May 27, 2016
As we continue with this story, let me recap where we wrapped up last week. Just before Dad passed into eternity and changed addresses 30 years ago on Good Friday of 1986, he said to me, "Son, I'm sorry that I don't have a great inheritance to leave you." I couldn't help but weep. I said to him, "Dad, you are leaving me something far greater than an inheritance. You are leaving me with a heritage in God that no amount of money could ever purchase. I wouldn't trade that heritage for all the money in the world!"
Ministry like that which I saw with my parents does not come without a cost -- and great personal cost, at that! Dwain McKenzie, my lifetime friend, brother in the Lord, and one who followed my folks' ministry, ministering both in Point Hope and in Barrow, will easily remember Dad's comment, made on more than once occasion.
"Our lives are here for the Lord to spend as He sees fit so that He receives His reward."
It is something that has stood both Della and me in the years since. Though the opposition and persecution we've endured has been of a very different nature, it has still be of a nature that would cause the great majority of people to quit. What we saw in Dad and Mom and learned from their example was that when you have the Word of the Lord -- a rhema in your spirit, nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- can stop you from continuing forward in obedience to that Word!
When opposition and attacks came, Dad would get a smile on his face, shrug his shoulders and say, "It just goes with the territory."
Yet they began to face the longest and most sustained attempt on their personal well-being and existence on the island you could possibly imagine. You'll recall the Coffee Breaks where I mentioned the rock-throwing incidents and the eventual death of the Russian Orthodox priest's son in a manner that the priest knew was the judgment of God.
Normally, you would think that this would have ended the matter. The fact that the Orthodox priest came to visit Dad and to say to him, "I know that my son's death was the judgment of the Lord," was a visible testimony to the people of Saint Paul Island. He accepted responsibility for what had happened. He acknowledged that he -- in his religious zeal -- was wrong. Alvin and Lorraine Capener were on Saint Paul Island because the Lord sent them there. Neither the priest, nor his predecessors, had produced anything that was life-changing for the island. They were stuck in their religion and their traditions.
Human nature is strange. One would think that with the tragedy that struck the priest and his family -- especially in view of the circumstances and the Word of the Lord that had been given him before those circumstances -- repentance would take place and there would be measurable change within the Russian Orthodox church on Saint Paul. Not so. Because of being so steeped in the traditions and doctrines that he had grown up with, and because there was no repentance towards God, and because the priest genuinely was ignorant of the Word, he returned to the traditions of the church, practicing the same old rituals week after week, and preaching the same error that had been preached on the island for more than a century. (I'll talk a bit more about this a bit later.)
Two of the young men who were part of those rock-throwing attacks blamed Dad and Mom personally for the death of the priest's son, despite the priest's public confession to the contrary. They were so indoctrinated and dominated by religious spirits that their ability to hear and receive truth was completely shut down. They vowed a vow between themselves.
That vow essentially amounted to this: "Whatever it takes, we're going to drive the Capeners from this island, and we're going to take their property away from them to ensure that this heresy is driven from Saint Paul."
I've made mention in previous Coffee Breaks about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA, for short) in which Alaska was divided by Congressional fiat into 13 native regions -- each region representing an Eskimo, Indian or Aleut tribal group or designation -- and an amount equal to roughly $8 Billion paid out to the corporations as "restitution" for "illegally taking their land away from them."
It was a case of political insanity that resulted in such upheaval as to effectively take away from the native cultures an indigenous lifestyle they had known for centuries and exchange it for a western-oriented greed, coupled with a welfare mentality that essentially made the people wards of the Federal Government. I don't want to expand too much on this because it is more political and social commentary than anything else, and that's not what this series of Coffee Breaks is about. (When I wax political, my Coffee Breaks are so identified. ...chuckle....) I will say that at least two or three of the thirteen native corporations that were formed out of ANCSA actually produced some real benefit for their regions.
One of the native corporations formed for the Aleuts was called Tanadgusix Corporation. It was a local governing entity over Saint Paul and Saint George Islands whose mandate was to apportion and distribute the land to the corporation stockholders in such a manner that they would be able to keep and hold within their families the lands and homes they had lived in for decades and centuries. Tanadgusix was separate from the main regional entity, the Aleut Corporation, which had the mandate for all of the Aleutian Islands.
Saint Paul Island had been under the effective governance and control of NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and specifically, the National Bureau of Fisheries. Under ANCSA, any grants of land or titles for property given out by NBF would supersede ANCSA's distribution. The same held true in other native regions and communities.
Dad had been granted the property (roughly equal to about three-to-four acres -- by my guestimate) for the church and home by the Bureau of Fisheries, and when Congress was preparing to pass ANCSA in 1972, he was advised in writing by U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (who was a longtime family friend) that NOAA would grant permanent title to the land, and that it would become exempt from seizure by any native corporate entity when the NBF ceded the islands to Tanadgusix Corporation (TDX).
This process was under way, moving with the due and deliberate speed of a snail (you all know how quickly government bureaucracies function) in 1973 when Richard Nixon resigned as President and the entire White House administration endured a shakeup such as America had never seen. The shakeup only slowed the process of permanent title transfer.
I do not know when the two aforementioned boys (who'd vowed their vow to see the Capeners removed from Saint Paul Island) actually became involved in the political affairs of the islands, but they managed to work their way up the ladder by hook and by crook until both the city government of Saint Paul (separate from TDX) and Tanadgusix Corporation were under their thumbs.
At that point, they took legal action against Dad and Mom, filing suit to remove them from Saint Paul Island and take the land for TDX. The premise of their legal action was that Dad and Mom did not hold (and NOAA had yet to grant in writing) actual title to the land -- and that it was "the will of the islanders that the Capeners leave."
In fact, it was not! Della and I still have the entire case file from that lawsuit in storage, and we have reviewed portions of it on more than one occasion. Dad was compelled to circulate a petition among the native islanders in which the voting members of both the community and TDX expressed their desire and intention that they stay on the island and that permanent title be granted. Of some (roughly) 200 voting people on the island, 153 of them signed the petition instructing the corporate leaders to grant title. A mandate of more than 75% of the voters and corporate stockholders should have sent a clear message, but our two young men weren't buying it.
After months which (turned into years) in which there was much political wrangling, threats and attempts to negotiate for Dad and Mom's departure, the case finally came before a Superior Court judge in Anchorage in 1981 who ruled in favor of TDX. The ruling, however, was stayed pending an appeal to Alaska's Court of Appeals. The Appeals court overturned the original decision, and TDX then appealed that decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.
For those of you with a legal bent, the following URL should provide you with interesting insight into this case: http://touchngo.com/sp/html/sp-4142.htm.
A little more than eight years after Dad went home to be with the Lord, on November 4, 1994, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that TDX's position was faulty, and title passed to Mom. The case was yet appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but with changing management at TDX Corporation, Mom struck a deal with TDX's new leaders that made the appeal moot and enabled her to retain title to the land.
Dad had left Mom with a reasonable nest egg for her remaining years -- a nest egg which included some $250,000 in cash and trust funds. The legal battles virtually consumed it all. In her last year of life (2000), Mom was compelled to call us (and other friends and family members) to ask for financial help.
Nevertheless, she did not consider herself "needy." She had won a nearly twenty-year legal battle that set legal precedent in native claims settlement cases.
It was a testimony to the fact that God never calls us 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. One of Dad's sayings to me when I was young and reacted to what my rational mind was thinking was, "Son, get that word, "impossible," out of your dictionary. Remove it from your vocabulary! With God, ALL things are possible!"
THAT is part of the heritage I received from my parents! Let me back-track now for a bit to share some of that influence in the events that unfolded for me as a result.
We've talked briefly about the fox-trapping, and the fact that in the winter of 1976-1977 Dad and I trapped some 208 arctic blue foxes, not counting white foxes and red foxes. We've talked about the great price those fox pelts brought at the Seattle Fur Exchange in the spring and summer of 1977, and how the $10,000+ that came from those pelts was the seed that began Christian television broadcasting in Alaska.
Have to admit: when we were out tramping through knee-deep snow in blizzard and white-out conditions, considering that we were advancing the Kingdom of God was not really forefront in my thoughts. On better days, however, as I was taking a fox out of the trap, I would speak to the fox and say, "Little fox, you aren't going to spoil the vine. You're going to add to its branches!"
The vision of taking Christian television to the entire state of Alaska was one in which I had no idea whatever as to how it was going to unfold, or even how it would be possible. Having a background already in radio and television broadcasting, I knew there would be enormous expenses involved -- particularly when it came to providing television to the small, isolated villages and communities where access to broadcast television was a fantasy.
The process began, as it turned out, with a simple request from the local TV station at Saint Paul Island. This was a 100-watt station which rebroadcast television programming from Anchorage by means of recorded television programs using three-quarter-inch Sony commercial television video recorders. The programming was being recorded in Anchorage, then flown out to the island where the community would receive (at that time) perhaps four-to-six hours of sometimes-grainy television, depending where they were on the island.
The City of Saint Paul was responsible for overseeing the tiny TV operation. The City Manager knew of my background in broadcasting and engineering. He called me in one day to talk about the poor audio quality of the sound that went out with the picture and asked if there was anything I could do the fix the problem. As soon as I saw their equipment and the way it was set up, it was immediately apparent that they had no intermediate audio control for controlling the sound levels, or dealing with some of the scratchy sound that was recorded on the video tapes.
It was a tailor-made opportunity to begin Christian television programming right then and there! I agreed to build a piece of equipment that would remedy their problems in exchange for their agreement to broadcast the 700 Club as part of their daily programming five days a week. A quick phone call to Scott Hessek at CBN in Virginia Beach (he was the guy who laid this vision on me to begin with) resulted in him agreeing to provide the 700 Club on professionally-made video tapes, a week at a time, and we would bicycle the tapes back and forth.
It was a small beginning in a remote location on a small television "station" (and I use the word, "station," somewhat euphemistically) in a small community. I couldn't help but think of the prophecy of Zechariah:
Zechariah 4:8-10: Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
The promise of the Lord was that though there were small beginnings, we would see the growth and development to the finish -- that the Lord was doing the finishing!
See you next week.
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!
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