Well, 2014 is gone. It's hard to believe that it went by so quickly, isn't it? It seems like just yesterday we were boating kids back and forth from Camp Nahshii and working on projects outside, here in Fort Yukon. Now, the snow is knee deep and it's -40˚F out there. Even so, one of our volunteers, my associate pastor, and I just came inside from a nice exhilarating time outside, cutting and splitting logs of firewood and getting it stacked in the entryway of the church. Just like anywhere else in the world, life and ministry must go on. If we barred the doors and stayed inside whenever it was below zero outside, we'd be indoors for several months straight. That's not the kind of ministry that God has called us to do, up here.
The past few months have been a whirlwind of ministry events, travel, family time, and weekly ministry here in Fort Yukon. With Sharnay expecting our second child in just a matter of weeks, we have flown her into Fairbanks so that she is close to the hospital when the time comes for the delivery.
Our associate pastor, Joshua Niemuth, and our ministry intern, Cheyenne Norberg, have been very busy with all sorts of ministry activities, over the past 3 months. Here are their updates:
Associate Pastor Update:
"Hey, everyone! So God has been doing so much in me and through me here in Fort Yukon. Ever since I boated up with my stuff on September 11th, this new chapter of my life has been one adventure after another.
When I first got here, I spent the first week or so getting settled in, and helping out with things at the church. Then, I prayed about a new name for the youth ministry: The Comeback Student Ministries, with the theme verse 2 Corinthians 5:17 - “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” I believe this is what God is speaking to the younger generation- that there is always hope available for anyone.
Later in the month, I started youth group, and have been averaging 3-5 kids every week. Two of the girls, Alyssa and Jamela, have been very consistent and have been showing signs of maturity as they seek after God and are open to what He has for them. They have recently been volunteering to sing for worship on youth nights and Sunday.
In September and October, my focus was on what the youth name means- making the ‘comeback’ from death to life in Jesus. I preached on the 2 greatest commandments, and how this is God’s purpose for us. The following week was the plan of God laid out, from creation to the fall, then to redemption. After that, it was about hearing God’s voice and choosing to follow it. The 2014 XChange Youth Conference took place from the 24-26th of October, and it was awesome. We had a couple of volunteer leaders fly up, Leon and Abby Osborne, and they did great. We had about 25 kids come throughout the weekend, and young people were touched by God.
In November, the theme was being who God created you to be, and not letting the world shape and mold you. Pastor Jeremiah had a men’s event on the 15th called ‘Take Aim.’ We had several youth come to that and we were able to build relationship with them.
In December, I was able to spend some time with my family, and was encouraged and refreshed as we did fun things together. On the 20th, we had a youth Christmas party, with about 17 kids. We played Christmas games, had a gift exchange, food, and punch.
At the end of the month, we had our annual New Years all nighter. We spent 5 weeks fundraising to prepare, and even longer in planning. It was totally worth it. We had 43 kids come and have a blast. Wright Air pitched in and gave all of our volunteer leaders %50 off their flight tickets. The police officers offered to keep the grounds safe as well. It was a fun and exciting alternative atmosphere that kept the kids away from substance abuse and partying in other places. What a great way to start the year 2015!
The theme for this month of January will be the power of prayer, and how, as God’s children, we should be excited to know Him more.
God has been speaking to me so much about His will for my life, and giving me a deeper passion and excitement to reach the Yukon Flats region for Him. As I continue to serve and work here at Ft. Yukon Assembly of God, God is always finding more and more ways to bless me even beyond what I long for."
Ministry Intern Update:
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:9-13
"Moving to Fort Yukon has collectively shown me the beauty of Gods heart for the lives of his people. After helping with camp Nahshii for the last two years I had fallen in love with the interior of Alaska, the kids and the need for Gods love in the villages. I felt a call on my heart to move to Fort Yukon and serve Pastor Jeremiah and Sharnay. After sharing with them, two and a half months later I found myself in an internship, moving to Fort Yukon. I never thought that coming here would change my heart the way it has in these last few months.
While being here God has opened door after door, wether it be in relationships with the people, opportunities to share Gods love and even work in the school as a teacher. God is so good! He has surpassed any expectation I had before moving here, and continues to surprise me. While in my internship I have been enrolled in Alaska School of Ministry, taking biblical courses with the intent of credentials. I have also been helping out in children's ministry, youth ministry and women's ministry. This month I started a part time position at the school as a Sp. Ed aid, spending one on one time with a child, helping them with schooling and being there for them. It has been an incredible opportunity to get to know the people of Fort Yukon and to build relationship with them. I am so thankful and so eager to see what God has in-store for this next year."
God is ALWAYS faithful, when we live in obedience to Him. One of the things that I've learned through 8 years of ministry, here in Fort Yukon, is that God's promises, provision, blessing, and presence comes with the condition of obedience. He offers ALL of Himself to us, AS WE submit to Him as Lord and Ruler of our life.
Too many times, in an effort to contradict the stereotype that "all Christians do is tell me a list of do's and don'ts", we've failed to share the WHOLE gospel with people. I know I've been guilty of it. We think that, somehow, it will be easier for people to come to God and put their trust in Him if they feel that there is nothing required of them. Have you ever flipped through one of those "Promises of God" books? Have you noticed that there is a MAJOR part of the promise that's usually missing? The part where God says "If you...". We love to read about what God says that HE will do for us, but we fail to pay attention and adequately teach new believers what WE must do in order to be eligible for that promise. I believe that this plays a large role in the amount of frustrated, disillusioned, and bitter Christians that are filling our churches, today. They feel like they were let down. They were told that "God promises this in your life, just because you said the sinner's prayer". They were not told to "Count the cost". They wonder why God's promises are not being seen in their lives. They continue to wonder, "Why did God not come through for me. Why did He let me down?". All the while, the pastors and evangelists continue to preach about the wondrous promises of God, failing to mention that the "Promises of God" are completely dependent on OUR obedience to Him and our submission to His leading in our lives.
The thinking is that it doesn't matter how they come to Jesus, just that they do. We tell ourselves that Jesus will fix their wrong thinking and the Holy Spirit will mature them. Am I the only one that sees that as lazy and underhanded? Yes, I believe that God can and will speak to individuals who have been "tricked" into saying the sinners prayer. But, I also believe that those "tricks" set new believers up for failure, bitterness, and unnecessary hardships. And people who are struggling with these issues are usually not preaching the gospel to their friends.
To teach someone that God loves you "just the way you are" is one of the biggest lies in the church, today. God doesn't love you just the way you are. The way you are, before you repent and give your life to Him, is sick, twisted, spiritually dead, and sinful. It is because God DOESN'T love you just the way you are that He sent His son to die for you. God loves YOU, as a person. He loves you so much that He created a perfect, awesome plan for your life that involves you dying to your flesh and being ALIVE in Him for all eternity. This plan does NOT include you living your life for yourself, choosing to fill your life with things that don't please God, or "kinda" being a Christian.
As you share your faith with others, don't hold back. As I recently heard Pastor Mark Zweifel say, in regards to figuring out who you should share your faith with; "Proximity equals responsibility." In other words, those who you have relationship with, live with, work with, and interact with are part of your responsibility to give them a chance to be introduced to Jesus. Let's build our churches by preaching the life-changing gospel of Jesus in it's entirety, producing strong, committed, "sold out" men and women of God. It's much easier to multiply the body of Christ when the people who we win to Jesus are becoming people who win others for Him as well.
Thank you all for your prayers and support! We pray that the Lord fills your life and your ministry with an abundance of His peace and presence, as you live to know Him more and make Him known to those around you!
- Pastor Jeremiah Niemuth