Mission team finds moose, cheese sticks, and lessons in Alaska
They really wanted to see a moose.
So teens from New Palestine, visiting Alaska, had their eyes peeled in some of the usual spots – the moose viewing spots mentioned by local residents. No moose.
One day, however, as they were driving a van to the church where they lived, “there’s a moose right by the side of the road,” Ezra Schwier said. “They are right there.”
He was one of some 30 youth and sponsors from Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine who traveled to Alaska in June on a missionary work trip. Their tasks and the weather were varied, from the heat of a sand volleyball court to the cold bite of trekking a mountain pass in sight of snow-capped peaks.
“The climate and the landscapes were so varied,” said Anna Ackerman, a new student at New Palestine High School. “I couldn’t decide if I was in Indiana or Colorado.”
The group split into smaller groups to serve in the Anchorage area. Some have run a vacation Bible school in a park. Others sorted and organized the walk-in freezer of a nonprofit serving the hungry and / or homeless. Still others have helped ChangePoint Church.
Anna was a team leader for the VBS, so she led a group of children through different stations during the four hours they were there: a devotion with a bible story, an accompanying coloring picture, a snack and a game to play according to the lesson.
The group of upcoming children grew larger during the week, and a grandmother shared with the team how excited her grandson was about memorizing today’s Bible verse and other verses when he got home.
“It was just cool how it started out like a little fire inside him,” said Anna.
Sadie Miller said the children warmly welcomed the VBS volunteers.
“We were new people who came to their community at random,” said Sadie, also a new elderly person from New Palestine. “They were so happy and so excited to know more about Jesus.”
The mission team traveled to Chicago in early June 5, took flights to Seattle, and arrived in Alaska around midnight there. They spent several days serving in various locations, having been linked to these organizations through Praying Pelican Missions. Then they flew from Anchorage to Chicago on June 12 and returned to New Palestine.
They pulled the weeds and swept the gravel on the ChangePoint Church campus, where they stayed for the week. They also helped with a drive-through food distribution at ChangePoint, packing sweet corn, chips, bread, eggs and half and half into boxes. Each box was packed to feed a family, and drivers lined up in the church parking lot were telling how many families they were picking up.
Another day, Ezra and others were gathering food for a local mission. He felt out of his comfort zone knocking on doors and asking people if they had any cans for a pantry. He felt better after hearing some of the responses from people.
“They were like, ‘Sure, yeah, I’d love to donate, because when I needed it, Frontline (the mission) gave me food,'” said Ezra, another new senior at the mission. New Palestine. “It was cool to see the community they had in this area.”
At other times, his assigned group worked in a ministry that was not so face to face. His group was tasked with sorting through a room-freezer at Bean’s Café, uncovering over 2,000 pounds of cheese sticks, and trying to come up with an organization system that would help association staff take advantage of it. more efficient use of space.
The team had to pull themselves together in the task with good attitudes, he said. “We were able to elevate each other. “
This was for him one of the memorable lessons of the trip; we do not always present the Gospel verbally or directly, for example by sharing our testimony or our personal story of faith.
“We were still having an indirect impact on these people just by allowing this pantry to serve them more efficiently,” he said. “Sometimes we are called to do things that will still show the love of God.”
Like spotting a moose – not in an expected place, but in the midst of an ordinary moment – he saw the value and purpose of a seemingly mundane task.
It’s easier to see clearly in daylight, and Alaska has 20 to 22 hours during the summer. But Ezra reflects on how it turns into almost continuous darkness in winter, and how suicide rates in the state exceed the national average.
“There is a lot of need for hope for the people there,” he said. “Even in just a week, we were able to impact the people we came in contact with and share God’s love with them.