"I'm leavin' on a jet plane..." and
"North, to Alaska! Going North, the rush is on..."
In only a matter of hours now I'm off to the airport for my fourth journey to Alaska to volunteer with GraceWorks, a mission organization taking the Gospel to and meeting needs of people in innercity Anchorage and beyond.
My journey to Alaska begins well before July 2008 when I first traveled to Anchorage...it actually begins in October 2007 and before, but that is a good place to start. We had our annual missions conference at Grace in October and I shared with a group of people one morning that God has given me a desire to find a mission trip for our youth to go on and asked for prayer concerning this. I was a youth leader at the time. Later on, I thought I had found just the trip...a trip to Mississippi to help with community cleanup still remaining from Katrina. It would happen over spring break 2008. Deadline to sign up was around Christmas. No one wanted to go...numerous reasons given. Okay. Now what, God? Burden is still here...where do I turn to next?
Gave it to Him to figure out...meanwhile, He led me to prepare to step down from youth leadership to use me in the children's ministry at Grace. Talk about difficult thing to obey...this was my heart's joy He was asking me to leave for something that totally intimidated me. I'd work with teens over kids anyday (still would for that matter for the most part). This was in December 2007 and it was determined and I had a peace about remaining in youth leadership until the end of May 2008. I still wanted to see us on a missions trip...even if I weren't in leadership when it happened, I felt an urgency to get the teens outside of themselves and experience something where they could see God using them in people's lives.
Deadlines came and went for the first trip and January was upon us. Sometime in late January or February of 2008 a missionary that Grace supported, Scott Kirby, was at our church. He was given a few minutes to share with the congregation at the end of the service. He spoke of what God was doing in his life and such and then his last sentence to us was, if anyone wants to get a group together to come to AK, "we'll find something for you to do." The second he ended his statement, I knew I was going to Alaska. God came and swept peace over me with that assurance right then and there. I knew why the other door had been closed and tears of joy came to my eyes. Now, I just had to figure out how I was getting there.
My Sunday school teacher at the time was also the missions committee chair, so one morning kind of out of the blue I said to him in class that I think we need to send a group to AK to help Scott Kirby since he said he'd find something for us to do. He was kind of like, oh, really? And I was not sure if he had really seemed interested or not. I didn't say anything more. Little did I know life was about to take me on a detour.
The first Saturday night in March of 2008, my husband's life hung on the line and he passed out and turned blue one time in the middle of the night in the house and then flatlined in the ambulance while getting strapped in as it sat in our driveway. They had to "zap" him to get him back as they jokingly said to keep things light on the ride to the hospital. I was in the front seat of the ambulance praying while this was all going on...my life changed there and then in that ride which seemed to take forever even though there was no traffic.
Scott is still with us today, just so you know. :)
The next couple of days turned into weeks and I heard in passing as someone called or emailed me that we were getting a team together to to to Alaska in July. I was excited, but still kind of drained at the time and didn't find out a whole lot of details then. I remember stopping in at the church to talk to Pastor Brian to give him an update on Scott and I saw a display for Alaska in the foyer. I asked Pastor about it and said I needed to sign up for that before I left. As I went over to sign up...at the top it said 20 people could go...and the list was full to #19. My name was #20. It was as if God saved the final spot just for me.
To this day, I still don't know how it came about that it was decided to come to AK...I never asked. It didn't matter, really...God told me I'd be in AK and it was happening. He is so faithful.
And, lo and behold on that list were 9 of our youth group teens...God was answering my prayers there, too, and I hadn't even been around to try and convince them they needed to go. God showed me so many things through that...His faithfulness, His timing, His everything. And, that He could get His will done in ways that I had never even thought about...and without me in the picture at all. It was about Him...for two reasons, I think. One, to keep me humble...and two, to show others that it was His will for us to go and not just an ambition of mine.
God has a way of making it all about Him...and I'm totally okay with that.
A small team from Grace went back to Alaska in 2009. And, last summer, I went to help as a GraceWorks staff member for two weeks. I served for and with an awesome team from Texas for a week then helped out in the kitchen the following week as well serving more teams that had come up from the Lower 48.
Today, on my journey North, I am thankful that God has blessed me with a heart to serve the people of Alaska. It has to be His gig, because I am a down right summer weather, the hotter the better, wish it lasted all year long, kind of gal. Only God could get me to keep on going back. Although beautiful beyond words, it tends to be rainy and cool during the summer weeks. And, somehow, I don't mind that much...but I always pray for sunshine!