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,
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.