This is the final chapter in my series on life in Dillingham. If you missed the previous two, you can click on the link to the right called “My Life In Chapters” and it will take you to the first two.
Jamin’s co-workers on the job had to leave when autumn set in. Lee was a school teacher who had to get back to his hometown to teach, and another man had another project to start in another part of the state, so that left Jamin to finish up the large metal building. The only problem was that Jamin often needed to get up on the roof of the building and now there was no one there to run the forklift. This is where I came in again. I became a forklift driver during the day on the jobsite. By now I was six months pregnant.
We were getting anxious to finish the job and go home because it was getting colder in our little house and we were missing friends and family. When we thought the project was finished, the inspector was called to come and look at the building. He decided that there needed to be more trim around the windows,and that the undersides of the eaves needed to painted blue like the rest of the building, and the screws on the roof panels to also be painted to match the building. I am so glad OSHA was not watching as this pregnant lady stood on the roof panels of the building painting the screws and bolts blue.
I had so much to learn about Alaskan life. Here I was, a girl from Idaho who had never been hunting, and had never lived in such a remote place.
I was a “Gussok” as the natives like to call “white men”. I didn’t know anything about their culture or life. Maybe that is why I was in such shock and disbelief the day we visited the Assemblies of God church in Dillingham.
It was another weekend when we had borrowed a van that we drove out to the Assemblies Church in Dillingham. I was raised in the Assemblies of God church as a kid, so I was curious to join the fellowship there for a Sunday service. The Pastor’s daughter led the worship there using a computerized box that she had recorded herself playing the piano into the week before. She just had to push play and we could all sing along. She made an appeal to any guests in the congregation who could play an instrument to come up and play and they would have live music, but no one took her up on the offer. At this point in my life, I didn’t have those skills either.
The service was nice and the pastor began his message. It was somewhere in the middle of his message that I remember him instructing the audience saying something like: “The Bible does not support or agree with the idea of the sharing of spouses with one another.” Did I hear him correctly? Is he instructing people in the audience not to share their spouses with others? “Who is sharing their spouse in here?” I wondered. I wanted to look around but decided against that. I felt very uncomfortable all of a sudden, however. I later learned that this is a practice of some of the native communities and it had to be addressed by the church. “Wow”, I thought, “that pastor has his work cut out for him.”
These were all my first thoughts and reactions. I didn’t know the people, I didn’t know the culture. I was intimidated, young, and naive.
I am writing these memories now because just a few weeks ago I left Anchorage to speak and lead worship for a ladies retreat in Port Alsworth, Alaska. It was my second time to attent this retreat and my first opportunity to speak. The ladies at this retreat came from different villages in Western Alaska with several of them coming from Dillingham. It made me feel like my life had come full circle from fourteen years ago when I was new to the state and new to their town.
This time I climbed into an airplane even smaller than the one I initially flew in. The airplane had been loaded with cargo for people in different villages along the way. There was a dishwasher, a boquet of flowers, boxes of Cheerios, diapers, bananas, canned goods, lumber, milk, and even a puppy. I stood on the scale with my carryons for them to weigh my total mass. 😉 I clamoured into my seat wearing my snowpants, coat, boots hat and gloves, and buckled up directly behind the pilot. This time I was excited!
I got to share life with women from Dillingham and other villages. The women are strong, creative, and resilliant. They have endured long winters and isolation. They are beautiful, hardy, precious people. I was no longer intimidated, but honored. I had experienced just a taste of their lives and it became my bridge to this moment of ministry together.
As I reflect on all that God has brought me through and the places He has taken me, I realize that all roads lead to relationships, and many of these relationships are ordered of the Lord. His desire is that every person comes to know Him. My job is not to complain about the town I live in or the conditions I am struggling with, but to learn, connect, love people and hear God’s heart for the people around me. This for me is “Coming Full Circle”. I am so glad God gave me a chance to see this day!
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
God never wastes our lives. Every little piece is tailor made to fit together in His plan. For me the first puzzling piece was Mindy, but now the picture is coming into view. I am so grateful for Mindy and for the God who orders my steps.