. We are hoping to have many of the Venetie teens join us at Camp Bingle in 2018 for Teen Camp.
On Sunday morning, we made a quick walk to visit Elijah’s grandmother who is wheelchair-bound. After Sunday service, we enjoyed a pot of beans at the church and talked to a few adults eager to brainstorm ways to bring more life skill activities to the community for the teens. Unfortunately, then, our time was up, and it was time to catch the plane back to Fairbanks.
Back home, we finished filling boxes with groceries for the Christmas celebration boxes and shipped them off to 21 different Alaska Native villages. A special thanks goes to those who donated a box or covered the shipping costs to make this project so successful!
As a closing thought...often we wonder if our limited attempts to share God's love has any lasting effects on the lives of others. But, through two separate conversations with ladies in Venetie, I assure you, the Holy Spirit makes up for what we lack. The names of the two ladies, “Granny Goose” and Linda Mae Scolman, who had served faithfully twenty years ago with Lutheran Indian Ministries (Formerly known as Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots) were mentioned with fond memories for their love and dedication to proclaim the Gospel.
As we make the final Christmas arrangements for the villages and begin looking ahead to our busy summer schedule, we want to thank you for your generosity and support of LIM in your prayers, financial giving, encouraging, and all you do!
Written by: Rosemary Sternbeck