March 25, 2016


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!”


One 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.


Combine 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?


By 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 "face time."


Barrow, 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.


In 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.


Emily 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.


(Let 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.


I 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.


There 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.)


The "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.


Rosa 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.


Although 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.


In 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.


Meanwhile, 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!


The 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 Island.


Saint Paul Island?  Alaska?  Is that what you're telling me, Lord? he asked.  You want me to go to Saint Paul Island?


Over 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.


Saint 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.


Perhaps 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.

Saint 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!


Discovered 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.


Shaped 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.


The 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.


With 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.


Thus, 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.


Whether 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!  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!


This 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 without you!"


To 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.


This 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.


This 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 island.


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 later.


Blessings on you!







Regner A. Capener

Sunnyside, Washington 98944

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