Grizzlies, Bananas, and Mud–Oh My!

Hello from Kako, Alaska!  We arrived on Friday and enjoyed seeing more of Alaska’s varied terrain on the way in.  Well, most of us did.  Titus fell asleep on takeoff. 

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As we landed and started settling into our home for the next two months, waves of emotion began rolling over us–particularly Carol and Lucy.  Standing off the runway with mud seeping up around our boots, we watched our ride disappear on the horizon and felt completely abandoned in a foreign land.  It sure helps us understand a fraction of how jungle missionaries must feel when their plane flies away for the first time!   

We’re only about 425 miles west of of our last location, but it feels like oceans of difference.  It’s amazing how a simple paved road can make you feel connected with the rest of the world!  At Kingdom Air Corps we were on the Glenn Highway, only 40 minutes from a good grocery store and a Taco Bell.  Here we have a gravel airstrip and a small dirt road leading to the river for large items that are barged up to the camp.  Russian Mission, the closest village where our mail is delivered, has a small store where you can buy a loaf of bread for about seven dollars.  Bethel, a town of 8,000 people where there is a clinic and a grocery store, is a 45-minute flight from Kako.  Jared was in Bethel yesterday and found bananas for a really good price–only $2.50/lb.!  He picked up thirteen bananas for $13.00 as a special treat for Titus. 

Here’s Titus with his bananas and the screwdriver he has adopted for the summer:

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With the first few days under our belts, we are much more encouraged.  We’re beginning to settle into our roles for the summer–Jared in the maintenance shop and in the planes; Carol and Lucy in the kitchen and laundry; Titus seems to be everywhere he shouldn’t be.  Things are low-key compared to what they will be when campers begin arriving next week.  We’ll all have to kick into high gear then. 

Here are a couple of pictures of Jared landing at Kako with the 182, a high-performance airplane that holds four people:

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There are dangers, both physical and spiritual, to be dealt with in this place.  The surrounding land is wild as can be, and Kako is just a tiny plot of civilization carved out of the bush.  Last week a couple of people discovered a grizzly bear at the end of the runway.  Examining the tracks later on, they found it had jumped seventeen feet to one side from a standing position!  The spiritual issues are significantly more serious.  All of the village children come from societies (and families) entrenched in alcoholism and spiritism.  There are generational cycles of abuse that we will see the effects of as we begin to meet and befriend the kids.  Please pray that we will be ready to meet these “arrows” of the evil one with the truth of Scripture and the love of Christ. 

Also continue to pray about the water safety situation (we’ve been drinking the water since we arrived and have had no negative reactions).  We are still waiting on the official “okay” from the government but are going ahead with camp preparations as normal. 

We’re so grateful for all your support and prayers this far in our journey.  It’s a real encouragement to know of your interest and concern in what goes on.  We are just the arm (or wing) of the church right now, and you are still the supporting body.  Thanks for being involved! 

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Waiting

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles…”

The past several days have been a whirlwind of uncertainty, of waiting and wondering, and of working hard at the tasks placed before us in each moment.  Our last update was posted the day after we arrived, and we are still in the same location at Kingdom Air Corps. We are learning to take each day (each hour) as it comes, to enjoy it for what it brings, and to be okay when events don’t unfold exactly as we expected.

We initially planned to leave Kingdom Air Corps today and make the 425-mile flight to Kako Retreat Center where we will spend the remainder of the summer.  However, Kako is experiencing some difficulty with water regulations and have had to cancel their Memorial Day weekend family camp.  Thus, Jared is not needed to fly the families in for camp this weekend.  Additionally, Kako’s 206 airplane is currently undergoing some major repairs and may not be ready for days or weeks.  All these changes have moved our planned departure date to Friday, although it could be later still.  As you pray, please keep these two issues in mind.

So, what are we doing in the meantime?  Jared has logged about 15 hours of 206 flight time since we’ve arrived, including some great experience in rough weather earlier last week.  We’re thankful for this valuable experience before heading out to transport children in such rugged terrain.  He’s also been working hard doing some maintenance on this same airplane, as well as doing odd jobs around Kingdom Air Corps.

Takeoff!

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Checking the fuel:

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Building a cabin:

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Carol unexpectedly became the camp cook for the past nine days or so.  Along with the late start of Spring has been the late arrival of an official cook.  What began with a spontaneous lunch or two for the camp crew became three solid meals per day, requiring lots and lots of time in the kitchen.  The most difficult aspect of this at first was the uncertainty of the number of people for each meal.  At any given meal there could be from two to twenty people!  This has been a fun, exhausting experience, but we’re grateful for the arrival of an official cook who will take over tomorrow.  And many thanks go to all the great cooks who have unknowingly provided delicious recipes to feed this hungry crew.  (FYI, Grandma Afman’s “Chicken, Pork, or Beef Chow Mein” can now been expanded to include “Moose.”)

Speaking of moose, Titus discovered one a few yards from our back porch last week:

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Needless to say, Titus will no longer be playing on the porch without supervision!

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Carol’s sister, Lucy Carlson, arrived in Anchorage Saturday evening.  She will spend the summer with us at Kako, helping out in whatever ways she can around the camp.  Already she has been a huge help with Titus and in the kitchen.  It’s good to have more company!

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Lucy’s arrival also made it possible for Carol to join Jared for a scenic flight over snow-covered glaciers this past Sunday.  The pictures don’t do it justice, but here are a few:

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Today, May 22nd, marks four years of marriage for us.  We have no big plans for celebration, but we are so thankful for each other, for God’s leading in our lives, and for His faithfulness through all our mistakes.  And what a beautiful place to honor the day we committed to each other, looking forward to the time when we could minister together in the capacity of aviation!

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Location: Alaska!

After months of planning, weeks of preparation, and days of packing, cleaning, and stressing out a little bit in general, we finally made it safely to Alaska!  We’re deposited for the next 10 or so days at Kingdom Air Corps in the Sutton area (www.kingdomaircorps.org), where Jared will gain several hours of experience in a 206 airplane to prepare for the flying he will do this summer at Kako Retreat Center.  He’s looking forward to these hours of flying with Dwayne King, a good friend and mentor who has encouraged Jared since the very beginning in his pursuit of missionary aviation.  

This is the view from our bedroom window:

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Our journey was exhausting–especially with a very active 21-month-old who doesn’t understand the unspoken personal boundaries involved in traveling economy class on a crowded jet.  But even with several negative experiences, we can reflect that the trip went well overall, with the worst parts being an inoperative toilet on one flight and losing our aisle seats on the next flight due to delays and nearly missing the connection.  But with slightly swollen ankles (on Carol’s part) and sick-to-deathness of holding squirmy Titus (on Jared’s part), we gratefully fell into bed last night after 23 hours of wakefulness and traveling…only to be awakened by that same squirmy Titus at  5 a.m. this morning!  

This is the view of “King Mountain” from the runway at Kingdom Air Corps:

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Today we have explored the grounds of Kingdom Air Corps extensively–as far as “pyanes” and “twacktows” (airplanes and tractors) are concerned.  Jared has spent several hours getting the 206 ready for flight tomorrow, including fixing the starter (rather crucial).  The ground on the runway is quite soft in some areas, due to a late winter and permafrost.  Jared and Dwayne walked the entire strip today to decide the best method for take-off and landing without compromising the aircraft, the runway, or personal safety.

Titus likes to “dwibe” (drive) large vehicles:

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Firsts for Carol and Titus so far (besides the whole State of Alaska) are: moose stew, moose tracks, and moose droppings–which Titus thought were very interesting rocks that needed to be played with.  We are looking forward to lots more firsts!  

Titus standing in a moose track:

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Thank you for your prayers as we journeyed.  We’re grateful to God for His protection and orchestration of events so far, as well as for the wonderful people we are working with here at Kingdom Air Corps for the next week and a half.  We’ll continue to keep you updated as we go on into the summer ministry at Kako.