God NEVER calls His people to do the possible.
"Possible" is only the rational mind's way of dealing with human
capabilities. God ALWAYS calls His people to do and perform the
impossible. "Impossible" only exists in rational
thinking. "Impossible" is ALWAYS "probable" and
"accomplished" when seen through the eyes of faith.
As you have seen thus far in this series, this is what I grew up
with and lived with my parents on a daily basis. Whenever God gave
Dad a new direction to go, or something to accomplish, it was impossible as
judged by modern standards. As a teenager, I was prone to react to
some situation and say to my father, “Dad, that’s impossible!” His
response – and it has become mine as a result – was, “Son, get that word out of
your dictionary and vocabulary. NOTHING is impossible with God!”
of the factors that seems to affect many folks who are not born or raised in
the arctic (and it even affects some of them, too) is the combination of the
isolation and the long, dark days. The farther north you go, the more
exacerbated the situation. At Barrow, for example, you have 66
consecutive days of darkness. At both ends of the 66-day cycle you'll get
some twilight around noon, but in the middle of the cycle, it really is dark 24
hours a day. Many folks just can't handle that.
the darkness with the perpetual cold during the same period (average temps
around minus 25 to minus 40 degrees F. with variances of 25 degrees either way
at times), and it tends to keep lots of folks indoors pretty much 24 hours a
day. Add isolation and a general lack of communication and fellowship
with other folks on a face-to-face basis (telephone and Ham radio just don't
get it when you need one-on-one with people, and television in the villages
tends to be pretty limited -- more on this in a minute) and it creates a
phenomenon some people refer to as "stir crazy." In Alaska, we
refer to it as "Cabin Fever." Some psychologists call it
"claustrophobia." In this current age of acronyms, the
term “SADD” has taken over. (Seasonally Affected Deprivation
Disorder!) Don’t you love it?
whatever name you want to refer to it, it is a factor to be dealt with, and it
greatly affects people in all walks of life. When we lived in Nome in the
1940's and early 1950's, it wasn't much of a big deal because the community --
despite its relative remoteness to the "Lower 48" -- still had a fair
amount of traffic in and out, and we had our fair share of visitors for
Alaska in the mid-1950's was another story. An oversize village of some
1300 - 1500 people, the culture was almost entirely native Eskimo.
Visitors were far fewer and less frequent. The only mitigating factor in
Barrow was the nearby presence of an Air Force DEW-Line (Distant-Early-Warning)
radar site and a military presence of anywhere from 200 - 600 personnel.
my lifetime, I've met few women who were as sociable and desirous to entertain
company as my mother. Had we lived in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles,
she'd have been the center of high society. She knew how to "put on
the Ritz" like very few cultured ladies. (Della is a lot like her in
this respect!) Being a missionary's wife and a missionary herself did
nothing to change that desire and inclination, and Mom took advantage of the
isolation and the need for common fellowship by teaching both the Eskimo women
in our church, and the non-native women in the community what "refinement"
was all about.
Post and Gloria Vanderbilt books were prominent in her library; and "Dress
For Success" -- when it was released -- was the order of the day.
The fact that we lived more than 4,000 miles in almost any direction (we lived
closer to Moscow than we did Seattle) from the "modern world" was
irrelevant. Bringing "culture and refinement" to remote
villages in Alaska was both a challenge and an emotional outlet for
Mom. It was one of the things that spurred her creation of the
"Esthers" girls club in Point Hope.
me digress here for just a minute to say that radio and television
communications were virtually non-existent in the arctic during these
days. I built a radio station in Barrow using the call letters, KBRW, to
broadcast Dad's Sunday services and Gospel music to the community in
1957. It was a tiny little station that put out not more than 25 watts
and barely reached the edge of the town. Today, KBRW is a public
broadcast station owned and operated by the community, and it provides a signal
that can be heard as far away as Nuiqsut and Atqasuk.
had done pretty much the same thing in Wainwright and Point Hope, and AFRS
(Armed Forces Radio Services) by shortwave radio provided us with our
news. Other than shortwave radio, on clear winter nights, we could pick
up KFI radio from Los Angeles (on AM) and KSL radio from Salt Lake City, with
Denver and San Francisco occasionally popping in. We received the BBC
from London better than we did stateside radio, however.
was no such thing as television in Alaska in those days, other than in
Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, and many of the villages in remote parts of
the state never got any television broadcasting until I returned in the
mid-to-late 1970's. The state of Alaska was engaged in their rural
television project to provide one channel of television broadcasting and
programming to more than a hundred communities. Between what
the state of Alaska was doing (and I worked with them on a few of their
projects) and the work I was doing with the Christian Broadcasting Network, we
grew -- from the ground up -- television into 42 communities.)
"Esthers" provided an opportunity to teach
and prepare teenage girls using the Biblical picture of Esther, and the 3
1/2-year period of training and grueling preparation she went through prior to
being chosen by Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) to become
Queen. Esther had been transformed from the little peasant girl,
Hadassah, into a young woman of charm and regal bearing before the King ever
saw one glimpse of her. Mom's objective was to utilize that same
illustration, paralleling Esther's preparation to our preparation as the Bride
of Christ, but adding an outward and physical preparation to the inward work of
the Holy Spirit.
Frankson's death impacted the "Esthers" in ways no one could have imagined, but it
also took its toll on Mom. Rosa had become Mom's prize pupil and example
to the other girls. Her loss to the group was a personal loss to Mom, and
she struggled over the next two years to set it aside.
Point Hope was perhaps nearer in miles to "civilization" than Barrow
or Wainwright, it was far more remote in terms of access, and we did well to
have one or two visitors from "the outside" during the year.
Neither the weather nor the daylight-darkness cycles were as extreme as they
had been farther north, but the years of isolation were beginning to wear on
Mom in ways for which none of us had any preparation or training.
1964, it was clear that Mom needed time -- extended time -- with other people
with whom she could fellowship. Though it seemed a bit strange at the
time, the avenue she chose was to return to Bible College. She would wind
up spending the 1964-1965 school year attending Evangel College in Springfield,
Missouri. None of us could foresee the change that would make in her, nor
what it would provide in her spirit for sheer will and determination for the
years and experiences that would follow during the next 35 years.
Dad now had the assistance of the former Mary Mendenhall (remember her story
from Nome?) and her husband for the ministry at Point Hope. Change was in
the wind. Great change!
Lord awakened Dad out of a deep sleep early one morning with a vision of people
being flushed into a gigantic garbage disposal. He awoke with a
start. The shock of what he had seen wouldn't leave his spirit, and as he
meditated on what he had seen, the Holy Spirit spoke a name to him: Saint Paul
Paul Island? Alaska? Is that what you're telling me, Lord? he asked.
You want me to go to Saint Paul Island?
a period of days and weeks, the Holy Spirit drew a picture for him in his
spirit of a community in dire spiritual need, making it clear that this was his
next assignment. He began to make appropriate preparations for the move,
including ordering supplies to build another home/church. Mary and her
husband stayed on to take over the ministry at Point Hope. It was the
first full-cycle of ministry that Dad & Mom would see of the fruits of
their labors in the Gospel beginning in Nome. I mean this in the sense of
someone coming to know the Lord, growing up spiritually, maturing in the work
of the Holy Spirit, and then going on into the ministry to continue the
labors. Many more would follow in the years to come.
Paul Island was in the exact opposite direction of where Dad had planned to
head. His vision and burden had been the Eskimos that are scattered from
Kotzebue to Barrow to Barter Island to Tuktoyaktuk in
Northwest Territories (Canada), and on across northern Canada towards
Greenland. He had built and established a church at Barter Island, and
the Lord had sent a couple ladies (one of whom was Agnes Rodli,
the other being Kay Webster) whom he had encouraged to pick up the burden of
ministry to the Eskimos on into northern Canada. Their ministry was
flourishing, but Dad wanted to take the ministry in the arctic even further.
the impact on Mom would have been more than she could have borne, but whatever
the reason, the Holy Spirit was steering things in the opposite direction.
Paul Island was a radical change from the arctic. In his Ham radio calls,
Dad often described Saint Paul Island euphemistically as being "at the
edge of the world." Roughly a thousand miles straight west of
Anchorage in the middle of the Bering Sea and 350 miles north of Cold Bay in
the Aleutian chain, Saint Paul Island was the largest of the four islands that
make up the Pribilof Island group -- and that ain't
saying a lot, folks!
by (and named after) Gerassim Pribylof,
a Russian trader and explorer, the Pribilof Islands are rich in resources from
the sea -- Halibut, Salmon, and King Crab being but a few of the
luxuries. Saint Paul Island also happens to be the largest natural aviary
in the world with some 200 (approximately) species of birds that spend the
summer months. It also happens to be home (along with the other Pribilof
Islands) to the Arctic Blue Fox -- an animal that provides one of the most
gorgeous and sought-after furs in the world.
somewhat like a walrus (or sea-lion) with a long, skinny neck, Saint Paul
Island is some 4 1/2 miles deep by 14 miles wide, and has a permanent
population of some 650 mostly Aleut people. It also happens to be the
principal home of the Pribilof fur seal, a now (erroneously) protected species
of seal that once provided the Pribilof-islanders with their principal
occupation (in harvesting the furs which are extremely valuable and more silken
than mink), and a major source of sustenance in seal meat.
Pribilof Island Aleut people with few exceptions have Russian names and Russian
blood. Hubert Bancroft, in the 1890 edition of his volume, HISTORY
OF ALASKA, identifies the Pribilof Islanders as being captured Neah Bay (Washington) Indians with whom the Russian traders
intermarried and brought to the islands mostly as slaves to harvest the fur
seals. Other anthropologists have expanded on this but there is no doubt
that both the language and culture of the Pribilof Islanders radically differs from
the rest of Alaska's native population.
the Russian heritage so ingrained both in the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands, it
isn't surprising that Russian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion. For my
Roman Catholic friends and brethren, if you think you've lived in a very
orthodox and ritualistic church structure, you haven't seen anything!
Orthodox rituals are easily the most steeped in form and tradition of anything
I've ever witnessed in my life. They are also perhaps among the most
spiritually lifeless, promising something they never deliver.
the vision of the garbage disposal was a unique exposé of the spiritual life of
the folks who lived on Saint Paul. When Dad and Mom arrived on Saint Paul
Island in the summer of 1965, the islands were under the control of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and more specifically,
the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Dad had applied to NOAA for a grant of land
on the island to build a home and church, and they had acceded to his request
with barely a blink of the eye.
it was out of genuine concern for Mom's health and welfare, or simply a fear
that the thriving churches Dad & Mom had founded in the arctic would
somehow cease to grow with his absence in the north, the then-Alaska District
Superintendent of the Assemblies of God foolishly threatened Dad with the
removal of his credentials if he went to Saint Paul Island.
Dumb! Dumb! It was one thing for the District Superintendent to
refuse my father in 1944. Inexcusable, but understandable from a “Tree of
the Knowledge of Good and Evil” perspective. Although Dad had
successfully built the Ilwaco church and pioneered
there, he had no track record as a missionary. It was another thing
entirely for the Alaska District Superintendent to try to get in the way and
block Dad's going to Saint Paul Island with the track record and the history of
unparalleled successes he had recorded over a 21-year period.
Inexcusable, AND baffling!
time Dad's reaction was laughter. "You don't seriously think you can
stop me from obeying the Lord?" he asked. "I'm going, with or
Dad's utter amazement, the District Superintendent pleaded his case to General
Headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. I do not know what they said to
him exactly, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Whatever or however the
Superintendent's argument was based, and however he argued his position, the
folks in Springfield weren't having any of it.
time it was the churches in Texas who came to Dad's support when he notified
them of his plan to go to Saint Paul Island. In very short order,
churches from all over the state gathered together funds and sent them to Dad,
and he was able to pay cash in advance for everything needed before ever
setting foot on the island.
is where we need to stop for today. We'll pick up the story here when we
resume next week. You'll be both amused and astounded when you see the
"showers of blessing" that greeted Dad and Mom that first year on the
I remind those
of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call takes place on the
first Monday of each month at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM
Pacific). (For those accustomed to our previous “every Monday”
schedule, we’ve had to pare down our schedule because of scheduling conflicts.) Our
call-in number is (712)
775-7035. The 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
Sunnyside, Washington 98944
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