Our summer volunteer season in Alaska is a whirlwind of travel, excitement, busyness, sharing, learning and growing; but by the end of July it will have already come to a close. It’s a short season, yet, God does good work through it! To learn more, be sure to read our fall Northern Lights newsletter coming out in November. It always encourages us when we hear from volunteers eager to share their experiences. Invariably, they are grateful to have rekindled old relationships and build on them, and they’re also blessed by new friendships with young and old alike. God always finds a way to minister with the Gospel at just the right time for many.
Rev. David (Nuu-chah-nulth) and Rosemary Sternbeck open up their Fairbanks home each summer to volunteers flying in and out of Alaska. It is a busy time as they greet the teams to share Scripture and devotions and to pray with them in preparation for their time in remote areas. Once their event is over, the volunteers come back to the Sternbeck home-turned-mission-and-conference center for more fellowship around God’s Word. Every volunteer appreciates their hospitality and the pastoral care they receive. It allows them to go into the villages and leave Alaska refreshed both in body and spirit, confident that God will continue that which He began in the hearts of our Native brothers and sisters.
This year, Rosemary coordinated with a volunteer team from Conover, N.C., to provide a Bible and Life Skills Teen Camp in their own home in Fairbanks. Pastor Scott Johnson from St. John’s, Conover, and his wife, Denise, and several others, worked alongside Rosemary and David to host 11 Alaska Native young adults for three days of fun activities, life-skills training and Bible study. For many of these youth from Deering, Ambler and Fort Yukon, it was the first time to be in Fairbanks. Rosemary and Dave have many exciting stories they will share, but one in particular stands out for Rosemary:
Many of these youth had never been to Fairbanks, so this trip started the conversation for several of them to consider college and to wait until they are older to have children. One of the young men runs a trap line and another is already one of the main hunters in his community, supplying elders with subsistence food for the winter. One of the girls would love to have her own sewing machine, and a second girl says she has already dusted off her mother’s machine, so we will work on sewing projects via long distance. One of the teens who was baptized last year says he is enjoying reading God’s Word every day and encouraging others.
During one of our break-away sessions after Bible study, our discussion centered around their being that ‘light’ in their own village and how they think God has been talking to them about it. One of the girls asked me in such a pensive voice, ‘But how do I know what is God’s will for my life?’ Her longing to know brought me to tears. We discussed her question together as a group.
One of the young men who joined us has had two years of intense struggle with addictions. He has a large personality that is crying out for direction and acceptance. He shared his family roots with me and who he is related to in his neighboring village in Shungnak. I told him I knew this particular relative and showed him pictures I had taken of this wonderful elder in prayer and song. I told him that when I am with his relative, it is like we are in heaven already.
My young friend said, “People tell me I will never change, I will never be any good.”
I told him, “You come from a strong spiritual people, that is who you are.”
After a few seconds of deep thought, he asked me, “Do you think I could be a good pastor?”
I told him, “If God calls you, I think He would make you a wonderful pastor!”
After she told her story to us, Rosemary asked, “Where do we go from here?” revealing her dedication toward these young Native men and women.
Rosemary’s commitment mirrors our own as a Native ministry. So, where do we go from here with impressionable young Native men and women eager to seek God’s will for their lives?
Foremost, we will continue to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the lives of the young people He places on our path, so we ask for your prayers, too.
All of us at Lutheran Indian Ministries are humbled by this young man’s spiritual quest. Do we think he could be a good pastor? Should God indeed call him, yes! And we want to be ready to help point the way for him, and others like him, who desire to answer God’s good and perfect will for their lives.
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