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,