The beginning of 2017 had been a very important time in our ministry for many reasons. This past October, we passed the 10 year mile mark for our ministry in Fort Yukon. Also, January was the beginning of our second 4 year term with the U.S. Missions department of the Assemblies of God. These two moments are important for several reasons, which tie directly into the ongoing vision for Yukon Flats ministry that God has given us.
It has been our desire to help to train and equip ministers for Alaska village ministry. I believe that longevity is key to long-term sustainability in very remote areas of Alaska. Many organizations in the villages, besides the church, suffer from lack of consistent workers. We've seen it in the village schools, the city leadership, the police department, the post office, and the church, to name a few. When a teacher, pastor, city manager, or police officer is replaced so often and so quickly, it leaves an absolute void of relationship between that position and the community. People begin to see the people who hold those positions with the same courteous indifference that many of us give towards the server at a restaurant in a far away town that we're visiting. We are nice, we treat them with respect, but we don't plan on any kind of long-term relationship. In order for the church to be effective in building the kingdom of God in these rural areas, we have to break through the standoffish but polite smiles and the simple nod of greeting. We have to get to a deeper point of relationship with those whom God has called us to reach.
When I first moved to Fort Yukon, I did work as a substitute teacher at the school. I subbed for many classed, of all different ages. Some of the kids who were in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes are now part of our youth group, as high schoolers. There is a different level of relationship these students have with me than the students in youth groups of other churches we visit and speak at. These youth know that we love them and they have seen us be consistent in their lives for over a decade. As we coach and council them in their walk with Jesus, we are able to get through to them in ways that have taken years to discover. There is no shortcut for the investment of time that it takes to build relationship with people.
If we are going to reach the remote areas of Alaska with the message of Jesus, we have to be willing to put the necessary time into fostering relationship with the people in these areas. There is no quick and easy strategy for loving people. It may involve being someone to talk to after the death of a loved one, or going out into the woods to bring back some much needed firewood for an elder. But, no matter what form it takes, loving people requires time. Time to get to know them, time to figure out the needs, time to try different ways to meet those needs, and time to be there when new needs arise. There is a reason the saying "Give them the time of day" is associated with relationship building. It involves stopping your business, setting aside whatever issues you may have with someone, and interacting with them in a way that blesses them.
Our hope is to be able to encourage, equip, and entrust new and existing village missionaries through the things we've learned in our years in Fort Yukon. We want to see village churches grow and new churches be planted. Alaska Missions is not dead, because we serve the living God.
- Pastor Jeremiah