ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: 40 YEARS BELOW ZERO, Part 10
February 5, 2016
Invariably some store clerk or business person will ask me how I'm doing when I walk into their place of business. When I answer them that "I'm Supercalifragilistic," I get this double-take. Then they laugh, and a few will say, "How about Expialidocius?" "Yup, that too," I answer. It's amazing how it changes their demeanor.
It seems like so many folks today just don't enjoy themselves, they don't enjoy what they are doing, or they feel like they are stuck in some dead-end job or position. They're always so focused and grim-faced. Then when you pop some silliness on them like "Supercalifragilistic," it jars them out of their stupor.
Occasionally, I get folks who will pick up the humor and run with it. "So, okay, this is the first day of the rest of your life," some will say. Then I get to take it another step. "Sure. This is the day that the Lord has made, and God don't make no junk days."
Get it? God's people are the only true blessed people on the planet. We need to look like it and talk like it -- especially when we are in public. It's amazing the effect one can have. The world is so filled with pollution and negative attitudes because of sin. It's time we as Christians change that with the presence of the Lord that resides in us!
Erwin Andersen was a member of a large family of Finnish people (with a name like Andersen? Must of been some mixing somewhere in Norway or Sweden) in Naselle, Washington. When I say "large" that's exactly what I mean. He had ten brothers. Every one of those brothers were prosperous businessmen. The Andersen family as a whole was one of the families my parents ministered to during their Ilwaco pioneering days.
Erwin and his family had become especially close to our family in those early days, and throughout the years of laboring in Nome and Barrow, our families maintained close ties and contact. We generally made a point of visiting them whenever we came out of Alaska on vacation or ministry trips. The Andersen boys (and one daughter) were close to my brother and I, and we sometimes wrote each other letters during our growing-up years.
Most of the Andersens were in the logging and lumber business, and Erwin was no exception. During the years of ministry in Nome and Barrow, he and his wife had been faithful in their financial support. In a newsletter Dad sent out to friends and folks who had been prayer partners and financial supporters, without making any plea for assistance he mentioned the desire and intention to go to Wainwright and Point Hope and build churches in those two communities. What he did not mention was the fact that he had already received from the Lord the specific design of those church buildings, and had taken time to do the full architectural and construction drawings to the finest detail. He knew, therefore, in advance exactly what would be needed.
It was both astonishing and a blessing when Dad received a letter from Erwin Andersen letting him know that if he would tell him how much he needed in lumber and building supplies for the two churches, he would provide all of the material, and have it bundled for shipment and delivered to the docks for transport on the North Star. There would be other needs, of course, such as appliances, glass, roofing, insulation, carpet and linoleum, and electrical and plumbing supplies, but even before he had the opportunity to express the need, another building contractor from Napavine, Washington -- Ron Stranack -- sent a check in the mail to cover all those expenses.
For our whole family, it was a graphic example of the Word of the Lord in action. I've shared this in previous Coffee Breaks concerning the instruction of the Lord to us to build a 24-hour worship center here in the Yakima Valley, but listen to what David says to Solomon. (See I Chronicles 28:19-21)
"All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern. (The Lord had given David the complete design of the temple to the last detail.) And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. And, behold, the courses of the priests and the Levites, even they shall be with thee for all the service of the house of God: and there shall be with thee for all manner of workmanship every willing skilful man, for any manner of service: also the princes and all the people will be wholly at thy commandment."
And that's exactly what was happening. By late fall of 1960, we had packed up for the move to Wainwright. What personal effects and supplies would be transported to Point Hope following our completion of the church in Wainwright were sent on ahead. Paul and Marguerite Bills returned to Barrow to take our place. A bush pilot friend took all of those things in a Beech Super 18 aircraft and flew them on to Point Hope -- after he deposited us with what supplies and goods we would need in Wainwright.
You'll appreciate that Wainwright is not a thriving metropolis. A community (at that time) of roughly 450 people on the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean about 90 miles southwest of Barrow, there was no airport to serve the community. There was a DEW Line site (Distant Early Warning radar) a few miles away where the Beech aircraft could set down, and we were transported by a WWII track vehicle known as a "Weasel" across the tundra to the village. Our future flights in and out of Wainwright would be in a Cessna 170 which would land and take off on the narrow beach along the coast.
We arrived in Wainwright just ahead of the North Star's arrival, in time to prepare a building site, put together some pads for the foundation, and use a steam rig to thaw the ground sufficiently so we could sink some corner and center piling in the frozen tundra.
Where David -- in his command to Solomon -- says, "and there shall be with thee for all manner of workmanship every willing skillful man, for any manner of service," we watched the same thing unfold both there in Wainwright, and then at Point Hope.
Remember my sharing about Ned Nusunginya? Ned was a capable carpenter and plumber. He'd said nothing to us before our departure from Barrow about his plans, but on the day the North Star arrived in Wainwright, Ned came in by dog team having mushed the 90 miles from Barrow (probably more like 110 because of the need to divert in his path where he could find enough snow) with his tent and tools. A day or so later, Luke Ikpik, another brother who had come to the Lord during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Barrow, flew into Wainwright in a chartered bush plane with his tools and supplies.
Billy Patkotak -- who was the third of the Patkotak brothers (along with Stephen and Simeon) -- took time off from his responsibilities at the DEW Line site so he could be part of the construction crew. Despite his position as the local postmaster, Peter Tagarook took time each day to help -- particularly in doing electrical and plumbing work.
We were in late September/early October. There had already been some snowfall, but the winter hadn't really set in and we were praying for enough good days to get the building enclosed and the roof tarred before the snow began to fall. We knew we only had a few days at best -- not weeks.
One morning, Dad and I stood at the construction site and lifted our hands toward the sky. "In the name of Jesus, we command the weather to hold for us. No snow will fly until the building is completely enclosed." It wasn't any different than what Dad had done in Nome. It wasn't any different than standing out on the deck of that fishing boat in the midst of a raging storm in 1944 and commanding the storm, "Peace, be still." It wasn't any different than what Jesus did to the storm on the Sea of Galilee. When you know your authority in God, you can exercise it with complete confidence.
From the time we began laying the first of the floor beams across the foundation timbers to the time the building was completely enclosed and the roof tarred was nine days. It was nothing less than a miracle to all of us. We now had a warm building (we had installed an oil-burning furnace for heat) in which to work and complete all the interior in readiness for church services.
The day after the roof was tarred and the windows installed and sealed, the first major snowstorm of the season hit. We had to scurry around to cover the remaining building supplies with tarps to keep them dry. As much as we could, we brought in all of the supplies and materials into the building where it would be warm and readily accessible.
Less than three weeks from the day we started the actual construction, the building was complete and ready for services. Just as we'd seen in Barrow, the place was full-to-running over that first Sunday morning. And -- just like we'd seen in Barrow -- people wanted to get together every single night. A lady by the name of Celia Piper had come from Bangor, Maine to take responsibility for the ministry at Wainwright. That meant that things were covered and we could move on. (I would return to Wainwright some four years later to serve as the interim missionary until the Assemblies of God could bring in a more permanent couple.)
We needed to get on to Point Hope to begin construction of that church building but because of inclement weather, we were compelled to remain in Wainwright for the first few days until a plane could land and pick us up. No matter how good the bush pilot, one does not land in the middle of a snowstorm on a narrow beach with waves crashing and an ice pack moving in. That meant that we got to minister there in Wainwright for the better part of a week and watch the Holy Spirit continue on with everything he'd been doing in Barrow.
The weather did clear, however, and our bush pilot friend showed up to transport us to Point Hope. We arrived on a cold, clear day. Point Hope (at that time) was situated on a narrow strip of land that jutted out from the southern point of Alaska's most northwest peninsula. (In years since, horrendous arctic storms caused much of Point Hope's old townsite to be destroyed, flooded or washed out to sea, so the town was moved farther back towards the mainland.)
Point Hope is a community of perhaps 250 - 300 people. There wasn't any hotel for us to stay in (still isn't to this day), so we had to pitch a tent during our construction period. We actually were able to pitch the tent in the ruins of an old log building (built back in the 1800's during the days of the San Francisco-based whaling ships that plied those arctic waters) that had served as a community center prior to being destroyed by a combination of weather and age deterioration. There were enough of the walls still standing that it provided fair shelter from the winds that almost continually blow at Point Hope.
Luke Ikpik, who had come into Wainwright to help us build there, joined us again. He actually flew with us to Point Hope. Ned Nusunginya again made the trek by dog team. That was no small feat since the terrain from Wainwright to Point Hope is less than hospitable. For Ned, however, it was all in a day's work (maybe that should be week instead of day!) since he was pretty accustomed to these long treks by dog sled.
Having grown up in Alaska and already having spent as much time as I had in arctic conditions, it was still a source of amazement to me to see the hardiness of people like Ned or Luke or even Paul Patkotak (whom I wrote about a couple weeks ago) and their sense of adventurousness in taking on such climactic extremes in order to accomplish what God put in their spirit.
We knew virtually no one in Point Hope with the exception of one family that had relatives in Barrow. That meant that we didn't have the ready supply of construction people that we'd had in Wainwright. No matter. The circumstances didn't change God's Word to us. Sure enough, we had two surprise helpers that flew into Point Hope. Patrick Donadio -- who was ministering at the time on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage -- and Duane Carriker, the pastor of the Valdez Assembly of God Church.
Duane and I had met some time earlier and had developed a wonderful bond of fellowship with each other, so it was great to have him working with us. Between Dad, my brother Howie and me, Luke, Ned, Duane and Pat, we had a construction crew for the Point Hope church that knew how to get things done, and we really cooked! Literally, too! (Chuckle!) Camping out in the tent during the construction period kept everyone hungry and Mom was one very busy cook.
The North Star had already come and gone and our building supplies were sitting about a hundred yards from the beach. With no vehicle and no snow on the ground to facilitate a dog sled, moving those supplies to the building site was fun and games. NOT!
Construction of the Point Hope church was nearly identical to the one we'd just finished in Wainwright. We didn't have to contend yet with the snow since Point Hope was far enough south of Barrow and Wainwright that the weather was a bit warmer, but don't think it was Hawaii or anything like that! We had to contend with constant wind that made handling sheets of plywood and sheetrock roughly equivalent to hanging onto a hang glider in a stiff wind. If we weren't careful the wind could easily pick us up.
Nevertheless, conditions notwithstanding, we had better ground conditions so it took less time to prepare the foundation; and with our prior experience of erecting a building nearly identical to this one, with the exception of Pat and Duane, we already knew exactly what had to be done. Instructing them was a piece of cake and neither of them needed much in the way of supervision.
That said, we actually gained three days over the Wainwright construction. From floor beams to tarred roof and enclosed building took six days. We took a little more time to finish the interior than we had in Wainwright, but we were still ready for our first services in less than three weeks from the day we began. Both Pat Donadio and Duane Carriker remained with us for an extra week to share and fellowship with us and those townspeople who came to attend the first services.
When Duane boarded the bush plane to return to Kotzebue, then on back to Valdez, we had no idea that we'd never see him again this side of Heaven. Just over three years later on Good Friday of 1964, he was working on the docks at Valdez when a 220-foot tsunami rushed into the Valdez inlet following the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Alaska. As the wall of water headed towards Valdez, it sucked the sea out from under the docks causing the earth to open and swallow the dock along with all 24 people who were working there. So far as I know, no trace of any of them was ever found. We mourned the loss of our brother in the Lord for quite some time, but were still able to rejoice knowing that we'd see him again in Heaven.
We will pick this up again next week. See you then.
I remind those of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call takes place on Mondays at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific). Our call-in number has changed to (712) 775-7035. The new Access Code is: 323859#. For Canadians who have difficulty getting in to this number, you can call (559) 546-1400. If someone answers and asks what your original call-in number was, you can give them the 712 number and access code.
At the same time, in case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (605) 562-3140, and the access code is 308640#. We hope to make these gatherings available by Skype or Talk Fusion before long. If you miss the live call, you can dial (605) 562-3149, enter the same access code and listen in later.
Blessings on you!
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