ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: 40 YEARS BELOW ZERO, Part 9
January 29, 2016
Last week’s Coffee Break was perhaps a bit of a “rabbit trail,” but I felt that it was really important for folks to understand that there is often a great price that is paid and deep foundations laid when God sends you into relatively untouched areas to bring the demonstrable message of His Kingdom. My parents paid a great price, but their/our price was preceded by the price that Paul Patkotak paid in order for the ministry and outpouring of Holy Spirit that followed.
Let’s pick up today where we left off two weeks ago (before telling Paul’s story) with Stephen and Simeon Patkotak, and the fact that both were musicians. Matter of fact, so was their other brother, Billy (who lived in Wainwright -- about ninety miles down the coast from Barrow), who was a more than middlin' organist. (We'll talk more about Billy later.)
James Lampe and Riley Sikvayugak (don't try to pronounce Riley's last name; it'll tangle your tongue) were both about 19 or 20 years of age when they first received Jesus Christ and were delivered from alcoholism. If you've ever been associated with any of the native cultures, you know what a grip alcohol gets and the sensitivity that people with American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut blood have to it. (Even Della with her Cherokee blood acknowledges that she is keenly aware of the attraction that alcohol could have for her were she to yield to it.)
One other factor that governs the culture is a spirit of witchcraft and enchantment which works hand in hand with the alcohol. Because shamanism has been an integral part of the past in virtually every native culture, a spirit of witchcraft operates in their chanting and drumming. When Stephen Patkotak was delivered from his past by the Lord Jesus Christ (he was a native dancer and deeply involved as one of their best Eskimo dancers prior to his deliverance) he used to say to me, "Stay away from those events. Don't even attend them. The evil that comes in those dances is beyond description. When I used to dance, something came over me and controlled the way I danced. It is why they thought I was such a good dancer. It wasn't me, and it was evil!"
Whether it was part of what drew them together or not, his wife, Jane, was also one of the lead women dancers. She was horrified when she learned that Paul Harvey, (the longtime radio talk show personality) who was visiting Barrow on a vacation trip, had hired me to record a sampling of the Eskimo dances for him, and said to me, "Don't go! Don't go! It is wicked! It is wicked!"
All of that notwithstanding, when these people were set free there was a dramatic change in their music! Their tastes in music went from the atonal chants and repetitive drum beats to true harmony and extremely melodic music. More than that, they became praisers and worshipers who knew no boundaries in worshiping God.
We grew a string band in the midst of the Holy Spirit outpouring consisting of numerous guitars, banjos, mandolin, violin, steel guitar, acoustic bass -- you name it. (That didn't count the piano and organ, of course.) At times there wasn't enough room for all of us on the platform, and we spread out to include the entire front of the church including the front benches.
Four of us -- Riley Sikvayugak, James Lampe, Howie and me -- became a pretty constant guitar quartet. If we had other guitars (and often did), I switched to the stand-up bass, and Howie switched to the steel guitar. For the better part of two years, we had an Arctic "Bluegrass" praise band like you've never heard. How's that for a novel concept?
Arctic and “bluegrass” are NOT synonymous terms, but in villages and towns scattered throughout Alaska and Canada as the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought change into the lives of folks who had been steeped in shamanism, witchcraft and the drone of chants and drumbeats as their “music,” people’s taste in music changed dramatically. Easily the most popular music among Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts for the past 75 years has been “mountain music,” (or bluegrass, as we better know it), country music and folk music.
Not everything was peaches and cream, however, in the midst of this second chapter of Acts repeat. You may recall how when Dad came to check out Barrow in the spring of 1953, the then-pastor of the Presbyterian Church, Bill Wartes, had welcomed his coming with the words, "There's plenty of room here for another church. We're just not getting the job done."
When Wartes lost literally half of his congregation almost overnight in the midst of all that was happening, he was not a happy camper. Never in his wildest imagination did he think such a thing could happen. From later comments, I suspect he'd never been exposed to "Pentecostal" folks. He began mounting a campaign to "recover" those he'd lost. If it hadn't been such a serious spiritual matter, we'd have all been laughing.
As time went on and Bill's "recovery" efforts bore little fruit, he became angrier and angrier. One particular Sunday morning as he was getting ready to preach his message, he exploded behind the pulpit and swore to the people, "There will NEVER be a tongue-talking Pentecostal to EVER stand behind this pulpit!"
Although there was never any real evidence that Wartes authorized it, a number of the elders in his church began to apply pressure to former members, using native culture and tradition as their weapon of influence. For some folks who had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit and experienced the transforming changes in their lives, the tactic worked.
Tradition is very strong in native cultures, and for folks who have not yet yielded to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives -- native or not -- it can weigh heavily in influencing decisions and corresponding actions.
But none of those people had counted on the work of the Holy Spirit that had already been taking place. Bill Wartes himself began to feel the pricks of the Holy Spirit and the rebuke for his comments from the pulpit. Change did not come overnight to him, however. It was several years later .... but wait ...... I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let me scoot you ahead in time by 18 years for just a minute. After a long absence, I had returned to Barrow both to establish another church fellowship and create a base of operations for the Christian Broadcasting Network in Alaska. Tom Brower -- yup, the same guy who had helped Dad when he needed a vehicle to haul gravel and prepare a foundation for the church back when Dad was first beginning to build -- came to me and told me that the Presbyterian Church was without a pastor. He asked me if I would be willing to fill in on at least a temporary basis until they could get a permanent pastor.
I didn't want Tom to be under any misapprehension about my intentions and told him that I'd been planning to build another church -- that if I did accept his invitation it was still my plan at some point in the future. That didn't seem to bother him in the least, and other people who served on the local board of the Presbyterian Church added their approval to his invitation. So I accepted.
The first Sunday standing behind that pulpit, there was an indescribable wave that swept over me as I remembered Bill Wartes' oath of 18 years prior. I couldn't help but begin to weep as I realized just how the Holy Spirit had vindicated Dad and Mom's faithfulness and the foundations they had laid in Barrow. The Holy Spirit wasn't the least bit intimidated by Bill Wartes' swearing that "no tongue-talking Pentecostal would ever stand behind" that pulpit. It was one of the most humbling experiences I've ever had to be in that place at that moment in time.
Over the next three-to-four months as I ministered in the Ukpeagvik Presbyterian Church, I saw something of a repeat of what had taken place some 20 years’ prior as the Holy Spirit fell in that place and people were baptized in the Holy Spirit while I was preaching. There were, of course, many familiar faces in that congregation -- people who'd either been in or seen what had taken place during the late 1950's and early 1960's when there was such a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Three months into my "temporary" ministry there, the board of elders asked me if I would be willing to serve as their permanent pastor. I couldn't help but grin at the very thought. My answer to them was that if the Alaska Presbyterian Missions board were to approve it, it would be my pleasure. At the same time, I realized that if there were folks on that missions’ board who'd been there when my folks had built the Assembly of God Church in Barrow they'd easily remember the name, Capener, and likely have something to say about it.
No joke! The invitation was quickly squelched to the disappointment of many in the Barrow church. Within a few short weeks they sent Jim Armstrong to Barrow to be the "temporary pastor" until they could get someone who would agree to take it on a more permanent basis. Jim and I had good fellowship together during the two years he was there, but the real capstone to the story came in or about 1983 (to the best of my recollection) when Bill Wartes returned to Barrow for a visit. As he stood behind that same pulpit where he had vowed that "no tongue-talking Pentecostal" would ever preach, he began to weep.
"I want you to know," he said, almost choking on his words, "that here stands a tongue-talking Pentecostal Presbyterian." He went on to relate to the congregation how he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, and how it had changed his life. Obviously it had. The Holy Spirit had the last word.
Bill's son, Mark Wartes, was serving as an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Fairbanks had also been impacted by it, and when I came to Fairbanks in the summer of 1981 to be installed as an advisor to the area board for Women's Aglow, Mark asked me if I would be willing to come and preach at their church. But that's another story, and we won't go there today – maybe later.
Let's get back to the late 1950's, leading up to 1960.
In the midst of all that was taking place during the remarkable move of the Holy Spirit in Barrow, Dad & Mom's ministry and influence took on a global reach that they couldn't possibly have imagined. If ever there was a woman who epitomized Paul's admonition to be "given to hospitality," (Romans 12:13, I Timothy 3:2) it was my mother. She loved to entertain guests. And, Brother, did we ever have the guests!
Barrow had one hotel at the time -- the Top of the World Hotel. Sounds grand and glorious, but at the time, it was roughly what you might have expected from a hotel in some "B" Western movie from Hollywood. When visitors would come to Barrow, with our place being a literal stone's throw from the hotel we often had people who came looking for a place to stay during their visit.
Roy Rogers, the western film star, was one of the first "notables" we got to meet when he came to Barrow on a polar bear hunt. I've already mentioned Paul Harvey. We often had politicians and government leaders from foreign countries who wound up staying with us instead of at the hotel.
1959 brought two brothers, Abdullah and Issa Omidvar. These men were Muslims who were on a global Good-Will tour on behalf of the Shah of Iran. Staying with Christians was a new experience for them, and Dad and Mom cashed in on the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with them. It was a message they'd never heard before, and although they did not receive Jesus Christ into their lives during their stay with us -- which they extended twice -- a letter we received from them while they were in Washington, DC gave testimony to just how much impact the sharing of the Lord made in their lives.
Once that bond of fellowship in Christ was there, we began to hear from them as they continued their travels from country to country. They sent us a photo of themselves with Indonesian President Sukarno and told how they had shared with him the changes that had taken place in them. Everywhere they went, they were sharing what had happened to them in Barrow, Alaska.
Whatever their role was in serving the Shah of Iran, it was obvious that he held them in high esteem, and my parents received a note of appreciation from the Shah and Empress (who was American born, and whom we had known briefly in Anchorage where her family lived, prior to her marriage to the Shah) for her hospitality.
While we’d had the occasional visitor during the years we lived in Nome, the overwhelming majority of our visitors were ministers, evangelists and fellow-laborers in the Gospel. Other than one or two military personnel who stayed briefly in our home, I have no recollection of anyone other than folks in ministry.
Barrow changed all that. By late 1958, our home became host to a regular parade of folks from all over the world. You can believe me when I say that none of them left our place without having heard the Gospel and being introduced to Jesus Christ. Not everyone received Jesus Christ, but without exception their lives were impacted by the testimony and the demonstrable faith that Dad and Mom displayed.
You'll recall, however, that I told you last week of our invitation to come to Wainwright -- a village of some 400 - 500 people southwest of Barrow on the Arctic Ocean -- and build a church. Wednesday, I'll share with you some of that story. It was a continuation of the move of God we'd been seeing in Barrow.
More to come.
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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