We are reminded of the verse in Colossians 4:3 as our staff, Rev. David and Rosemary Sternbeck, prepare for this year's volunteer season in Alaska: “Pray for us that God may open a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ.”
David (Nuu-chah-nulth) serves as missionary-at-large in all of Alaska. He travels and meets with Christian leaders and organizations to offer his support of their efforts and to help assess many of the spiritual, social and tangible needs in Native villages. Rosemary’s work as our volunteer coordinator dovetails with David’s. Beginning a year in advance, Rosemary spends countless hours coordinating with summer volunteer teams desiring to serve in Alaska Native villages.
It’s no small task to match volunteers with villages. Rosemary will have had to communicate village needs, volunteer resources and available dates for everyone involved. She also coordinates with volunteer arrival and departure times to and from Fairbanks, which, in most cases, is their starting point before making their way to remote places. Couple this with welcoming as many as 14 volunteer teams into their home over the next three months, it is a miracle the way it comes together—all this so that Natives in Alaska can know that, through Jesus, they are forgiven and made right with God!
Each volunteer team has spent months planning their work projects, Bible stories, crafts and songs. They have generated their own funds to make the trip and to purchase their supplies, including food and beverages. Remember, they will spend at least a week in remote areas where there are no supermarkets or building supply stores. They will have shipped most of their supplies in advance. Imagine the anticipation by the time these volunteers arrive in the Last Frontier!
This year our volunteers come from Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and even Hawaii. They are serving the Alaska villages of Tanana, Kiana, Ruby, Point Hope, Alakaket, Kobuk, Arctic Village, Deering, Ambler, Shungnak, Circle, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Minto and Old Minto. Rosemary also has coordinated with volunteers from Idaho who will serve in Navajo, New Mexico.
Tim Norton, our staff member at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Navajo, N.M., is bringing Navajo men to Alaska to serve in a hammer-and-nail project in Old Minto—a place so remote that they will travel first by plane and then boat to reach the village. They are very excited. Athabascan Natives in Alaska and the Navajo in the Lower 48 are distantly related by their Na-Dene languages, so it an honor for them to serve their own people.
Finally, Rosemary has organized a “Fairbanks Bible and Life Skills Teen Camp” to take place in their home and led primarily by volunteers from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Conover, North Carolina. They have planned a weeklong visit filled with fun activities, Bible study and interaction with other Christian teens from the Sternbecks’ home church at Zion in Fairbanks. The youth also will attend cultural events in town.
We asked Rosemary how she and David are able manage all the details and activities for so many events in three months’ time. Her answer reflects their willing servants’ heart, knowing that God wants all Natives in Alaska to hear and believe:
“There are young men in these villages who have expressed their desire to serve as pastors or missionaries. Who will take this to heart if it’s not us? There are girls who flourish when we show them love and teach them art, sewing and cooking. God has created a community of Christian believers much larger than these children have ever experienced. We want them to know that the body of Christ supports them in prayer, loves them and wants to see hopes and dreams come to fruition. Even if they don’t become ordained pastors or called missionaries, they are still the next generation of Christian believers. They will be the ones to share the Gospel with their own people.”
We have provided a prayer card to help you to remember to pray for Sternbecks and all the volunteers throughout this spring and summer. We encourage you to keep it with your Bible to pray that God will open doors for them to share the Gospel and Christ’s love as they serve in these Alaska Native villages. Thank you!
Click here to download the Prayer Card for the 2014 Volunteer Teams and Alaska Villages.
Click here to download a PDF version of this article.