Bethel February 2019 Update

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Well, another Bethel trip is in the books and I begin my usual reflections on the flight home. My heart is always so full after these trips. I truly believe these trips are on the cusp of God’s Kingdom expanding to scattered regions across this mighty part of God’s world. Jesus said His message would spread to the ends of the earth, and it’s such a privilege to partner with our brothers and sisters in this far-flung corner of Alaska to see God do just that.

This trip was bittersweet as we said goodbye to our friends Ed and Barb Dehnert. Together they poured their lives out for Jesus’ mission in the Bethel region over the past 7 years. The Alaska Bible Seminary and the Bookstore will forever be marked with their fingerprints. I learned so much through their selfless efforts to better this Bethel ministry that truly affects the entire region of villages. We are praying for their transition back to Wisconsin and for their replacement in Bethel. Another pastor from the villages, a dear Yup’ik man, is stepping into Ed’s role as seminary dean. Just before leaving town, we talked about next semester together and plans for next year.

God packed so much into this trip, and we are in awe at all the connections He blessed us with...both old and new. Many of these occurred around our second annual marriage retreat hosted by the seminary. Our friends from Soldotna came and helped both on the adult side of things for the retreat as well as on the kids’ side of things with a program and childcare for kids of all ages. What a blessing this Child Evangelism Fellowship and nursery crew were that enabled many young families to attend this year.  God blessed us with around 34 people who came over two days to the marriage retreat, featuring local leaders from 3 churches in Bethel. Folks are already talking about next year’s marriage retreat. What an awesome thing it was to see couples and speakers from area churches come together for the betterment of their own marriages and the outreach to the brokenness in so many marriages across the Bethel region. Additionally, our Soldotna team involved the cooperation of believers from 2 churches… Truly it was a Kingdom effort together! We are all praying next year for better ways we can reach more struggling couples who are typically disconnected from regular local church involvement. Pray with us on this!

The class I taught this time was the Pauline Epistles rotation (every other year). One of the students is from a works-salvation background, and it so awesome to see her growing in a more biblical understanding of salvation solely by faith in Jesus! She works so hard in school just for her own discipleship and growth. Then I was truly privileged to have a mother and her son in my class. What makes them special for me is that she is the widow of a highly respected Yup’ik man who labored across the villages for years. Generations gone by trained this man (Wassilie Mute) and he served Jesus all the way to the very end. I always looked up to Wass and loved when he’d drop by for some classes at the seminary. So when his wife and one of his sons attended my class, I was humbled and delighted! Many miss Wass, and I could see his imprint upon his dear wife and son through our class interaction in the letters of the Apostle Paul.

The seminary continues struggling with new students, and the villages especially need more pastoral students. I am encouraged though at the prospect of more students through some very promising meetings I had with several local area pastors and seminary folks. We are praying and working toward more churches working together for the mission of Jesus across this region. The seminary provides a tangible way for this to happen.

Lastly, we loved deepening several relationships and dreaming of what the future could look like for the church across Bethel and the villages. We talked much about the type of church plant God is building in Soldotna, involving a much more missional thrust and house church expression. It will be exciting to see what God is up to regarding this in the years to come!

So thank you for praying and supporting our very small part in the beautiful tapestry God is painting across the YK-Delta! And keep praying for what God is doing in Acts 247 Recovery Church in Soldotna as well! It’s exciting for our little church plant to have a cross-cultural mission through these Bethel trips!

Humbled, Stoked, Committed,

Derek

Bethel Trip and Fall Update 2018

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Thanks for reading our update… I wrote this on our flight home from Bethel previously.

Usually I start writing an update of our Bethel travels on our flight home as we ascend above the vast tundra.

I’m doing that again this time, but this time my thoughts are more excited than usual in a way.

Here’s what I mean...

There is something about this phase of our lives that is terrifying but also super exciting. We are literally on the precipice of a new ministry endeavor... church planting. So much prayer and discussion went into this and we are now here. While it will be a hard time leaving my role at Soldotna Bible Chapel so swiftly, we trust the wisdom of the leadership and ultimately God in this process. It will indeed be difficult getting accustomed to this transition from so many dear people we love. Yet, we are looking forward in steadfast faith and confidence that God is going before us as He has through the last seven months of seeking His will. What lies ahead for us is the slow and arduous work of beginning efforts for the new church plant. More on this in a minute.

Regarding the Bethel trip we are just completing, God continued showing up in amazing ways during our two-week stent there. I taught the course “Introduction to Biblical Counseling” the first week and then “Pastoral Counseling” the second week. This semester is filled with two tracks of study overlapping each other... one the basic Christian Leadership program track and the second the more advanced Pastoral program track. Thus, my courses covered both tracks, and it was awesome to see the students in each of these endeavors. While the numbers are still small, I am thankful for the seven or so we have. There are four in the basic track (one in particular is a new pastoral candidate) and then three in the more advanced track. All these students are seeking more equipping to take God’s Word back to Bethel and their villages (pastorally and through lay leadership). There is one dear sister in Christ who is committed to finishing both tracks and taking her training back to the women of her village through Bible studies and other smaller groupings of women and youth-related functions.

Additionally, it was truly my privilege to officiate a wedding for friends in Bethel. This couple we’ve known since we lived in Bethel and it’s been cool to stay in contact through our travels each year. Last spring they attended our marriage conference there too and afterward said God led them to get married! The wedding went amazing and they were so appreciative. We were a gussik (outsider) family among a sea of Yupik faces for this celebration and it was truly sweet! My friend even invited me back out this winter to go hunting for some meat (which we need as our supply is getting low). Our God is so good! Never give up on His work in people. What a tremendous privilege it was to watch His grace at work in our friends’ union to each other and their ongoing growth in Jesus!

Oh and that marriage conference outreach we did last spring... we began plans for the next one this winter as well with even more people involved!

Lastly regarding Bethel, we fellowshipped with so many other dear friends during our two weeks there. No matter how discouraging things may look, God has His people in place and He is building His church and it is beautifully sweet!

Well, our plane is now descending over the snow capped mountains into Anchorage (at least when I was writing this). We are stoked to watch our God move in Bethel and we are stoked to watch our God unfolding His plan for us in Soldotna. The months ahead will fill up with transitioning from my current pastoral position, some fundraising, some side jobs for income possibly, more discipleship and involvement at Freedom House, meeting with the forming core of the church plant, traveling back and forth to Anchorage to get to know the Acts247 church there before we officially plant one in Soldotna, some further equipping for Laura and I regarding the plant, and just regular life. There are many dark areas in every community, including the Soldotna region. We are excited to be the hands and feet of Jesus pursuing the unseen of our community and making them seen through Jesus’ love. We pray God will continue spreading His fame through this disciple-making work on the Kenai Peninsula that extends out to the villages as well! 

We’re returning to the road system with grateful hearts and praying we ascribe glory to our great God as we follow His leadership!

In Him,

Derek

Preparing for Fall 2018 Bethel Trip

Well it's that time again! Our Bethel trip this year though kicks off the fall semester for the seminary. We leave September 9 and serve in Bethel through the 22nd of the month.

This trip I'm excited to return to teaching courses on Biblical Counseling the first week and Pastoral Counseling the second week. Additionally, the weekend in the middle we are excited to be a part of our friends' wedding ceremony in Bethel! In fact, I'm privileged to be officiating the ceremony!

Please be in prayer for this trip to ascribe glory to our awesome God!

Oh and additionally, we have some other exciting ministry news to share in the coming weeks. We'll share more soon!

 

For the Spread of His Fame and Ascribing Glory to our King,

- Derek

Keep Praying for Alaska

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There I sat peering out my window as my youngest boy looked out with wonder and some sadness at leaving this place with fond memories from yet another trip out here. My family and I continue trips to Bethel where I teach classes at the Alaska Bible Seminary. After living in this hub community and doing these routine teaching trips, my heart truly is drawn to these people and their way of life. I deeply treasure my time with my friends and dear brothers and sisters in Christ out here. 

What grips my heart is the colossal needs and level of brokenness in Bethel and the surrounding villages. When I read the apostle Paul’s letters and sense his zealous passion for the believers and churches from his previous and ongoing ministry involvement locations, I can keenly relate. I pray along with the spirit of Paul that our God penetrates this area more deeply with the Gospel. There is so much heartache from neglect, abuse, addictions, discouragement, and loss. There is so much dead religion in people who think they’re saved, but who are not. There is so much need for discipleship. I pray that God would break through the dead religion in the spirit of Galatians, that He would gloriously redeem a sin-broken people in the spirit of Corinthians, that He would further open believers’ hearts to the wonder of their redemption in the spirit of Ephesians, that He would set captives free from demonic strongholds in the spirit of Colossians, that He would inspire more to fix their eyes on the hope of the coming King in the spirit of Thessalonians, that He would motivate more to zealous mission in the spirit of Romans, and that He would ignite a generosity and perseverance come what may in the spirit of Philippians.

And so I sit here writing my thoughts once again as I watch the tundra of the YK-Delta disappear below, and it feels as though my heart is ripped from me. Please if you read this, pray that our God will indeed bring revival to the Yupik people of Alaska.

Finally, my thoughts are directed out the front of the plane to our dear friends from our church in Soldotna and the many who are trapped in the brokenness of sin on our state’s road system. Anticipation builds as we are engaged in several exciting ministries from our church in the coming weeks.

So, again whoever reads this, thank you for your time. If you’ve been praying for us and Alaska, thank you.

Keep praying!

And please fix your eyes on Jesus and may His grace and peace truly be with you.

 

Standing for our Gap Stander and Ascribing Glory to Him,

- Derek

 

* Hell Defeated * Redemption Secured * Mission Embraced

Embarking to Bethel Again

Hi to whoever reads this, even if very few!

I am stoked to be busy with the areas of ministry God continues giving us. As I write this, Laura is in Homer leading a women's retreat for Arctic Barnabas. Arctic Barnabas seeks to encourage families serving Jesus in remote areas of our state. At this particular retreat, she was asked to lead these women through the book "None Like Him" by Jen Wilkin. If you read this after it's initial posting, please pray for her and these women, who are deployed with their families on the frontlines of an epic spiritual battle across Alaska.

This past fall, we were stoked to venture into a new area of ministry along with friends. Together, we formed a new ministry called, Ascribe Glory. Currently, Ascribe Glory essentially is an online blog and video making ministry. Our overall goal is to see any writing we do (online and maybe even publishing at some point) as well as any videos we produce to ascribe glory to God by challenging the church to be about His mission of engaging our broken world with the gospel. Our first video project depicts the gospel and can be seen at www.thespreadofHisfame.com

For more information about Ascribe Glory and to check out our blog, visit www.ascribeglory.com

We continue serving at Soldotna Bible Chapel, where I serve on staff as Associate Pastor or Pastor of Adult Ministries. Through our church, I'm blessed to teach, counsel, and meet regularly with various groups of people. Additionally, we serve in other ways like Ascribe Glory and our Bethel trips.

Finally, regarding our Bethel trips, please pray for our next trip kicking off these next two weeks! This round, I'm teaching Paul's Epistles once again. There is a small, but enthusiastic group of students gathered at the Alaska Bible Seminary in Bethel to become better discipled at living for and serving Jesus. Join me in praise to our God for supernaturally leading these men and women to be better equipped as disciples in Jesus. Please pray for more! Our state stands in great need for revival, and may we Jesus' church pray according to His will that He brings it.

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

- Derek

Bethel Fall 2017 Update

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Hey family and friends, thank you for praying during our most recent trip to Bethel! The class I taught this semester was Genesis, where we centered on laying a proper foundation for this foundational book in Scripture. Genesis is chalked full of lessons that are immensely applicable for our own day. In addition to the vital truths about creation in a world attacking the historicity of Scripture and parts of Genesis in particular, the book also covers the rising of God's people Israel. What stood out to me this time is the way God reveals the forming of this nation for us today. He doesn't skirt around issues or make their lives seem dainty and perfect, rather we read in vivid clarity the messiness in their lives.

It is this messiness and brokenness in life that stands out in my mind as we minister across our state. The Bethel and YK-Delta region is not immune to sin's destruction on the family, yet this is not something new. The brokenness of families is Satan's continual offensive strategy going all the way back to Genesis. As God's followers in our own day, it is our collective calling to pray and engage against this brokenness in bold faith.

Please continue praying for God's profound redeeming work in your own life and geography. As you do, recall our state--including the villages--and ask God to bring revival to broken families. Finally, pray with us as we are planning a marriage conference outreach out in Bethel with the seminary in the spring!

- Derek and Laura

 
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Bethel Fall 2017

Greetings to whomever may read this!

It's that time again over the next two weeks for us to embark for Bethel where the book of Genesis is this semester's task at hand. I last taught this book at the seminary about 3 years ago, so I'm excited to return to this foundational book. Genesis is packed full with so many critically important subjects; from God creating all things, to mankind being fashioned in God's image, to the fall into sin, to God's judgment on the world in Noah's day, to the expansion of humanity and cultures across the globe, to the selection and faith stretching of God's forming people, to the hardship of this newly formed people of God.

There seems to be an ever present battle that circles this first book of Scripture. It is at this battleground that we must see God's truth as that... His revealed truth. Like the rest of Scripture, we are left to accept it as such by faith or not.

As I frequently mention on these sporadic updates, please continue praying for the Alaska Bible Seminary in Bethel. I really believe this ministry finds itself at ground zero of an epic battle with spiritual forces unseen. Just as in the days of Ephesus, we must all remain alert to this epic unseen battle all around us (see Ephesians 6). Oh, we MUST see the weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual. Join with us in this spiritual battle through prayer... that God keeps the seminary going forward Biblically with momentum, that God provides godly leadership transitioning in the coming years, that God draws more to attend and be equipped, that more are drawn to Jesus for salvation across the YK-Delta, that more are revived into making disciples, that more pastors are placed where needed, that more churches are planted, and ultimately that wherever you live for God to move mightily in your own life and area!

Thanks! OH, yes one more EXCITING ministry thing to announce. Together with some friends from our church we've completely redone our Gospel outreach videos at our other site, thespreadofHisfame.com 

Check them out and please consider using them in your own outreach! Additionally, we have some outreach cards and tracts that we may be putting up on the site in the coming weeks for people to order. If this would interest you, reach out and let me know either on this gap stander site or the spreading fame site!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

- Derek & fam

Hell is Real, Time is Short, Jesus Said Go

Akiachak

The Moravian church in Akiachak asked me to speak at their spring youth singspiration this weekend. While I taught a few months ago at the Bethel seminary, a student's friend from Akiachak up river attended class for a day. At the end of that day, she asked if I'd be willing to come speak at their upcoming youth gathering in May. Well, as time passed, I partially forgot and partially didn't know if she was actually serious. However, after receiving a call a couple weeks ago, I realized she indeed was serious.

Thus, I'm on my way to speak alongside Yup'ik church leaders at a youth gathering/singspiration May 19-20. Plus, I also get to bring along a friend who shares a passion for ministry in Alaska's villages. I'm praying for an effective time of ministry for both of us over the next few days! We will be leaving Thursday morning to drive to Anchorage, boarding an Alaska Airlines jet to Bethel, spending the night at the seminary and connecting with folks there, and then boating up river to the village.

I look forward to updating as we go likely on Facebook and as we return here!

- Derek