In March of this year, Bill Paris packed up his life and moved across the country from Dayton, Ohio, to Lawrence, Kansas, to become a full time volunteer with the Haskell LIGHT Campus Ministry. Little did he know, this adventure would take him even farther from home.
Around the time things start to slow down on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus, ministry is revving up in Alaska and extra help is always needed. So, once again, Bill packed up and moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, for the summer.
While his main job was to help at the Mission Training Center, which sees volunteer teams coming and going all summer, he was also able to enjoy the Alaskan experience.
"I was able to accompany two different volunteer groups on their trips to the villages," Bill explained. "The first trip was to Kiana, near the Bering Sea. Some of the time, I was "Papa Bill", an Elder story teller (so I felt I had to grow out my beard to look the part!). I talked about the lessons I have learned from Path Maker (Jesus, the One who made and walked perfectly on the path we are on in our lives)."
He also got to play tour guide to groups around Fairbanks, take part in a state-wide march for the prevention of abuse in Native villages, and watch the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.
But the highlight of the trip was Teen Camp. "Watching the kids work and learn together was very powerful. Much joy filled the camp, especially when 12 teens stepped forward to get baptized!" Bill recollects. "I hope everyone gets to experience an event like that; it's life changing."
Bill is back in Larwence now and preparing to reach a new group of students with Jesus' love. Already this school year, the Haskell LIGHT House has hosted a Welcome Back Bash and a number of Sunday Lunch with the Bible get togethers, and the ministry staff is looking forward to some new outreach opportunities. In the works: a storytelling workshop, a trip to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, and the big rededication of the World War I memorial statue located in the football stadium on campus.
Based on the number of students we have stopping in just to see what we’re about,” Bob remarks, “it looks like it’s going to be an exciting year!”