Monday, July 29, 2013

Denali National Park 2013

alaska2013bucketlist
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You.  
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all.
1 Chronicles 29:11
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Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place.
1 Chronicles 16:27
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There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your aid, the clouds in His majesty.
Deuteronomy 33:26
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AK Bucket List: [combat] Fishing...Seward...Exit Glacier

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Driving South out of Anchorage
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Ferry to cross Russian River for fishing.
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Combat fishing on Russian River
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Found another spot down river...just as crazy!
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Glacier as you come into Seward, AK
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family photo in front of Resurrection Bay


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Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park
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Jr. Ranger, Tim
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Jr. Ranger, Alex

Saturday, July 27, 2013

AK 2013: It's Monday!!!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church 
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21
Monday, June 24th
The day that I/we have been waiting for all year long finally arrived!  Honestly, it's better than Christmas morning for me.  Getting to be a part of something so totally bigger than myself is the most awesome thing ever!  God is going to do amazing things this week and today was the first day to witness His ability to make a distraction an attraction.
Monday mornings of our trip are most often early mornings due to the fact that our bodies are still on EST. Nothing like being awake at 4 or 5 AM after having just arrived in Anchorage around midnight (or 2 AM, so some did).
However, I awoke after my 2.5 hours of sleep, thanking God that ALL of our team made it in to Anchorage! A few hours earlier, I did not know if this was going to be the case.  Three of our team were delayed in Atlanta and eventually had their initial flight canceled.  However, thanks to a great gentleman who helped them go over details with the agent, they all boarded a flight to Portland and made it from there to Anchorage sometime after 1 AM.  I stayed awake to welcome them in to the church and give them all big hugs!  I was so thankful that God provided a means to getting them here for the beginning of our week!
Enjoying a cup of coffee with S and R before breakfast...okay, maybe more than onetwo, three...I could not help but smile.  It was finally our turn in a park.  Oh, the thoughts that were going through my head!  The joy...excitement...the wonderment of it all!
Orientation happens on Monday morning.  I will not give you the word for word orientation, but I, along with 20+ other people, could if you ever want to hear it.  :)  After orientation, we were served lunch at the church. Last minute prep has taken place, we have eaten, we are loading up the vans...it's park time!
Driving up the road to our park, it's a scene unfolding in front of us that should surprise us...but it does not because we are on a spiritual battlefield when on this mission.  Not just one, but several police cars are parked where we usually park our vans.  People are chatting with police, not necessarily voluntarily though. We park on the other side of the park and proceed to get our things out and set up for the day.  Lots of kids are already at the park trying to see and figure out what is going on at the neighbor's.  It ends up that 5 police cars and a firetruck later, a man is hauled off in handcuffs in the back of a police cruiser for whatever it is that he has allegedly done.
However, what Satan meant as a distraction, God used as an attraction to the park.  People came milling in from every direction.  We were able to meet people and talk with them about the police cars and such and why we were there.  In the middle of all the police business, we had little faces to meet and greet.  Our park hosts are awesome!  I have had the pleasure of getting to know them a little over the past two weeks...even have visited our park on a few occasions and put some names with faces ahead of time.  It has made the transition into our park so smooth having such great staff to work alongside of us, giving us the direction we need to get our feet on the ground and running.
We meet kids, hand out lunches, put names with faces...loving every second of it!
It comes time for the Bible lesson.  Most kids are gathered around the picnic table.  So, I go where the kids are and attempt to teach them where they are.  Unfortunately, behind me is the swing set.  On it, someone is flying like Superman.  David and Jonathan's story of friendship cannot compete with Superman.  So, I turn and enjoy the moment with the other kids.  After that has subsided, I get in the rest of the lesson.  For the typical chaotic Monday afternoon, it's not so bad.  I expect it, so it does not rattle me.  I do note that things need to change for the rest of the week.
As we are chatting with the kids at the picnic table, a discussion occurs with one boy, N, over what he likes for a summer day's treat.  He says rootbeer floats.  It inspires the notion that we will take the money given to our team from a men's SS class to use on our park kids and purchase ice cream and rootbeer for tomorrow after the Bible lesson.  We will give them a treat after each Bible lesson if they sit down and actually listen the rest of the week.  The plan is coming together for the rest of the week and our first day isn't even over yet!
One little boy has stolen a piece of my heart.  L is a red-headed, smiling all the time, fast talking boy becoming a fast friend of mine.  His stories go long and get longer as you listen.  As we were getting ready to leave the park, he is accused of doing something to another boy in the park.  The older sister goes off on L and his brother...her voice can be heard around the block, I am sure.  Mrs. S and I encourage and usher the boys out of the park, telling them to go home and stay there for their own safety.  The sister is still steaming over whatever it is she thinks has happened.  As our team is going toward a trailer park to pass out flyers about our park party on Wednesday, Mrs. S and I see the boys outside of their house playing.  We stand in front of their house on the side of the street watching as a group comes toward the house...the older sister leading the way.  Just before the group gets there we convince the boys to go inside until they pass by.  We have an opportunity then to speak with his mother for a few seconds.  She is a street tough lady.  Reminds me of what the older sister is going to turn out like unless the pattern is broken.  The posse passes by without incident and remains away for the time we are there.  Meanwhile, the rest of the team has had good contacts inside the trailer park.  It's time to go back to the church.  I was praying for things to settle down while we head back...the mama in me really wanted to protect my newest young ones that have made their way into my life...my heart.  But much more and way better than I ever could, God has His eye on them.
The day in the park flew by...the excitement of being there among the kids is evident on all of our faces.  The bonding takes place rather quickly with most kids.  Others...it will take some time, as can be expected.
Monday evening after dinner we have free, so I take those who want to go with me to the Native New Life service.  It's a church service on a Monday night that is videoed and broadcasted throughout the villages of Alaska.  Singing, sharing of testimonies, and a speaker are part of tonight's service.  It was cold in there, thankfully, or it would have been more of a struggle to stay awake.  The time change and busy day were catching up to us all.  It was a blessing to be there and experience a different way of worship.
It has been an amazing day with hopes of more to come!
God is God...and He is good! 

AK 2013: the one with the First Aid Clinic

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40
Tuesday, June 25th
Tuesday morning.  
The morning of the day with the First Aid clinic...and...I am excited!!!
Gone is the pit in the stomach whenever someone uses those three words in a sentence.  Gone are the anxious moments about what to do for this time in the park.  Gone is the dread, desperation, and doubt that there is a purpose in these hours about to be upon us.
Confidence and contentment are such better companions today.
Because God has a plan...and a sense of humor.
A plan He began last year.
A plan where He would remove me from the equation, yet require me to be a factor all at the same time.
A plan to involve many to reach many.
The ultimate plan to show Himself awesome and merciful.
But, I am getting ahead of myself...
After a good first day, we were excited to see what God had in store for today.  I was up and worked on t-shirts for upcoming teams before breakfast.  It was good to get some more work done in preparation of my departure at the end of the week.  Sad to think of it already...
I remained back from the hike this morning and continued working on prep work for upcoming weeks while others hiked and helped with make the kids' lunches with Mrs. L.  Tomorrow I will hike with the fam and team...today I needed to work.  I may or may not have consumed more coffee in those few hours than ever before in my life, but at least it was decaf.  :)  It was one of those mornings...
Today in the park, we were excited to see how the rootbeer floats would go over.  I was happy to see the sunshine remaining so that it would be a good day for an ice cream treat.  We get there to a few kids already in the park and NO police cars.  It is so awesome how these children make their way into your heart so quickly.  Only the official second day and I am so looking forward to the hugs and fun we get to share with them.
Kids come and get their lunches.  We brought some cardboard to put on our picnic table for a smoother top today.  It's a grand idea, as is putting the largest tarp we could find down for kids to sit on for lunches and the Bible lesson.  As the kids are finishing up lunches and beginning to play again, S and I go and purchase the ice cream and rootbeer at the store down the street.  Time to see what the kids will or will not do for an ice cream float.
Every single one of the children in the park, ages 2 to teenager, came and sat on that tarp. 
What an amazing God we serve to have initiated a conversation between N and one of our team/hosts about what treats they like in the summer.  From that conversation yesterday to having every child sitting and listening to the Bible story today, I stand in awe of the goodness of God.  He cares for those who need to hear His message of salvation through His Son, Jesus.  He uses all things to draw people unto Himself.
The kids heard the lesson and then enjoyed their treat until we ran out of ice cream and rootbeer.  The joy on their faces was priceless.  They smiled even bigger with the promise of another treat tomorrow.
More personal stories, crafts, and fun were shared throughout the afternoon.  Two brothers have become my helpers and my buddies.  One is more like my shadow.  :)
N and L have a story that will unfold more as this week goes on, I am sure.  As it does, I will do what I can to love on them and help them in any way possible.  Any level of cleanliness and personal hygiene is basically nonexistent.  Dirt is caked on them from head to toe.  One permeates an odor that is gut-wrenching.
But I hug them as if they were my own.
They are mine, afterall, for this week.
Each one of us has found ourselves claiming them all as our own.  It is evident we are where God wanted us to be, right when He wanted us here.  The ability to love on these children is nothing short of a miracle from God Himself.
The afternoon went by so quickly.  There was a lot less tension among the kids in the park today, too.  We were not for sure how things would go after yesterday's scuffle.  Thankful that the tempers cooled down and our time at the park went without yelling and screaming threats today.
We said our goodbyes and reminded them that if they came back to the park tonight and participated in our First Aid Clinic they would get a gift.  Some wanted to know what it was, but we told them it was a surprise. We had our wonderfully awesome, super delicious Alaskan fish dinner before the clinic.  (I am so going to miss blackened salmon...last year I craved it every Tuesday for a month once home.)  It was our clean up day, so after every meal today we helped with sweeping, cleaning the tables, taking out the trash, and refilling items on the table.  It's a little job when we all pitch in and help.
As we wrapped up the cleaning, I grabbed the box of stuffed animals...aka "Boo Boo Bears"...for the clinic. My mind kept racing, wondering how tonight was going to go.
Finally, after all the months of waiting it was time to see what God had in store for His idea of our First Aid Clinic.  I caught myself holding my breath as we drove up, wondering if any kids would come.  As soon as we were in sight of the park, I saw several children running around.  I could breathe again.  Even adults were milling around the park tonight.
We brought out the tarp.  I have come to love this tarp!  It is a symbol of something good to come to the children...both God's Word and something of this world.  The kids see the tarp, they know to come and sit on it.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude toward God for giving us over 25 kids at our First Aid Clinic. Adults sat around the edges.  An older brother of two of our regulars, sat on the edge looking in.  Never had a clinic been so well attended in the previous weeks.  It was God...and it was good!
I welcomed everyone to our clinic.  As we were all getting settled in on the tarp and I had just begun to speak, the ice cream truck rolled up right beside where I was standing and trying to talk.  Unbelieveable!  Satan did not want us to get through this night easily.  As some children ran over to the truck, although with absolutely no money, I called over my shoulder that they needed to remember about their gift after I was finished speaking.  Most of them sat back down quickly.  Sometime in the next few minutes, the truck pulled away.  Trying to refocus our group, I asked them what First Aid is and some gave some good answers.  Most answered that it was saving someone's life.  I addressed that First Aid can save someone's life, but most first aid is bandaging up wounds that we receive.  I talked about three types of injuries that everyone was familiar with: scratches, cuts, and burns.  There were several with stories to share about things that had happened to them and how they were taken care of when they got hurt.  I discussed with everyone how to first clean the wound and then cover/ice down the wound, depending upon it's severity.
As we wrapped up the discussion on those types of wounds, I introduced the second half of our clinic by saying that some wounds that we have cannot be seen on the outside of our skin like cuts and scrapes.  The wounds we carry on the inside from hurtful things that are said to us, feeling unloved and alone, to sickness that is not visible, such as cancer, that makes us sick or hurts us by taking someone we love away from us.  The First Aid that we covered for the unseen wounds was all about Jesus.  This is where it got good, folks.
Really Good.
For each type of unseen wound, I had one of the teenage girls read Scripture to help us realize how to "treat" it.  For feeling unloved and alone we read John 3:16; for sadness/hurt feelings we read James 5:14; and for serious illness we read Matthew 9:35.  Each of the girls read the verse and then explained it in kids' terms for them and shared about what the verse meant.  The girls did a wonderful job.  So proud of them!
After the girls shared, I summed up all of what we had discussed and prepared the kids for their gift by explaining that they were going to get to choose a stuffed animal to take home with them to have as a reminder of what to do when hurting from a wound...whether on the outside or the inside.  They were going to get to tie a bandage onto their Boo Boo Bear Bring on the stuffed animals.  On these bandages were the Scripture references that we had just read during our clinic.  God's Word was going home with them.  Some of the kids didn't just want three bandages, one of each Scripture, but lots more bandages!  I loved seeing the team/hosts helping tie those bandages onto the animals with the children.  One little tiger was all covered in strips of white cloth.  The smiles on their faces were priceless.  Even the boys who were rather standoffish picked out some of the most colorful animals we had to offer.  They even posed for a picture with them.  The littles running around had their arms full with their animals.  On the slide, the teeter-totter, the tire swing...everywhere you looked you saw children playing with their animals.  Warm fuzzies moment!!!
God did amazing things here tonight.  He made First Aid fun!  He gave the children something to smile about and take home with them.  And, He made a way for His Word to cross the threshold of every home represented at our clinic.  Most likely we are not going to get to see how those animals with bandages make a difference in someone's life this week, but someday the seed that was planted this very night at this very First Aid Clinic is going to be watered and harvested.  Praise our awesome God for His making a way in the wilderness!
After our clinic, we drove around being good Mooseinaries...missionaries looking for moose.  Found none of those, but we did find a McD's that drew the attention of some in our van wanting some ice cream or other treat.  It was a great day!
God is God and He is good!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AK 2013: Park Party Time

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. 
Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. 
Hebrews 4:15-16
Wednesday, June 26th
Praise God for another beautiful day!
This morning, several of us went on the Blueberry Hill hike.  I walked with Mrs. O on the paved path, while the others took the more rugged path.  We joined up with a lovely lady from the Fairbanks group.  When at the landing, we took time to pray for the park ministry that week, the city, and our teams/staff.  Those minutes spent in prayer were so refreshing...so needed.  Apparently the mosquitoes thought there was an open invitation to join in on our time of prayer, too...praise God that this has been the only time I have been actually bitten by any.  Two and a half weeks in, I have to say this is a praise for they have swarmed me and landed on me, but nothing more.  The honorary AK state birds are large and in charge this summer, causing some to take drastic measures to try and keep them at bay.  Taking shots of vinegar slightly diluted with water is not something I want to have to try anytime soon...just sayin'...
Park time after lunch was exciting again today!  Today was popcicle day for any who joined us on the tarp for Bible time.  Mrs. H had began our group time with a game around the parachute, calling out different relationship scenarios within a family, going along with her Bible lesson on Moses and his siblings, Miriam and Aaron.  The kids really enjoyed the parachute game and stayed rather well behaved during the game. Her craft was woven mat.  On each strip of paper that was woven together those who participated wrote the names of their family members.  When it was done, you could see the names of those who are woven into your life; all of us being a part of a larger picture, being a family unit.  
I am in constant awe of how God inspires us all to get His message of unity, love, and perfect plan across to the kids!
Free time with the kids is always fun...several have taken a liking to sitting at the one and only picnic table and drawing on the cardboard box we have broken down and laying across the table so that there's a flat and clean surface to work with beads and coloring.  Some of the little ones eat their lunch there, too.  
It is in these one on one moments, I find joy.  Seeing them take place warms my heart, but being involved in them fills me with such an abundance of gladness, it is almost unspeakable.  And, yet, I know I could offer more time...more energy...more everything.  These minutes are so few, yet so fulfilling.  I am blessed beyond measure.
Leaving the park was with many reminders that we would be back for our community park party that evening.  It's so much more enjoyable being able to say "see you in a few hours" rather than "see you tomorrow".  I am not for sure who was more excited for the big night, us or the kids!  
Once back at the church, we took to loading up the van and trailer with our park party gear, so that right after dinner we would be ready to take off for our park.  Because of a cancellation of a team for another park, we did not officially have a help team coming to cook and serve the food.  However, our awesome GraceWorks staff stepped up and filled in the role of help team and were a blessing to us and the people in our park family.  
Park parties are always a highlight of a week of ministry.  This one was above and beyond a highlight, however.  Everyone on our team had found an area to take charge of and participate in...whether it was bouncy house monitor, hair/nails duty, face painting, or the follow up table (table with Bibles, GraceWorks info, and a person with whom to chat or pray), or simply floating around and chatting/praying with people who came out, everything was manned and going smoothly.  
We had some stuffed animals remaining from our First Aid clinic, so when I or someone on our team saw a new child (or at least one who had not been in the park thus far in the week), we handed one out to them until there were no more.  The blessing of those stuffed animals went beyond even what I/we first imagined they would.  God will take care of those seeds...we were obedient in planting them, He will handle the watering and harvesting.
As the team leader, I floated around from place to place, checking in with our hosts, the help team, and my fellow team members, meeting new faces and speaking with as many people as I could as I was fluttering about the park.  How God made everything and everyone fit in our small park amazes me.  I found myself at the follow up table in my inbetween moments...and not just because it was in the sunshine. :)  
I will take a moment and confess that the follow up table has always intimidated me.  I was always thankful with someone else wanted and volunteered for that station.  This year, although we had two people taking shifts at the table, I was drawn to it myself time and again.  I was blessed to see and hear the conversations Mrs. J and Mrs. J were having with those who came and wanted to see what we had to offer or just ask where we were from and with which group.  Five weeks in, we still had first timers to the park party and to hearing about GraceWorks.  
More than overhearing their conversations, I found people crossing paths with me who needed someone to talk to or wanted a Bible of their own.  The fear and intimidation of the follow up table had disappeared, being replaced with fulfilling joy and much laughter and awe of my God and His orchestrated plan for divine appointments.  More than one person tonight, and many more the previous weeks, were in search of a church that is welcoming and warmhearted to, let me just say, "the least of these".  People searching for a church to call their own were finding more and more churches not welcoming them in for one reason or another.  There are moments when I find myself ashamed of sharing the title of Christian with others who set such a bad example of what that title entails.  It breaks my heart to hear their stories.  Thankfully, God has people in place to usher in hope and the good news that not all churches are the same for 10 weeks this summer.  Add to that, the follow up that will happen over the winter months as those who live in the Anchorage and surrounding areas continue to disciple new believers and water seeds that have been planted this summer, and you find, now, year round ministry happening in an otherwise spiritually cold and dark land.
With many thanks to the staff help team our tear down and clean up went well.  Loading up, there was a sense of joy among us.  
We had an evening where we were part of something so totally and completely bigger than we are.  
And, it was awesome!
God is God and He is good!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

AK 2013: How can it be Thursday already???

This is what God the Lord says-
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Isaiah 42:5-7
The week has gone by so quickly!  It has been so good so far...God has blessed us with an amazing group of kids to work with and two blessings in our park hosts!
This morning, we had our community service project.  Our project came about because of some of the adults who have been coming to our park's community park parties every Wednesday.  They live in low income housing not too far from our park.  These people have become dear friends with our park hosts, and they wanted to bless them in some fashion.  We used GraceBags funds to purchase toiletry items for 20 people.  It was only a drop in a bucket, but it was something.
We set up an assembly area and dropped the items inside of bags.  We added tracts, a GraceWorks flyer, and gave them some Bibles and kids' activity books and coloring crayons as well for their common area.
Loaded up in the van with directions in hand, we set off to deliver 10 bags to both of their locations.  We met the nicest lady who works as their manager.  We chatted with her for about 15 or so minutes about their organization and how it functions.  I asked her if we could pray with her before we left.  She said she didn't mind, but she would have to decline due to stipulations placed by other people.  We understood...so, we prayed in our van for her and the organization before we left our parking spot.
We were greeted by another wonderfully nice lady at the second location, the one by our park.  We dropped off our items and chatted with her for awhile before heading back to the church.
It was a great start to our day!
This afternoon in the park, we had a smaller crowd.  It sometimes happens this way when your park party is the evening prior.  I was exhausted...mentally and physically.  I spent the beginning of our park time on a bench chatting with my little friend D.  He is such a ray of sunshine.  My heart has been stolen by his sweet spirit and bright blue eyes.  He is the park's resident policeman.  He "arrests" you on a regular basis for standing or sitting or smiling or whatever it is that you are doing when he finds you.  The jail is a post of his choosing across the park.  He moves you at a moment's notice.  He was always nice enough to me to put me  in jail on a post that was in the sunshine.  This particular day, D was eating a bbq sandwich (looked alot like a McRib).  He and I chatted away about a lot of things while he sat and ate his "sammich".  His smile and laugh makes my heart sing and made me feel so much better on the inside.  Every once in awhile it is good to just sit back and enjoy the company of another person.
As I sat there with D, I was also able to watch more of what all was going on in the park.  Our team amazes me.  Their energy, their spirit, their level of commitment...it blesses me to no end!  When I was struggling, they stood in the gap...they allowed me to rest in the moment on that bench with D.  One of our hosts asked me later if I was okay.  I said I was exhausted and a little sad that the week was coming to an end.  I would and will be okay...eventually.
P1180130Today the treat for listening to the Bible lesson was cookies.  Once again at Bible time, everyone in the park come over to the tarp.  Most were even more quiet today.  Of course, there were less of them today, so maybe it just seemed that way.  :)  My heart was blessed to see the "teacher" for the day working with our young people on the team put on a skit about Joseph and his brothers.  The kids seemed to really enjoy the performance.  Better yet, the message of forgiveness and mercy is one that each and every one of us needs to hear over and over and over again.  There is so much pain in these children's lives...so much they will one day have to forgive someone for as they grow in their relationship with God.  It was a fitting message for our week.
P1180143As for other things that went on, lots of teeter-tottering, Dead Fish on the slide, eating, drawing, beading...and a big hit craft of decorating flip flops.  Someone had donated a box of flip flops to our craft room.  I found a container of material already in strips, so we made flops of many colors instead of coats of many colors to go along with our Bible story time.  We had everyone choosing new flops and most of the girls were tying the strips of material onto theirs.  Loads of joy all around.  I am so thankful God opened the door for us to provide something new for these kids!
We were free after dinner, so we chose to go up to FlatTop again as a group to take the paved pathway.  It was a beautiful evening...and the mosquitoes were even that bad.  Only a few thousand for each of us instead of a million per person.  :)  It was an enjoyable time as a team to be up above the city in which we were serving, enjoying the sunset over the water beyond the city limits.
We ran by a JoAnn's for more parachute cord for the craft tomorrow and looked around for some moose as we made our way back to the church.  We never saw a moose when we were out looking for one, but they came to us at the church which is just as much fun.
I am blessed and feeling refreshed after an evening spent out and about with my team.
God provides what we need exactly when we need it...
God is God and He is good!

AK 2013: Saying Goodbye

There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

AK2013teampicNo matter how many Fridays in the park I experience, they are always hard on my emotions.
I will never forget my first Friday's goodbyes to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club.  That one was so heart wrenching...still feel it even now.  The kids followed us to the van, the clung to us (and we to them), and stood and waved with sad little faces as we pulled away.
I wish this unexpected tug on the heartstrings to no one else.
It hurts.
Painfully so.
After that goodbye, I always try to prepare my teams with a little pep talk about how it is okay to be sad and say so long, but leave it on a positive note that someone is following behind us with more cool people and fun stuff to do with them.  Okay, so it is really for me...but they need to know and be reminded, too...
It wouldn't be right for our park to have a non-dramatic ending.  We arrive to a body lying on the park bench.  From the kids we hear she's been there all day.
We go about our business with the kids who had ran over to the van before we even got out of it again.  Love those little faces!!!  A few new faces in the park today, which is good.  The dirty little familiar faces there make me smile...they break my heart at times, but I smile.  God is big enough and great enough to do something more for them than any one of us can.
I trust Him.
It has been a good week.
Tired, but press on.
Emotionally spent, but still play along when I get arrested again by D and return the hugs when I get hugged on by N and L.
P1180126I am going to miss these little guys something fierce!
We do lunches.  We play.  We talk.  All the normal stuff.  But, it is not the norm...this is different.
Bible time is an amazing God moment that will stand out for me for years to come.  Mrs. J volunteered many weeks ago and prepared for this day...this very moment of Bible time.  God came in a big way!  For some, the message of Salvation was watering seeds.  For others, it was a first time plant.  And, for a select few, it was harvest day!!!  We had 4 children accept Jesus as their Savior and it was amazing to see how God brought it all together.
Tag team ministry, as GraceWorks calls it, works well for many reasons.  Week after week in the summer, the message of Jesus and His redemption story is shared.  Some only get to plant and water seeds.  Others get a glimpse at the bigger picture and see those hearts ready to accept a Savior.
I had the pleasure of getting to talk afterwards with those who accepted Jesus that day.  They had a good handle on who Jesus was and what He did.  Room for growth and maturity, yes, but they got it.  A few wanted to understand more...and, hopefully, as the summer continues they will.
After the Bible message, Mrs. J had brought stuff to make survivor bracelets.  What a good item for Friday's craft, now that I really think about it!  Good positive item to end our week on.  Each of us on the team had been schooled on how to make them or finish them, so we were making bracelets one on one with the kids. This gave much opportunity for talking about the salvation message we had just heard while braiding our bracelets together.  I had the privilege to speak with three of the four that accepted Jesus as their Savior today.  They really seemed to grasp their need of a Savior.  They seemed truly repentant and knowledgeable of who Jesus is and what He did for us.  Lots of discipleship going to need to take place the next year!
As for the lady on the park bench, Mrs. O went over and spoke with her.  She didn't know where she was nor how to get back to the shelter she needed to be at in a different part of Anchorage.  We could not transport her ourselves, but we could give her money for a bus we were advised.  However, a lady I had been speaking with awhile, came to us and volunteered to take her to the shelter in her personal vehicle.  A local helping a local.  Success!  God brought the right person at the right time to make this happen!  As we were loading in the van, I saw the park bench lady getting in the car of the local lady.  Entertaining an angel, perhaps?
The time for goodbyes had come.  As we got in the van the kids were hanging around so closely.  A few hung on the van as we were closing the doors.  Smiles and waves...with a few tears...and we were off.
God blessed us this week with two wonderful park hosts, a group of great kids, and a team that meshed well and worked hard together to get our jobs complete.
Cannot wait for next year!
We stopped by and took our group photo by the "Welcome to Anchorage" sign on our way back to the church...see photo above. :)  We were going to take a group photo by the park sign, but on the day we were planning on doing that, the city had come and taken the sign away "for maintenance".  Sigh.
As for the evening activity, I was about to introduce the new team members to the most glorious of all pizza in Anchorage...and definitely better than any here at home.  The Moose's Tooth was our only agenda for the evening after we dropped Scott off at the airport to try and get on an early flight home.  Anything more than that would be extra, because everything else depended upon how long the wait was for us.  Unbelievably, we were in and seated in under an hour (on a Friday night, even!)  Yahoo!  Our server was the best I've experienced ever, but I know to keep my expectations low and to help by strategically making requests in bundles.  Works better this way.  We ordered, ate devoured an assortment of specialty pizzas (Santa's Little Helper being my favorite), boxed up leftovers, and left within a very decent amount of time.  Plenty of time for some last minute souvenir shopping at Wild Berry's.  Again, for the new members, it's just part of the tour...I didn't tell them about the reindeer across the parking lot because that part of the experience had already closed down for the night.
Shhhh!  I'll get to surprise them next year, maybe.  :)
As we were finishing up at Wild Berry, where the girls were extremely disappointed that there was no chocolate covered bacon to sample, Scott called from the airport and said he didn't make the non-stop flight, but could get out to LA tonight.  He decided to go for it, and said he'd meet us at the car rental place to say goodbye when we dropped off Mrs. J to pick up her rental car for tomorrow.
All in all it was an amazing week.  We are excited to go sightseeing.  Mrs. O has her heart set on seeing an Alaskan bear.  Thankfully, it will be on the other side of a fence.  I've had my once in a lifetime bear encounter...do not need another one.  Ever.
God is God...and He is good!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

missing in action

I have been home since July 1st...seems so long ago, yet like yesterday.
 I have so longed to post about my 6th amazing journey to Alaska to serve with GraceWorks in Alaska, but there is no internet service in our house yet. Blogging from my phone, although I am doing it right now, is too much trouble to write all I want to say and to post pictures. I am writing now out of sheer desperation to say something...anything that is not about the amount of rain I have seen and felt the past 11 long days. Georgia is now a flourishing rain forest. :)
It is probably a good thing not to have internet, though, so more unpacking gets completed each day. Some boxes were stored in our barn and have not been retrieved due to the mud between here and there. Too soft in the pasture to get there. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.
 So, although missing from the blogosphere, I have been busy in action around the home. I confess that my son and I went to McD's yesterday just to use their free wifi. I have never taken my laptop to a fast food joint before, but I may do it again if our situation does not change soon.
Problem is, no company wants to claim us as being in their service area.
Really???
Really.
Yes, folks, three businesses in my county are doing nothing to get my business. Strange phenomenon.
One day, at McD's or perhaps at the Y (where I am excited to get back to tomorrow) I will make some time and post about God's amazing works and craftiness in the Last Frontier.
God is God and He is good!