When word came that Rosemary Sternbeck – long-time Lutheran Indian Ministries employee and keeper of our Fairbanks ministry site with her husband, Dave – was ready to retire, I wasn’t surprised, but I also admit, I was not quite ready.
Dave and Rosemary had been the face of our Alaska Native ministry for nearly a decade, and we knew, without them, it would not be the same ministry. Transition and change were coming, so I prayed: “All right God, how are you messing with me and what do you have in mind?”
His answer came back to me through the words of Job: “But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted (5:8-9).”
So, as a staff, we prayed, asking God to reveal His will to us and point us in His direction… not ours.
The Alaskan territory and its unique people are important to our ministry, and, as you know, Lutheran Indian Ministries has had a presence in Alaska for a very long time. Some of you have been with us from the beginning – always faithful and generous, encouraging our every step with your prayers and committed support – all the way back to our days of Pastor-Pilots.
Yet, times change, people retire, and God sets a new course and asks us to be steadfast and follow His lead. Sometimes it takes patience on our part as God prepares the way and prepares us for the next adventure.
Waiting on the Lord can be a frustrating and exhausting process. Patience, as you know is a fruit of the Spirit, but not one of my more developed ones. As we continued to pray and wait through the months, I meditated on James, specifically Chapter 1, Verse 4: “But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.”
Then, one day, our waiting was over. God called us – literally! Our answer came in the form of a phone call.
The young woman on the other end of the line explained that she had learned about LIM from a Lent devotion book she picked up at her church. After a few minutes of engaging conversation, she asked if we might ever have a need for ministry staff in Fairbanks, Alaska. She and her husband had lived there briefly, loved it, and were yearning to return, this time, to work in missions. The seasoned staffer who answered the phone wasted no time to let me know this call was of the utmost importance.
That was the first time I had the chance to speak with Sarah Milan. Sarah’s husband, Nathan, and their 4 children were living in Shreveport, Louisiana, where Nate was stationed as an officer in the United States Air Force.
Several phone calls later, I traveled to Shreveport to meet them in person. Clearly, God was revealing an answer to our prayers.
Last summer, Nate and Sarah traveled to Fairbanks to spend time with us and see, first-hand, LIM’s Alaska ministry in action. God’s call was so strong on their hearts, Nate applied for early release from his duties with the Air Force.
The release was granted and just this spring, on April 25th, just one year after the initial phone call, Nate and Sarah and their 4 children (soon to be 5, when Abigail is born in September) loaded up their truck, hitched up their RV, and began their trek to Fairbanks.
“I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”
Nathan and Sarah are a special couple with an amazing family centered on Christ. They are living like Peter who, by faith, stepped out of the boat to answer Jesus call. They are behaving like Jonathan and running toward the battle. Their fight is our next step in Alaska, building upon the mission work done before them, ministering to Native Alaskan people who need help healing from historic trauma, abuse, addiction, and suicidal thoughts, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ who loves them.
Your generous gifts to Lutheran Indian Ministries enable ministry staff like Nate and Sarah to carry on the important Kingdom work in Alaska and the lower 48 states.
The Milan’s are on a journey, not of their own making, but one God ordained. They are answering God’s call. When you make a gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries, you, too, are answering God’s call and enabling LIM to say, “Yes, God!” when amazing ministry workers come knocking on our door. God sees the work we are doing and is sending us workers for the harvest. And He has great things in store for our Alaskan Native brothers and sisters through these workers.
Guided by your prayers and encouraged by your generous gift today, Nate and Sarah can begin their ministry of hope and healing and build upon the firm foundation, set by the faithful missionaries before them.
I thank God, and I also thank you! The partnership of friends like you who generously support this mission makes possible all we do in the name of Christ and is a blessing to those who hear it.
We can’t wait to tell you the stories of changed lives in Alaska!
Tim Young Eagle (Pawnee), Executive Director
P.S. The drive from Shreveport to Fairbanks is more than 4,000 long miles. Would you make a gift of a penny a mile ($40)? A nickel a mile ($200)? How about a gift of 25 cents a mile ($1,000) to support the Milan family and our new LIM adventure in Alaska? Thank you!
Your gift today affirms that Jesus was born for all, including our Native American brothers and sisters. Thank you!
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