Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sharing the Good News of Jesus Through Relationships and . . . Fishing

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


The Leonardo da Vinci painting, “Mona Lisa,” does not sit in a private home where only the owners can enjoy its intrigue and beauty.  This famous masterpiece is prominently displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, where any who visit the museum can consider the famous smile of the woman in the picture.  In other words, the beauty of a great painting is not to be hidden, but to be shared.


Jesus told His disciples something similar in His “Sermon on the Mount.”  He instructs His disciples that because of their relationship with Him, they have something to share, not to hide.  14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)


The light which followers of Jesus have to share is Jesus Himself.  He is the “light of men . . . [that] shines in darkness.” (John 1:4-5)  Jesus is “THE Light of the world” (John 8:12) which shines in this dark world of sin and of evil.  In the face of evil, Jesus is holy and righteous.  In this world of selfishness and hatred, Jesus is sacrificial love.  In this world of guilt, Jesus brings forgiveness.  In this world of death, Jesus brings life.  He is “The Life.” (John 14:6)


So, like the Mona Lisa is not hidden but displayed, Christians naturally want to share Jesus and His love and His affect on our lives.  How to share the Light of the World is the question we ask ourselves.  There are some examples of large numbers of people coming to faith at one time.  In the book of Jonah the whole city of Ninevah came to repentance and acknowledged God.  In Acts 2, 3000 people came to faith and were baptized on Pentecost Day as the Holy Spirit powerfully filled God’s people.  But, most often the good news of Jesus, the Light of the World, is shared on a personal, one-to-one basis. 


So, family members have brought family members to know and believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin for eternal life.  Friends have shared their faith and hope in Jesus with friends, and allowed God’s Spirit to work faith.  Sometimes a “random act of kindness” becomes an opportunity to witness to a stranger the reason for that kindness, the underserved love a Christian believer receives in Jesus.


For a Christian, sharing Jesus is not like selling a product.  That would be using friendships and relationships as a vehicle to accomplish a purpose we desire, but others may not want.  But, when we love someone, when we are friends with someone, we share ourselves, and in turn others share themselves with us.  A Christian is a person who is changed by the love and the power and the grace of Jesus.  So, when we share who we are, we are also sharing with others the person whom Jesus made us to be.  When a Christian shares themselves, they naturally also share Jesus.


This is a long introduction to talk about some sharing of Jesus I did last week.  Somehow, I have discovered that I really enjoy fishing.  Catching is even better, but just being outdoors, by the water, looking for fish, and seeing the other wonders of nature which God created, all this brings a peace and a joy to my heart. 


From August 6 to August 13 I got to go fishing 5 times!  Once, on Wednesday before work, I had been asked to take someone fishing, but then they couldn’t go.  I went fishing anyway.  However, the other four times I went fishing I took someone who had indicated they were interested in a fishing trip.  When I take people fishing I get to share a part of me that I enjoy, but I also get to create or build relationships.  And when I share, I hope and pray and believe that Jesus who loves me and saves me is also shared with my family and friends.


My doctoral dissertation in 2008 was entitled, “Fishing for Men While Fishing With Men.”  This dissertation was not so much a theory to be tested, but more so a lesson I had learned.  When I share the things I love with others, I can also share with others the grace and love Jesus has given me.


Fishing is not the only way to build relationships.  My wife likes to sew and to quilt, and enjoys sharing her gifts and her talents with others.  But, when she teaches another person to sew, or when she works with someone on a quilt, Kathy is also sharing herself.  And the person Kathy is has been greatly influenced by God’s love for her in Jesus.  So when Kathy teaches sewing, she also shares Jesus.


Has Jesus changed your life for the good?  Would you like to “let your light shine” before others?  What are the joys of your life?  Think of how you can share your passions with others.  As you share, may Jesus shine through you!


A Child of God, Letting the Light of Jesus Shine Through Me While Fishing,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  It was a really good week for fishing.  In fact, last week may have been the best week I ever had in the Mat-Su for catching salmon.  Here are some pictures.


·       I took Sara Guhl, daughter, Ellen, and grandson, Gaelen fishing on Monday, August 6.


·       I was supposed to take my daughter Mary fishing early Wednesday, August 8.  However, she had work, so I went by myself.


·       I took Pastor Jake Dickerhoff (Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Anchorage), his dad, Scott, and his sons, Griffin and Oliver, fishing on Friday, August 10.


·       I took my daughter, Mary, and Dave Nufer and his daughter, Kaycee, fishing on Saturday, August 11.


·       I took Kym Miller and Ethan Mirly fishing on Monday, August 13.  Here are a couple of pictures.




ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.





SPECIAL VOTERS’ MEETING - A Voters Meeting is planned for THIS Sunday, August 19.  We will vote on calling Ethan Mirly as full-time DCE for St. John.  (Ethan then will pray about his response to this call through St. John).  Copies of the job description and salary package are available on the counter in the back of the church.

            We will not convene a meeting.  Confirmed / Commuicant members of St. John will have the opportunity to vote between services in the cry Room.  President Karl Kopperud will be there.  We ask that those voting sign in that they are voting, and then fill out a “Yes or No” ballot.


THE LUTHERAN CHURCH EXTESION FUND (LCEF) is a bank run by our denomination that exists for the purpose of growing God’s Church.  This bank takes deposits from church members and then makes loans to churches for buildings, and to church workers for homes.  The rates paid to member investors, and the rates charged churches and church workers are better than commercial rates.

            St. John’s loan is with LCEF.  Our current rate is 3.75%.  However, we could lower the rate by 1/8 % if we have 15% of communicant members as investors.  We would need 90 new investors for this break.  We can lower our rate by ¼% if we have 25% of our communicant members, or 167 individuals as investors.

            On Sunday, August 12, the Church Council voted to try to at least reach the goal of 100 investors in LCEF.  This doesn’t have to be 100 families, but 100 indididual accounts.  So, for example, grandparents can start accounts for grandchildren.  We will hear more about this opportunity in worship in the coming weeks.

A SUNDAY SCHOOL MEETING WILL BE HELD this coming Sunday, August 19, between worship services.  If you are on the Board of Education, or if you would like to help with Sunday School, please see Lara Stanley or Ethan Mirly.


NATIONAL YOUTH GATHERING MEETING SUNDAY EVENING, AUGUST 26, 7:00 P.M.  If your children would like to attend this July 2019 opportunity to grow in faith, or if you have any questions, plan to attend this meeting.  If you have more questions call Ethan Mirly at (573) 270-3956.





HELP NEEDED!! – Mark and Nicole Ford will be moving to Minnesota for Mark’s new job with the FAA which starts August 19.  The Ford’s are very active at St. John.  We will need folks to fill their place.


·       TreasurerMark works with Garnet Robertson on the job of treasurer for St. John.  They have the treasurer job down to a regular routine.  If someone can help in this area or is interested in serving please talk to Mark, or Garnet, or congregational president, Karl Kopperud, or Pastor Rockey.


·       Nursery – Nicole Ford staffs the nursery on Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  THANK YOU to Kristine Neslund who has agreed to take Nicole’s place.  If you want to help Kristine, please talk with Cathy Glaser, or Karl Kopperud, or Pastor Rockey. 






During Summer months our schedule changes.  However, we still have many regular activities for growth in faith and Christian Fellowship, . . . IN ADDITION TO regular summer worship. 


Please note our schedule below for your personal growth in Jesus.





·       The Book of Acts is being taught by Jim Summers in the fellowship hall.  There is nursery care offered during the class.


·       Prayer Ministry Opportunity – There are Elders in Pastor Allen’s former office between worship who are available for prayer each Sunday between services.


·       Summer Sunday School –  Summer Sunday School is is concluded.  Regular Sunday School starts the Sunday after Labor Day, September 9.






o   WEDNESDAY WORSHIP – Wednesday worship is offered each week at 6:30 p.m. at St. John.  This service gives another worship opportunity to God’s family in addition to Sunday worship services.  If a person cannot worship on Sunday, the same readings from Sunday are used on Wednesdays, with a different sermon from the Sunday morning sermon.  In addition, if someone wants an additional opportunity for growth and fellowship and praise, Wednesday worship can provide that opportunity.  Come and join us on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.



o   Middle School Youth meet at St. John from 5-6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.


o   High School Youth meet at St. John on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.


·       FRIDAY - NEW ORIGINAL BIBLE STUDY – Twenty and thirty something’s meet at the home of Hunter and Elizabeth Richard, 340 North Bonanza, on Friday nights for Food, Fellowship, and Bible Study.


·       SATURDAY ST. JOHN MEN’S BREAKFAST - The St. John men’s group, Promise Keepers, is meeting on Saturday mornings this summer at the Noisy Goose at 7:30 a.m. for food and fellowship.  ALL MEN are invited to join us.  “Fathers, feel free to bring your sons too! 


I pray that these activities provide you with opportunities for growth in your relationship with Jesus and times of service.







(Meeting coming SOON!)


Pastor Jonathan and Kathy Rockey will be leading a trip to Germany November 26-December 10, 2019.  We will start in Vienna and end in Berlin.  The focus of this trip will be Christmas markets, music, and Martin Luther.  Information about the itinerary, cost, and registration can be found at this link from Luther Tours. -

Already, even before publicity, about 18 people have indicated an interest in attending.  If you want to know more about this trip talk to Pastor Rockey or Kathy.





DID YOU KNOW THAT MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT ST. JOHN is available on our church website?  On our web page you can find sermons, newsletters, and these weekly devotions.  The link is:

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!!




Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Where Has the Summer Gone? - A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


My heart is full because of many joys and challenges in life.  But, a seemingly unimportant question nags me: “Where has the summer gone?”  Every summer I have so much anticipation of opportunities with grandchildren out of school, of fishing opportunities, of time spent getting my hands and knees dirty planting a garden and some flowers.  Kathy and I looked forward to a visit from family this summer, and considered travel opportunities.  I have accomplished some of my plans and goals, but the summer is almost over and it seems there is so much more yet to be done.


But, in addition to these personal hopes and goals there have been other activities and jobs that have come along.  In June we held the annual Colony Days Picnic and I attended the District Convention of our church in Portland.  In July six of us conducted Vacation Bible School in Eek, we held VBS at St. John, and I attended a District Board of Directors’ meeting in Lincoln City, OR.  August looks busy too.


I could resent the tasks that took me away from the activities I had planned and hoped for.  But, the truth is that these opportunities to serve the Lord and His Church are important too.  I love working on tasks that help our Lord’s church share the grace of God.  I am happy to find a balance between work and ministry opportunities on the one hand, and the other opportunities to enjoy the blessings of life on the other hand.


Today I watch many struggle with busy lives.  Perhaps after 65 years I understand that struggle more now than I used to understand it.  Part of that understanding comes from the Lord.  God speaks to us in Scripture about time and life.  We are told in the book of Ecclesiastes “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1, KJV). (See also Psalm 90:10-12, Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, 2 Corinthians 6:1-2)  In other words, God intentionally gives us time for work and for family, for ministry and for recreation.


But, perhaps the words of Isaiah speak most clearly to me.  In chapter 40 we read, “A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.’”  (Isaiah 40:6-8)


Time passes quickly.  There never seems to be enough time for all the opportunities life has to offer.  Yes, “All men are like grass.”  But, there is something that continues forever – the word of our God.  The Lord’s Word points us beyond ourselves to God and His Creative Power, to His purpose for our lives, to His love in this troubled world, and to the eternal life in heaven to which He calls people through faith in the life and death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. 


I have learned that when focusing on what I miss, or what I don’t have, I can be stressed and frustrated.  I can feel like I don’t have enough time.  But, when I focus on what is eternal, on the Lord and on His Word, I am thankful for what I do have.  I am thankful for the presence of the Lord in opportunities with family and fishing.  I am thankful for the loving presence of the Lord in church and ministry. I am thankful for God and His grace in every moment of life.  (By the way, the book of John tells us that not only are Scriptures the Word of God, but Jesus is “The Word.” (e.g. John 1:1-3)   “ . . . the word of our God stands forever.”


I did spend time with the grandchildren, and time fishing, and time in the garden this summer.  I also spent time serving the Lord in His Church.  Our lives may be like grass that blows away.  But, Isaiah says, “the word of our God stands forever.’”  I have learned that God’s grace is present in all the times of our lives. 


Thank you Lord for today, and for your presence and your love in each moment of life!


A Child of God, Thankful for God’s Presence in Every Moment of our Lives,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Here are some more baptism pictures.

·         Wren Adelaide Robertson baptized Wednesday, August 1, 2018.


·         Ada Psenak, baptized Sunday, August 5, 2018


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from the concert by Dave Anderson and Roger Walck Sunday, August 5, at 6:00 p.m.celebrating the 25th anniversary of God’s rescue from the Bering Sea.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from some fishing trips

·         Ethan caught his first salmon on Friday, August 3.


·         Sara Guhl, daughter Ellen, and grand children Gaelen and Alana, went fishing with Pastor Rockey on Monday, August 6.





ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.




Thursday, August 2, 2018

Rejoicing in the Power and Love of God to Rescue Us

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Does God really exist?  If so, does God actually hear and answer prayer?  Have you seen the hand of God in your life so that you can tell others of His power and His love?  These big questions are often asked by those who dismiss that God exists.  But, sometimes even believers ask these questions.  After all, our world is so full of pain and suffering and evil, it is not surprising that people ask, “Where is God?”


The Scriptures are full of God’s promises of deliverance and rescue.  In one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 30, David praises God for his deliverance from death and the grave.  I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. 3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.” (Psalm 30:1-3)


When He was tempted in the wilderness, Jesus rebuked Satan with verses from Scripture, including Psalm 91.  The chaplain corps of US Armed Services have especially chosen Psalm 91 because of its promise of God’s protection in time of danger.  (Kathy made a stole for a chaplain friend of mine with all of Psalm 91 embroidered on the stole.)  Listen to God’s promise of rescue for those who acknowledge him.  13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." (Psalm 91:13-15)


Or, if you search Scripture, you will find God’s rescue promised in Isaiah, in Jeremiah, in Daniel, in Ezekiel, and in many other places. (See Isaiah 46:3-4, Jeremiah 1:8, 19, Ezekiel 34:10, 12, 27, Daniel 3:17, Daniel 6:16,20, Zephaniah 3:17-19) For example, in Daniel we read the famous stories of God rescuing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the firey furnace, and of God rescuing Daniel from the lions’ den.  Paul and Peter also write of God’s rescue.  (2 Timothy 4:18, 2 Peter 2:7-9)


So, God promises in Scripture to love, to protect, and to save His people.  But, is this promise just something from the past, or is God really still active today?  Are these just stories from people of faith, or is the power and love of God also present for our lives today?


This Sunday St. John will host a concert commemorating the 25th anniversary of a powerful rescue in our very midst.  In the early 1990’s Russia was opening up to Christian efforts.  St. John sent a team to Provideniya, across from Nome, in late July and early August 1993.  The Koss family and our son, Joshua, returned from this exploratory trip on Thursday, August 12.  Among the others reaching out with the love of God to this region were Lutheran singers Dave and Barb Anderson and a team 5 others, including our friend, Don Wharton.  On Sunday, August 8, Don sang in worship at St. John.  On Friday, August 13, on the way home from Far East Russia, the plane carrying the team with Dave and Barb and friends ran out of gas and crashed into the Bering Sea.  People rarely survive over 20 minutes in these frigid waters.  But, God showed His power again and, against conventional wisdom, all seven were rescued from the Bering Sea, and continued their lives of serving the Lord.  The air traffic control center in Anchorage helped direct a rescue effort from Nome and all seven were plucked from the icy waters by helicopters.  Our friends could not have saved themselves, but they all were saved by the efforts of others, through the grace of God.


The greatest rescue, however, is not one from any earthly danger.  As Paul begins writing his letter to the Christians in Galatia, God moves him to write. 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,”  (Galatians 1:3-4)  All people in this world face trials and suffering.  All those living face death.  These troubles plague us because of our weakness, our rebellion, because of our sin against the Creator and Ruler of all.  But, though we have brought these trials on ourselves, we are powerless to save ourselves.  So, as Paul writes, “Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us.”


Sometimes we think our main need is help and rescue in this life.  But, our greatest need is rescue from death and from condemnation for eternal life in heaven.  The great value of examples of God’s loving power to rescue us in this world, like the rescue from the Bering Sea in 1993, is that this earthly rescue points to God’s greater rescue of all of us for heaven, through Jesus.


This Sunday night we will have an opportunity to hear an answer to the questions, “Does God exist?  Does He really help and save?”  I invite you to come and celebrate God’s saving goodness in this life, and to find your hope and your strength in God’s eternal rescue in Jesus.


A Child of God, Rejoicing in God’s Power and Love to Rescue Us,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Dave Anderson and Roger Walck will present a concert at St. John this Sunday, August 5, beginning at 6:00 p.m.  This concert is part of the 25th anniversary celebration of God’s rescue from the Bering Sea.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from a leisurely fishing trip with my dogs on Monday, July 30.





ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thankful for the Power of God's Word to Create New Life

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Do you ever worry about the future for our country?  Do you worry about the future for your children or your grandchildren?  Do you worry about the future of the Christian Church?


We live in changing times.  America is possibly the most affluent country to ever exist.  Yet, our material blessings and our affluence can teach us to trust ourselves, or to trust our resources, rather than trusting our Creator, our Provider, our Savior.  That causes me concern for the future.


We are blessed in America with freedom to use the gift of life to live as we believe best.  Yet, this freedom is often used for harmful behaviors such as substance abuse, and for behaviors that can hurt others.  That also causes me concern for the future.


We live in a culture where the heritage of our country is a Biblical heritage.  Even the Declaration of Independence states that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. . . “  But, this heritage that has helped build our freedom and our prosperity is often attacked today as a negative influence in our culture.  And, often if Christians try to engage in conversation about beliefs and values, that conversation is shut down.  This too causes me concern for the future.


Nevertheless, I want to share with you a number of reasons I have of hope for the future.  First of all, this week is Vacation Bible School week at St. John.  There are about 100 preschool to elementary aged children running around learning, singing, playing, and eating.  We have about 50 adult and youth helpers leading the children through the different places of learning.  The children are eager to learn.  I watch the smiles on their faces and their playful interactions with one another, and I have hope for the future.  What a blessing to see these young lives joyfully growing in a knowledge of God’s care and His love.  I am especially thankful that 4 of my grandchildren are also among those growing to know God’s love for them.


But, even in this positive setting, I still see reasons for concern.  Most of these little children have been taught and know that they are special.  This is a Christian truth we do want to teach.  Each of us have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by our loving Creator and Father.  However, sometimes I see this knowledge of being a special, unique, child of God, express itself in an individualism that causes concern.  I hear things like, “I know I’m supposed to do craft that way.  But, I want to do it my way.”  Or, “I know we’re can play games now.  But, I don’t want to play.”  Or, “I know it’s time to sing  . . . and dance.  But, I don’t want to do that.”


It is good to know that we are special individuals in God’s creative and loving plan.  But, God has blessed us individually so that we can work together in His Body, the Church, to do His work.  There is a time when individualism becomes a problem because people won’t work together.  There is a time that being a special individual can be a special kind of selfishness.


Yet, as I watch these children . . . I also see myself.  I too know I am a child of God, special because He formed and made me.  But, all you have to do is ask my wife if there are times that my “unique” behavior can lead to chaos in our family, or cause some “issues.”  I do not set out with that purpose, but I know that there are times that my “individual” behavior, even when intended well, needs restraining.


Martin Luther taught in his Small Catechism that all of us, children AND parents, need a new start daily.  In the section on baptism Luther asks, “What does such baptizing with water indicate?”His answer is, “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” As a man who looked first to Scripture for His answers, Luther asks again, “Where is this written?” Luther’s answer from Scripture is, St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)”


In other words, we all struggle with our selfish, individual, sinful nature.  We can see that struggle in our country.  We can see that struggle in our churches.  We can see this struggle in our children.  We can see this struggle with sin in ourselves!  So, every day we need a new start.  Luther teaches that our sinful self, our Old Adam, needs to die every day so God can make us new in Jesus.  According to Romans 6, one source of this new life is God’s work in our baptisms.


But, there is another reason why I am even more hopeful for the future as these 150 people gather to learn about God’s love at VBS through His Word.  In 1 Peter, God inspired Peter to write about a new life based on God’s love.  Listen to another source of this new life we all need.  “. . . love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  (1 Peter 1:22 b -23 ESV)  All of us need a new start every day.  God works new life in us, we are born again, through His WORD!  And this week, the Word of God is working in these 150 people that together we might die to sin with Jesus and rise to new life with Him.  God’s word works in the hearts of these 150 individuals to live and work together as beloved and saved children of God.


In fact, on Wednesday I saw this new life in action. As I was helping to teach, one young girl from our congregation called me over.  “Pastor Rockey.  I want to be baptized.”  I talked to her mom later that day and we now have a tentative time for her baptism.  See how God’s Word works new life!


So, I have hope.  In a world of individuals who can act selfishly, God is working new life of faith in our young people, through His Word and through the Sacrament of baptism.  Praise the Lord!


A Child of God, Thankful for the Power of God’s Word to Create New Life!

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Here are some recent baptism pictures.  Please join in welcoming these new members of God’s family at St. John.

·       Jack Richard Trevithick, baptized June 17, 2018

·       Araya Hope Sherwood, baptized 6-27-2018

·       Isla Ann Abbott, July 15 late worship.

·       Finn Leland Wiese, July 22 early worship.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from the first day or two of Vacation Bible School.


P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from a fishing trip my son, Josh, and his kids.  Annabelle, the youngest, was the only one to catch a fish.





ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thankful for Vital Communication that is ALWAYS Open!

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


I’ve heard many times in recent years that we live in “The Age of Communication.”  People are “on-line”, “plugged-in”, and “connected” . . . supposedly.  Modern technology exists all around the world.  People in Alaska can talk to and see what is happening in New York City, in China, or Africa!  Even in the village of Eek we saw children on their cellular devices – connected!


But some say, with good reason, that there is too much information available and we experience “information overload.”  Have you gone to Google to find out information on a topic?  Have you visited Wikipedia?  Once you find your information, is it reliable?


Others say that we are so “connected” that there is no real communication.  People communicate by Facebook, or by text message, or by e-mail (like this one).  But, how many people sit down and look another person in the eye, and talk person to person about something really vital or important?  Perhaps in this “Communication Age” there is less real communication going on in the lives of individuals.


These topics fill my mind and heart because we had a communication challenge while our St. John AMC VBS team was in the village of Eek in early July.  I had thought of trying to get a GCI cell phone for our trip, knowing that GCI is the only network that works in much of rural Alaska.  (I learned this fact most vividly when my daughter, Mary, was teaching in Chevak.)  But, I never got around to making those arrangements.  We had no GCI network phone.


So, while in Eek, all our adults had cell phones, but we could not use them to call, or to text, or to get onto the internet.  This created some communication challenges.  Not only could we not communicate with family at home, but also had some challenges reaching people in the village.  For example, our contact, George Alexie, would come by the place we were staying a number of times a day.  We could ask questions and get things taken care when George visited.  But, if we needed to contact George we could not do so.  We did not have phones that worked.


In order to travel by plane to and from the villages, a person gets in touch with the Airline Contact.  Emma was the airline contact person in Eek.  When we wanted to check on our flights out of Eek we were told to get in touch with Emma.  But, we did not have phones that worked.


One of the blessings in Eek is they now have a water system up and working.  George says he got water to his home last summer.  However, there was no running water yet in the place we stayed.  Yet, the village did open up the washerteria for us.  Fritz was the person in Eek in charge of the washerteria and opened it up one night so we could use the showers.  Realizing how much we appreciated the showers, Fritz later came by to tell me, “Anytime you want a shower, just call me up and I’ll open it for you.”  But, we couldn’t call Fritz.  We did not have phones that worked.


Our team is not the only example of people having trouble with communicating, even with all our technology.  How about you?  Have you ever called someone, but they did not answer?  Have you ever text-messaged someone, but they did not text back?  Have you ever e-mailed someone, but have gotten no response?  Listening is the most important part of communicating.  But sometimes we also need to speak.  What if you speak, but you are not heard?


There is one very important communication that does not require cell service, and where the One with whom we communicate always hears our message and always answers.  Listen to what Jesus teaches His disciples about prayer. 


7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!


Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father always hears us.  The Lord always answers us, even if we can’t understand His answer, at least for the moment.  God’s answer always includes His goodness, even if we have trouble seeing, or understanding God’s goodness.


If communicating with others is important, communication with our Lord, our Creator, our Savior, our Comforter, is even more vital.  God speaks to us first in His Word, in the Scriptures and in His Son Jesus.  But, when we respond and speak to God there is never a network problem.  Our Heavenly Father hears and answers with His wisdom and love.  7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.


A Child of God, Thankful for Vital Communication that is Always Open,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Here are some pictures from our garden last week.


P.P.S.  These are summer pictures of the flowers in our front yard, this week. -


P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of an evening of fishing on a local lake.


P.P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of halibut fishing with my daughter, Mary, my niece, KJ, and her husband, Brian.  (Thank you, Fred Vasilie, cousin of Mike Sweeney and Karen Sweeney Johnson!)




ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.




Monday, July 9, 2018

Thankful for Smiles and Teamwork

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Well, I can report on another Alaskan Adventure.  A St. John team of 6 people conducted Vacation Bible School in the small village of Eek, a Yupik town of about 300 people along the Eek River, a tributary of the Kuskokwim.  St. John has helped lead Alaska Mission for Christ Vacation Bible Schools in past years in such places as Cordova and Sterling, Eagle and Delta, Northway and Kenai.  But this is the first St. John VBS in Southwest Alaska.


Two impressions stick out in my mind from this adventure: the smiles and the team work. 


The smiles are the easy part.  We count that about 70 children participated in VBS over the week, though there were seldom more than 40 children present at once.  We provided music and Bible lessons, crafts and snacks, and we led games.  Children would come and go throughout each session of VBS.  They especially participated in the crafts.  But, whether we were teaching lessons, or giving snacks, whether they were coming or going, the faces of the children lit up with smiles.  I’m not sure if it was just because of the setting and because they were children, or if the smiles on these children were especially beautiful.  But the smiles of these children touched my heart.


I have a hope that these smiles came from the love of God.  St. Paul wrote from prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say it, Rejoice!”  (Philippians 4:4).  It is amazing that Paul could find joy in prison.  But, joy is different than happiness.  Happiness, which is pursued by Americans, is often based on the circumstances and experiences of life.  When life goes well we tend to be happy.  When life goes badly, we can become sad or depressed.  Yet, while in a Roman prison, Paul found joy!  If you read the verse above, Paul’s joy was not found in the circumstances of the moment.  Paul wasn’t happy about being in jail.  But the undeserved love of God in Jesus, His forgiveness and the eternal life which God gives through faith in Jesus as our Savior, this grace was the source of Paul’s joy.  Even when life is bad, God’s love is sure.  Even in prison, because of Jesus, Paul could write, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say it, Rejoice!” 


The children would often arrive at the church where we led VBS 45 minutes early and ask, “Is it VBS yet?”  My hope is that, as we taught the children about God’s creative, saving, and sustaining love, God’s love brought joy to their hearts and that is the joy we saw in their smiles.


But, teaching 70 children about God’s love takes the planned efforts of many people.  In our team, Sara and Marilee led music.  Marilee taught the lessons.  Temple did the crafts and Rod led games.  I helped with the lessons and dealt with the little crises that would arise.  And Gaelen was our evangelist. He went about town and made friends, and then he invited those friends to attend VBS.  We all worked together.


But, it took more than our St. John team to lead VBS. George Alexie was our local contact.  George is a Yupik man who is an active member in the local Moravian Church.  He arranged for our housing in the Ministry House of the congregation.   George got us into the church and showed us around.  George brought us water in trash cans for our dwelling, where there was no running water.  George also took out our trash, and . . . our honey buckets.  Thank you, George!


Cindy Cleveland was the local Eek church member who attended a meeting in Bethel last winter and asked for an AMC VBS team.  Cindy not only came to visit us in the Ministry House one evening, but she also hosted and entertained the ladies of our team in her home.  Cindy’s children also attended VBS.  Thank you Cindy!


There were also parents who helped us teach the children.  Trudi Joshua was present every day to help with all the chores, including directing children and cleaning up each day.  Gail and Edith and Theodora also helped direct children.  We wanted to bring joy to these tender hearts.  Having these ladies present, part of our team, helping to direct the children, made a big difference.


Then, there is the staff of Alaska Mission for Christ.  The AMC staff arranged for the VBS opportunities, provided manuals and information, dealt with the forms necessary in our current litigious world.  The AMC staff also prepared devotions which we used each day. 


Each of us, and many more, had a part in this effort.  But, according to Romans 12, that’s what happens in the lives of Jesus’ followers.  3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:3-6)  The different parts of Christ’s body work together, as a team, to accomplish God’s purposes.


All of us worked as a team, as the body of Christ, to bring joy in the Lord Jesus to the children of Eek.  Hopefully the smiles of the children, worked by the joint efforts of so many people, were based on joy these children found in Jesus’ love.


A Child of God, Thankful for the Opportunity to Work as a Team and Bring the Joy of Jesus to Others,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Here are some pictures from the Eek VBS, summer 2018.  Look for the smiles. 





ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.