Trip to Bethel Update

 

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We would like to share with you an update from our trip to Bethel, Alaska this week. Please continue praying as we seek God's direction in transitioning to our full-time village ministry efforts in God's timing. Posted below is our update from our 3.5 day survey trip to Bethel. The entry appears originally from our Alaska village ministry website: thegapstander.com

- Derek and Laura

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Our trip to Bethel is underway. Actually, by the time this is posted, we will have returned. But for now I type these words on my iPhone while flying in a seat through the sky somewhere over the Alaskan wilderness.

My thoughts are directed toward the book we are going over in the Koinonia Sunday school group - 1 Corinthians. Paul's involvement there and God's powerful work there truly is astounding! It is encouraging to peer into Paul's struggle with the Corinthian work as we read the backstory of his involvement there. Paul didn't just go to Corinth with wide and open reception. The Corinthian church plant didn't just spring up overnight. Rather, the work in Corinth evidently progressed quite slowly, at least initially. As our eyes glance over the Acts 18 text, we begin to see a man (Paul) with building frustration over the relative slowness of the people's faith and the apparent stubbornness of his own people, the Jews. 

Eventually, God does begin saving people out of Corinth. What is really cool is the encouragement God gave Paul amidst the struggle and slowness of the Corinthian project. God sends a vision to Paul encouraging him to persevere. Why we may wonder was he to persevere? Answer: because God had an incredible plan for the Corinthians. Paul hears from God in this vision that there are many of God's own in Corinth. There were some who had already embraced the Gospel and there were many more that God promised would embrace the Gospel. What an encouragement! He was to persevere! So, why had Paul been led to Corinth? The answer is quite clear from Acts 18 and the history of God's work of redeeming a people to Himself in Corinth.

What is particularly encouraging from the Corinthian story is the direct correlation of God's leading and powerful working to ministry today!

How does God lead in new ministry endeavors today? How does God build His church today? How does God redeem a people to Himself today? How does God use our own area of influence to build His Kingdom? I would suggest that He works in much the same way that we see in Corinth. Now that may seem like an obvious deduction, but I believe the obvious nature of this fact is not only tremendously encouraging, but also an extremely important reminder.

Think for a moment about your own involvement with ministry or outreach. Does the lack of tangible results ever get frustrating?

I sometimes ponder over the relative slowness of Alaska village ministry. Sometimes even the seeming slowness of God's leading us to our full-time involvement in the villages can be frustrating.
So, as our Dash 8-100 Era Alaska plane begins to descend, my mind brings all these thoughts to bear on Bethel and the surrounding Yukon-Kuskokwim region. What is God currently doing here?

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Well, I now resume my thoughts as our Era flight back to Anchorage cuts through the clouds at 23,000 feet. 

Our several day stay in Bethel afforded us the opportunity to learn more of what God is currently doing in Bethel. First, it is exciting to see how God is using the technology medium of radio for ministry in and around Bethel. There are only 3 or 4 FM radio stations in Bethel; one public radio and the other main two being Christian stations. This particular trip for us was centered around exploring one of these Christian stations: KYKD Bethel 100.1FM VFCM (Voice for Christ Ministries). The ministry has a clear passion of providing solid Biblical teaching and music for Bethel and the surrounding region comprised of several other villages and countless summer fish camps. We heard good reports from Bethel locals and other villages about the VFCM radio broadcast. I was also able to learn about the behind-the-scenes processes to the station and even record some weather and station advertising liners. What a privilege to actually begin broadcasting with my voice in this area! I have also agreed to help VFCM maintain and possibly enhance their website, something which I am excited about regarding that potential. It would be great to expand this site, tailoring it for more use for the actual Bethel-listening area (possibly one day even including a web-based stream to more of the YK Delta region and many other villages)! To say the least, the radio ministry seems to be a very exciting opportunity for us to begin as simply one piece in the overall visionary puzzle of fostering indigenous church planting activity.

Secondly, we were privileged to attend a fully Yupi'k service on Sunday night (boy did we ever feel like outsiders). It was great though! Before and after the service we met several local Yupi'k men. One of these local village elders told us an interesting secret, one which was told us in story form. He chronicled the past success of Moravian missionaries to their in-depth time and effort spent in learning their Yupi'k language (something we have previously considered). It was quite interesting how he shared this "secret" with us. He said we should have coffee sometime, then paused, and simply told us this brief story about learning their language. When he walked off, Laura and I looked at each other and realized the point of his story. Thus, we are still seriously looking into learning their language. This morning before we left, I connected with the University of Fairbanks Bethel campus for upcoming culture and language course offerings. Although we can communicate normally in English and there are ministries here who operate in English, there does seem to be something significant about a ministry's effectiveness through identifying with their indigenous language.

Thirdly, we spent some time with another local area pastor and newly-arrived youth pastor in Bethel. Hearing of their heart (one of them being a part native man himself) for the Bethel community and specifically the local indigenous community is encouraging. It was great to participate in brainstorming ways in which they are seeking to expand their outreach in Bethel. In this regard we are prayerfully seeking ways we can plug into these types of outreach under the tutorship of this part-native leadership.

Fourthly and finally, we are continually learning about a local area Bible seminary. While this ministry has existed for quite some time, they seem to be refining their purpose, focus, and affiliations. The opportunity to learn more of this ministry and even possibly participate in it is quite exciting. It in fact is seeking to do just what our central passion is: training indigenous leadership to reach their own people with the Gospel. Therefore, we are also seeking God's direction regarding the capacity that we may be able to be involved in this training outreach.

In addition to all of these ministry opportunities, Laura also researched the hospital and their current job options. As it providentially turns out, the HR department basically offered her a job for our current transition date in a few months. They evidently need nurses here and were quite excited to have a willing body already with plans of moving to Bethel with several years of ER experience.

In summary our thoughts are quite positive and encouraged at God's current work in Bethel. We're not saying that all is well or that it will be easy, but we clearly see God leading us to our current version of "Corinth" in a Acts 18 kind of way. God clearly continues opening opportunities and leading us toward beginning efforts in Bethel and we excitedly look forward to watching Him redeem a people to Himself!

Wow, that was a long update, actually all typed on my phone in the sky, but I trust you will be encouraged how to better pray for us! Well, we are descending into Anchorage soon, so Lord bless!

Grace,

Derek