June 10, 2016
During the past months as I have been sharing this story, I've continued to remember events that would have caused this to grow considerably. We have a treasure trove of photos and 35mm slides that Dad took that would have added an enormous amount of color (no pun intended) to the story. Our close friend and brother in the Lord, Bruce Allen, has repeatedly encouraged me to put this in book form and publish it.
That's on the front burner, and I will get to that shortly -- AFTER I complete the book in progress titled, A Tale of Two Husbands. It's the story of Ruth, and it is based on an experience that took place twenty years ago when I traveled back in time (in the Spirit, of course) to watch her life unfold, and to see the remarkable transformation of this once-Canaanite girl into a woman of faith and implicit obedience who defied tradition and convention to ultimately become King David's great-grandmother. But we won't even try to go there now. Let's see if we can finish this tale of my parents’ adventures and ministry through more than 40 years. We will run long today.
There are probably ten thousand stories and testimonies I could tell (that may be a slight exaggeration!) The purpose of this series was simply to share enough of an overview of their 40-plus (50, in the case of my mother) years of ministry in remote parts of the arctic to give you an appreciation of the Gospel and what it costs -- even in these days -- to lay eternal foundations in the lives of individuals and families.
With Dad's departure and permanent change of address, Mom initially bore up under it fairly well from an emotional standpoint. It took awhile, but the permanence of Dad's absence suddenly gripped her. They'd been married for some 45 years. During those 45 years, there was nothing they'd done that didn't involve the other in many ways. They'd watched God work on their behalf. They'd seen many thousands of individuals from all over the globe come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way as a result of their labors, their sacrifices, and their personal investments in these lives.
They'd endured pain. They'd endured deprivation. They'd endured personal loss. They'd suffered opposition from would-be brothers and sisters in the Lord. They'd known the joys of God's provision in the face of the impossible. They'd seen the utterly miraculous occur year after year after year after year after year. But they'd done it together.
Mom's realization that she was alone -- in the natural realm, anyway -- hit her like a ton of bricks. Fear gripped her like it had never gripped her before. For nearly two years, she was just shy of being a basket case. Della had to take her through learning to balance a checkbook. Although she'd always had access to the checking account and could write checks whenever she wanted or needed anything, bookkeeping and accounting were never her strong suit.
It was apparent that Mom would need some kind of transition time in order to phase into total management of all the business affairs. The lawsuit was still working its way through the courts, and it was not something she wanted -- or needed -- to concern herself with.
Our oldest son, Chris (Christian), was on the verge of graduating from Service High School in Anchorage, and following his graduation, Della and I packed things up and headed out to Saint Paul Island to try and help Mom get things stabilized. There was carpentry work to do, repairs that needed to take place on the wind generator, Dad's radio tower needed reinforcement where sections had been eaten through by the wind, rain and blowing scoria, a roof that needed to be re-tarred, and firewood that needed to be cut and stacked so that Mom would have an ample supply of wood for heating and cooking. Although Mom had a regular GE cooking range and oven, she much preferred to use her wood cook stove. (That stove was also in need of some repairs and parts replacement.)
Besides, Dad had modified that old wood cook stove in such a way that a water jacket had been installed and connected to a 200-gallon tank in a specially-built water closet. Whenever the cook stove had fire in it, it was heating water and cycling it into the 200-gallon tank. That tank not only provided an ample supply of hot water (and it was hooked in series to a regular electric hot water heater which rarely needed to switch on), its central location in the house provided extra heat so that even when the living room fireplace or the cook stove fires had gone out, there was plenty of residual heat to keep things from getting too cold.
Dad's ingenuity had provided Mom with all the basics for comfortable living, and with Della and I making the occasional trip to the island to repair things (and Chris took over much of the maintenance for several years to help his grandmother), Mom was pretty much taken care of.
Despite the continuing sense of loss, Mom pulled herself together by spending the early hours of each day in the Word of God and time on her knees in prayer. During the first years following Dad's death, something unusual began to happen. It was a gift from the Lord not only to meet extra financial needs but to help her with living expenses where her funds were being eaten by attorney fees.
Saint Paul Island has for hundreds of years been known as a prime fishing ground -- especially for halibut and salmon fishermen. The History Channel, Discovery and Travel Channels have for the past ten-to-fifteen years been doing specials on the hazards of fishing in the Bering Sea, and in 2001 the Discovery Channel began doing a regular weekly series on the fishermen and their Bering Sea adventures. Saint Paul Island generally serves as the base of operations for these men while they fish these icy waters.
In the mid-1980's, using some of the funds received from the Federal Government under ANCSA, The Aleut Corporation developed a major port at Saint Paul Island, along with a cannery. As fishermen began to hear about it and take advantage of the closeness of this port and cannery to their main fishing grounds, they also began to investigate Saint Paul Island as a place for rest and recuperation.
Mom began to receive regular knocks on the door from fishermen who'd heard by way of the grapevine that the house and church had been used in the past as a place for fishermen to stay for several days at a time. Della and I had completed a fair amount of remodeling of the home, and that made at least two bedrooms available for guests.
Mom was urged by some of her friends in Fairbanks to turn the house into a Bed and Breakfast, and advertise on the Internet as such. From the get-go, she had more customers than she knew what to do with. Chris remained on the island for a time to help her with maintenance on the mini-bikes, three- and four-wheelers. From a purely business perspective, having the Bed and Breakfast customers also secured long-term rentals of the three- and four-wheelers, since the fishermen wanted to be able to have access to the bikes during their whole stay. So, in addition to providing rooms for fishermen and cooking meals for them, she became what we euphemistically referred to as the Hertz Rent-a-Bike (!) of Saint Paul Island with fishermen renting them by the day rather than by the hour.
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It also became a classic opportunity to minister the Gospel. When these fishermen came to stay, they found the environment so peaceful and so inviting they just didn't want to leave. They became -- by virtue of their own desire to stay put -- a captive audience for Mom; and Brother, did she ever cash in on it!
That ministry became the best therapy she could have ever had. As she ministered to these men (and the very rare and occasional woman who would be part of the fishing crew), it took her mind away from the loss of Dad and allowed her to use her time constructively and spiritually. Thus she found herself being ministered to by the Holy Spirit at the same time she was ministering the Gospel to all these individuals.
I doubt there are any records to prove it, but I'd hazard a guess that in the thirteen years between 1987 and 2000 (the year she went to be with the Lord), Mom led more people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ than she and Dad had done between them in the previous twenty-two years on Saint Paul Island.
When news of her Supreme Court victory over Tanadgusix Corporation hit the newspaper and radio/television headlines in early 1995, Mom was suddenly a hot news commodity. (Here is the URL to the Alaska Court Reporter
http://touchngo.com/sp/html/sp-4142.htm) Television reporters, newspaper reporters and film crews made their way to Saint Paul Island to do interviews with this stubborn, hard-headed missionary lady who wouldn't allow any obstacle to stand in her way.
It also caused a run on her Bed and Breakfast -- especially since the various media articles and pieces mentioned it. Suddenly she had more business than she knew what to do with. If memory serves me correctly, it was either the 1997 and 1998 seasons or the 1998 and 1999 seasons where the entire summer fishing season was booked before it even began.
Lest you get the idea she was getting rich from all this, think again! She was making some good money all right but our son, Chris, (who was "helping" her maintain the fleet of bikes) accidentally backed the pickup truck into one of the guy wires for the generator tower. It snapped causing the tower to vibrate and shatter, bringing the wind generator down on the roof of the house and punching a hole through it. Chris was enough of a carpenter by this time to make the necessary repairs to the roof and get it sealed, but he didn't have the ability to repair or rebuild the wind generator.
It wasn't possible for me to come back to Saint Paul Island to do the job since I was working at KPLC-TV, the NBC station in Lake Charles, Louisiana. (That's roughly 5,000 miles away!) Suddenly, Mom had those inordinately high -- $400 - $700/mo. -- electric bills, and those bills consumed her income like water. Nevertheless, she managed to make ends meet.
What the Bed and Breakfast bookings provided her with, however, was a constant flow of fishermen and tourists from all over the world to whom she could minister the Gospel. Her final years of ministry -- and she ministered to people nonstop until just a few months before her death -- consisted of perhaps 95% to non-islanders, and 5% to people on the island. Mom was never much of a preacher but she could really teach, and her one-on-one skills were without peer. It was a made-to-order situation by the Holy Spirit.
It was in the Spring of 2000 that she accidentally mixed some wrong chemicals to clean a stubborn drain. The toxic gas released from those chemicals nearly did her in. She had already been struggling with a growing degree of congestive heart failure -- an issue that had begun to manifest itself in 1996 or thereabouts -- and the toxic reaction required her to be flown to Anchorage on a MedEvac aircraft. Della had only recently left her management position with Zales Jewelers, so she was free to fly to Anchorage to assist Mom.
After some three weeks at Providence Hospital, she was released to return to Saint Paul Island and Della accompanied her. It was almost immediately apparent that Mom was no longer going to be able to care for herself, so Della remained on the island with her for almost four months. In late July or early August, Mom began to struggle with her breathing. Medical care on the island was limited to a Physician's Attendant (PA), the local PA advised Della to get her back to Providence Hospital in Anchorage.
The attending physicians made it clear that she would need constant medical attention, and that her days on this earth were soon coming to a close. Della arranged for Mom to be placed at a respite care facility and flew back to our home in Texas for a breather. By the second week of September, we had a phone call from the attending physician to the effect that if we wanted any time with her before she "changed addresses", we'd best get there.
Della and I were both at her side on the morning of September 26th when her heart simply gave out and she went to be with the Lord. She had previously given the doctors notice not to keep her alive by artificial means. She was ready to go and didn't want any artificial delays.
Her funeral was not the splendid affair that Dad had received (he would have been greatly resistant to the pomp and ceremony if he'd had his say), yet there were folks who came from thousands of miles away to pay their respects to a woman of God whose life and ministry had impacted them and brought them into a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ.
The life and ministry of Alvin Earnest and Lillian Lorraine Capener spanning more than 40 years (for Dad) and even 50 years (for Mom) left a mark on the State of Alaska and arctic Canada and Greenland -- and more than that, many parts of the world -- that will last for eternity. They left a legacy for our family and a spiritual heritage for us, our children, our grandchildren and generations to come.
Dad used to put it like this: "Everything that my grandfather and great-grandfather were in God, my father became -- and more! Everything that my father became in God, I became -- and more! Everything that I am in God has been invested in you, and you will become more in God than all these prior generations."
AMEN! Dad and Mom could count their many thousands -- even tens of thousands -- whose lives were impacted and changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a result of their ministry. May the Lord give to Della and me the tens and hundreds of thousands in the years to come. Dad and Mom will still receive credit for all of them because of the heritage of faith they left for me, my brother, and our generations to come.
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.
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). 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!