Go Ye Into All the World: Alaska

The Land

Alaska was first brought to our exercise through reading in Light & Liberty (a magazine given to me by Sam Hamilton’s brother, Frank) about “The Neglected Northwest – Alaska.” It was a territory then and not much was known about it. After our 51 years of service, it is still the “neglected” place as far as dedicated pioneer servants from assemblies are concerned.

Our personal perspective comes from experience in the Lord’s work here. Early labors were among the Athabascan Indians in the interior. It was the Lord’s time of visitation with encouragement in souls being saved. Much seed was sown. The harvest is not in yet but “first fruits” of our labors are still thrilling to recall. Most of those “first fruits” are now in the glory.

The Labor

Alaska is a very large land with four time zones! The total population of the state is about 500,000. There are some 240 villages dotted over the land mass. We personally have labored in a mere ten of those villages over the years and these were often hundreds of miles apart in South Central Alaska. The main road system is very limited, usually connecting the few towns and main cities. Much travel is dependent on air service and dog teams, and in recent years snow machines.

Many places, including cities, caused deep exercise as to how they could be reached with the gospel. However, so far as we are concerned, we covered what we could – villages, fish camps, camps for Indian children, hospitals, and the cities of Ketchikan and Anchorage.

The large Native Hospital in Anchorage is a good place to meet people from villages far removed from any possibility of a visit by us. By visiting, we sowed much seed there. We held Sunday School there for many years. A new hospital replaced the old one and several have been saved through our visits there. We even were requested to have services in a Roman Catholic Home for the aged. Even there seed was sown and a few souls professed to be saved. That work is over now.

Most of Alaska’s population is in Anchorage, a city of 300,000. It is more cosmopolitan than New York City with people from every tongue and nation. The churches are numerous: eighteen pages of churches are listed in the “Yellow Pages” for Anchorage alone. Two military bases are in Anchorage: Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson Army Base, once a fruitful field. The assembly’s present correspondent is the fruit from it.

The Local Testimony

The assembly in Anchorage has maintained a good testimony since it began in 1957-58. With the city’s rapid expansion, the assembly is in its third Gospel Hall located at 900 W. Dimond Boulevard, a main highway on the south side of the city. Another work was started in a vicinity 20 miles south of Anchorage. Some souls were saved and baptized. Ten gathered to the Lord’s Name. Due to the dwindling state of the Anchorage Assembly, we were asked for help and felt led to go and minister there. However, due to “worker neglect,” we found it best to have the folks in Indian/Bird Creek move up to Anchorage. Thus the combined assemblies gave strength to maintain a united testimony.

Alaska has a transient population. We have seen many move to the “Lower 48 States.” The Lord gave encouragement and we had over forty in full fellowship. Eleven of these lived 55 miles away in Wasilla where they gathered through the week for prayer and Bible study. They were able to start a Sunday School, attended by a nice number of children. Last December they were commended to the Lord for His testimony in Wasilla. In spite of felt weakness, they go on nicely for the Lord, but need help too. Wasilla is the fastest growing community in Alaska. This spring five from the Anchorage fellowship moved to other states because of a job transfer, a move due to military service, or their need to enter a long term care facility. This reduced our numbers down to 26, soon to be 27 with the addition of a girl brought up in the assembly, a real worker as is her family.

The Longing

We feel our weakness, but have proved the Lord to be our strength as manifest in a recent special series for children. Many invitations were distributed by the usual committed ones. How blessed we were when 40 children from around the vicinity of the Hall came. Many were teenagers, both boys and girls. When they felt comfortable, they asked pointed questions about suicide, sin, hell, and other serious topics. One teenager was all in black and very depressed. Next month, when school opens, we plan a Saturday gathering. We pray we will be able to enroll them for Sunday School.