Thank You, Stranger

God's peace!

I hope that this finds you all in God's gracious favor. We are all blessed in one way or another, and I know God is behind each and every one of our blessings!

My name is Abigail*, and I am from a very small Alaskan Native village only accessible by boat and plane. 

As I write this thank you note, the sun is starting to shine more and more, and the darkness lasts only a few hours every day. We set our clocks to "spring forward" in March, and soon the sun will shine for twenty-four hours and no darkness will be allowed. But in November, we will "fall back" once more and be subject to days of darkness again.

I've fallen back in my life more times than I want to remember. If it weren't for the loving, caring, non-judging, positive people that God put in my life, I would have probably fallen back too far and never had the opportunity to spring forward into God's good and gracious light. I would never have had the chance to proclaim God's Word to other lost souls.

And, isn't that our main mission in this life? We are told to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all Jesus has taught us. (Matthew 28:19-20).

As I look back on my life so far, it was during the saddest, most depressing time that God allowed precious disciples to enter my broken and shattered life and help me to start putting the pieces back into place.

These loving people were surely sent from God, as I don't think anyone else would have or could have dealt with the craziness going on in my life at that time.

When I became involved with Lutheran Indian Ministries, I had lost my home, my self-respect, my physical appearance (drugs will do that to you!), my health, and, worst of all, my children.

To be honest with you, this wasn't the first time I had lost custody of my children, and each time I would sober up and fight to get them back. But this time, I was fighting so many other demons, I was terrified I would lose them for good!

It was at that point, at my absolutely lowest, that God showed up. When I finally stopped trying to fix things myself, because I knew there was no way I could, God sent Dave and Rosemary and a Bible. 

These two special people opened their home and their hearts to me when I had no one and nowhere else to go. I was trying my hardest to stay away from the alcohol and drugs for my kids, but I was tired. Giving into temptations is easy, and I almost went back. It was what I knew. It is, unfortunately, a part of who I am, as it is with so many Alaska Natives. When I'm in my own community, the power of peer pressure (even as an adult) is overwhelming. And sometimes, I just don't want to fight it. It dulls the pain and the worry... until I wake up.

And eventually, I would wake up and realize the mistakes I had made. 

I would realize that I wasn't just damaging myself, I was damaging my children and my future grandchildren. I do not want this life for my children.

The cycle has to end somewhere, and that's where Lutheran Indian Ministries and the Sternbecks have changed my life. I knew that to fix my life I needed to overcome major obstacles. I would need to need to work harder than I ever have. I would need to work through the long, hurt-filled separation from my children. I would need to work through the trauma that occurred in my life. I would need to work through multiple addictions. And to do all that, I needed help.

God began sending me the people I needed, people who could help me rebuild my life. In my darkest hour, God led these people to strengthen and encourage me when it felt like everyone else was abandoning me.

There were many people who came alongside me, but most influential were Dave and Rosemary. They have been such a blessing in my life and the lives of my children. I thank God for them daily. They are such an inspiration to me, and I know I wouldn't be where I am without their guidance (especially in the Word) and their constant reminders to go back to the Word. They share God's love so freely and selflessly and have shown me what it truly means to have a servant's heart.

They lifted me up. They loved me. They explained to me the salvation I have in Jesus. They taught me.

I've learned that the trauma of my childhood, the abuses I suffered, pushed me toward alcohol and drugs to hide my pain. The same is true for my mother and my grandmother. The generational trauma runs so deep in my community, as in many others, that it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I learned that it took generations to get this "broken," and it will take generations to fix.

But there is a light, and that is the light of Jesus. I learned that being saved and believing in Jesus Christ as my Savior doesn't mean my life will be perfect, but that I have a constant companion in Him who will carry me through the hard times and celebrate with me in the good.

In the midst of the darkness, I often felt like a burden. I worried that I was taking too much and had nothing to give back. The help I received seemed like so much more than I deserved, and it was! But so is Jesus' death and resurrection. I did not deserve the eternal life I have with Him, but He loves me and gave it to me anyway.

I know God's love because of the love Dave and Rosemary give to me, even when I can't love myself. I know God's mercy and forgiveness because of the way they forgive me and accept me, flaws and all. I know God's faithfulness because they are always there for me and my family, no matter the hour. They shine God's light when all I can see is darkness.

I am a long way from being "fixed." But, I know that my strength comes from the Lord, and I feel like I am on the right path. It's a slippery path, and I still fall more often than I'd like. But now, when I fall, I look for God's light to lead me and, thankfully, I have great light-bearers to point me in the right direction.

But more than that, I have you, Stranger.

I don't know who you are, but I know that without your prayers and donations to Lutheran Indian Ministries, I would not be where I am today. I know that you are the one who allows Dave and Rosemary to do the amazing work they do in Alaska. Your gifts allow LIM's ministry staff to work all over the country to help Native people, of all nations, learn about the love and mercy and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father and the salvation we have through his Son, Jesus. Your support helps Native people, as a whole, to spring forward into God's glorious light.

So, thank you! And even though I don't know you, Stranger, I consider you my friend.

God bless you, my Friend.

*Name changed for confidentiality.