Bringing Encouragement to/from Alaska!
By MarJean Peters
What a wonderful place to connect with so many people interested in making the name of our Lord known to the whole world—Mission ConneXion Northwest (MCNW) 2015 Conference! I felt a bit intimidated at first even by the thought of so many people in one place all weekend. However, I had the chance to represent a mission agency with whom I work and in whose mission I strongly believe.
Arctic Barnabas Ministries brings goods, work teams, supplies, a listening ear, and a heart of encouragement to those who bring the message of Christ to Alaska and the Yukon. Arctic Barnabas began in 2000 as a support ministry to Alaska’s missionaries living in remote off-road villages. We formed relationships with these missionaries over the years as well as with the various agencies they represent. We worked hard to build trust with these agencies so we can minister to their ministers without feeling like we threaten them.
Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement,” was the first follower of Christ to welcome Saul/Paul into the church body. While others feared him, Barnabas was brave enough to come alongside Paul. True to our name, the heart of our ministry is to come alongside pastors and missionaries to strengthen and encourage them. To further that purpose, I launched a monthly publication called Courage for Bush Ministry Women ten years ago, and continue as a writer and editor for other ABM publications as well.
People who bring Christ to these northern areas face an abundance of obstacles, for which many are not adequately prepared. Sometimes new missionaries don’t arrive with the right clothes for the harsh winters nor stock up enough supplies for the few and far between deliveries via airplane in these remote locations. Often their housing, utilities, church buildings, or snow machines come in desperate need of repair and they have no resources in these remote areas to fix these problems, except through mission work teams flying in with supplies. (Alaska is so remote, the US military sees it as an overseas assignment for its service members!) The climate, with its long, cold, and dark winters, competes with the deep needs of the people to create a high attrition rate among missionaries. Substance and sexual abuse are rampant. Many people end up feeling ill-equipped to handle these difficult issues and the burnout rate is high.
We fly into these remote villages to deliver listening ears and helping hands to these northern servants to help increase their ministry longevity and effectiveness. Our mission agency has attended MCNW for only two years. Though easily overwhelmed by crowds, I found that I really enjoyed engaging in conversations with conference participants and valued the chance to interact with others ministering all over the world. Mission ConneXion Northwest, while providing a place where our ministry can find potential partners, also became a delightful place to encourage others and to be encouraged. And that is the whole point of Arctic Barnabas Ministries!