Prayers over Plates: Week Three: Alaska
PRAYERS OVER PLATES:
Join us in praying for Hope in Southwest Alaska
as we make “Roasted Citrus Herb Salmon”
A bit of Hope’s story first ...
Southwest Alaska is a beautiful and wild landscape inhabited by a people equally as resilient. Little villages accessible only by air dot the terrain. In the summer months these remote villages are abuzz with activity as the sun shines nearly around the clock and the world class salmon fishery hits full swing. During winter months bitter cold and isolating darkness batter the rugged population. It is home to an extreme lifestyle in which cycles of poverty, addiction, and abuse rear their ugly heads and stake their claim on young adults.
Tanalian Bible Camp (TBC) in Port Alsworth, Alaska has been a beacon of light to youth from the villages of Southwest Alaska for 55 years. A discipleship program of the camp, Tanalian Leadership Center (TLC), began in 2011. TLC exists to mentor Native Alaskan young adults aged 18-22 years old by training them to grow in every area of life; arming them with spiritual strength to stand and serve the Lord; and equipping them with practical skills necessary to live productive lives in rural Alaska. Students move to Port Alsworth from September through May and are trained in the Word of God, equipped with practical life skills, and mentored to become leaders who can have a positive impact on their communities. This dynamic atmosphere of Biblical studies, career development and community mentoring offers continual opportunities for personal transformation. While substance abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, neglect, suicide, depression, and hopelessness plague Southwest Alaska, Christ has the power to transform lives and impart tangible hope to believers.
In a conversation with Paulina, a recent TLC graduate, she shared with me that the family atmosphere was one of her favorite parts of being a TLC student. She said, “I liked the small community of it. We were just like a little family.” I find it humbling and exciting that simply by being a mentor and friend, I get to be a part of a program that gives youth a glimpse of family life. Unfortunately, much of family life in rural Alaska is marked by neglect and abuse. Not everyone gets to experience the patient love of a father that is committed to love his children unconditionally. Rather than giving a sense of belonging, distorted family life mars a young person’s ability to believe they are worth loving, and in so doing, leaves an imprint of shame.
I count it a joy and privilege to serve with TLC as the female mentor. I use the gifts God has given me to counsel, mentor, and disciple, as I pursue the hearts of young women I live with. This position is exactly what I had in mind when I decided to attend Moody Bible Institute and work towards a degree in Pre-Counseling with Human Services and Bible/Theology. My specific role entails living in the same house as the girls; spiritually leading the household; and modeling what it looks like to follow Christ in speech, conduct, faith, hope, and love. Having moved to rural Alaska when I was eleven and attending Tanalian Bible camp during my teenage years, I can attest to how great the need is for a discipleship program like TLC.
My prayer is that in mentoring young adults they will be filled with faith, hope, and love upon falling deeper in love with Jesus. The Gospel is what empowers this vision. While we all wander and go astray from our Heavenly Father, shame tells us He will never take us back. In so many conversations I have had with youth in Alaska, I confront this lie. Their experiences do not allow them to believe there is a Father kind, patient, and good to love them after all they have done. Much like the Prodigal Son, they find themselves at the conflicting crossroads of shame and a persistent memory that they have a great Heavenly Father. My prayer is that, like the Prodigal Son, the truth would win their hearts back to return to their Heavenly Father. As the story goes, the Father runs out to meet His once wayward son and lavish him with dignity and honor. The son is confronted with the overwhelming truth that nothing can change his sonship. The love of a Heavenly Father tangibly bestows a sense of dignity and worth upon those who are united to Christ and made spiritually alive in Him.