We love what so many organizations around the world are doing to help spread the gospel and demonstrate Jesus’ love to others. Once a month, we spotlight an organization on our blog so you can learn about their work as well.
In the bush villages of Alaska and northern Canada, relationships are everything.
While reality television may portray the Last Frontier as a sportsman’s paradise, full of quirky homesteading hunters and gutsy blue and brown shirt state troopers, TV seldom broadcasts the truth of living in a bush village. The reality is:
- When you need a gallon of milk at your local bush store, it costs $16.
- On Christmas day, you see little to no daylight.
- You persistently deal with temperatures of 45°F below and colder throughout the winter.
- You live in an environment where up to 75% of the people in your community may struggle with substance abuse.
SEND North (a field of SEND International) missionaries are spreading the good news of Christ throughout Alaska and arctic Canada, and they do this through living and working daily alongside their neighbors. Side by side they repair snow machines and wood burning boilers. They cook moose and caribou for potlatches before attending the multi-day funeral of a native elder. They work together, eat together, play together, mourn together. They live shoulder to shoulder—and it makes a difference. As friendships grow and deepen, these missionaries demonstrate their faithfulness to relationships, showing the love of Christ. And eventually they have the opportunity to speak about the hope of salvation to their friends.
While every Christian in not called to domestic or international long-term missions, we are all called to live out missionary principles in our day to day lives, wherever we are, in our own relationships. It’s easier to do than you might think:
- Be a friend. I recently heard a speaker warn, “People are not projects.” We all long to be cared about and understood just as we are; no one wants to be viewed as a “ministry project.” In an Alaskan village, your neighbors are all you have. Getting to know them and being there for each other is the key to friendship. All people have something to offer that will enrich our life experiences; we learn a great deal when we become friends. And while God calls believers to pass on their hope in Christ, it is best in His perfect timing. Be a friend first, and watch how God will open doors for spiritual conversations.
- Do life together. We are better friends when we enter into life together. This requires time—one of our most precious commodities. Jesus left us His example of this as He lived alongside His disciples. They worked together, prayed together, ate together. They shared life. In a bush village, living side by side results in authenticity and faithfulness in relationships, a meshing together of lives. Giving of our time is an investment that will eventually grow and increase in value. Time commitment to a friend is never wasted, but will reap dividends in future ways we cannot predict. It’s worth the investment!
- Listen well. Learn the skill of listening—it is a biblically sound principle. James reminds us, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (1:19) When we listen well, we show that our friend’s thoughts are important, and we share in her joys and struggles, deepening our friendship. Additionally, we want to be a friend who models a life of service to others. And we know best how to serve when we accurately hear what a friend needs most. Look for opportunities to deepen and strengthen your relationships by listening well.
- Embrace diversity. Whether living in an Alaskan village or a metropolitan city, most of us have the chance to interact with diverse groups of people on a daily basis. Look for opportunities to learn about different cultures—welcome the experience of widening your worldview! Expanding our cultural horizon and broadening our frame of reference benefits us relationally. When I mindfully pay attention to a friend’s perspective and honor her traditions, she will be open to honoring mine as well. Friendships deepen when we share our differing life experiences. God has made each person incredibly unique – we will never run out of interesting people to meet. Nor will we ever run out of opportunities to share the Gospel with those around us.
Whether you find yourself in a Far North bush village, New York City, or a rural farming community, be an authentic friend. Wholehearted relationships are our greatest witness to the outside world.
SEND International is an interdenominational, multinational, evangelical mission organization with over 500 missionaries in more than 20 areas of Asia, Europe, Eurasia and North America. SEND North supports and administers remote ministry activities throughout Alaska, as well as in the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories in Canada.
Originally from the Deep South, Natalie has served for the last 11 years alongside her husband and three children in the Far North of Alaska, with the evangelical mission organization SEND International. True to her southern roots, she loves sweet tea, front porch rocking chairs, and a strong cup of morning coffee. Natalie loves to write about her many Alaskan experiences and has a passion for sharing with others how they can step out in faith to be a part of God’s plan in the world—whether near or far. She blogs at arctictravelogue.com.