A Family Mission

We first met Amy (pictured far right) by way of good friends in Houston, Texas. She has led a group of volunteers from her church on a mission trip to Alaska for the last two summers. They help with SEND North’s Annual Conference, a gathering of our missionaries from Alaska and northern Canada. The group provides an amazing VBS-type childcare program for our MKs (missionary kids) which is a highlight of our year. Here she and her family share thoughts on their most recent trip and how families can serve together.


What first interested you in this particular project (MK program for SEND North’s Annual Conference)?  

We were excited to learn about what calls missionaries to Alaska and Northern Canada and the spiritual needs of the people there. We also love the Hall family and wanted to help them in any way we could.  Our church has a heart for children’s ministry, so it was a great fit to be able to serve the Halls, the SEND families, and create a fun week for their children.


Briefly describe your recent mission trip to AK and the parts you most enjoyed.

Alaska is a beautiful part of the world, so we truly enjoyed getting to see the landscape and meet locals who live there. But I think we most enjoyed being with the SEND families and having fun creating relationships with the children.  We loved seeing their faces light up when they returned each day excited to be a part of the children’s program.  We still talk about and pray for the children we met.


What was the most challenging aspect of this assignment?

One of the difficult challenges of the trip was seeing children sad to be away from their parents when they were dropped off at our children’s program.  We learned that some families live in remote places, and so some children are not used to being away from their parents.  We tried to create fun and distracting experiences, but a few of the children cried and had difficultly engaging with other kids in the group.


How does your faith change/grow with each new mission experience?

It is such an honor to be able to serve God. But it is especially encouraging to be around people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to serving God on the mission field. It seems to be a big sacrifice to leave what is comfortable and to go live where you feel God has called you to serve Him. This encourages me to try to listen more for God’s directions for my life.


What advice might you give to someone looking into a mission opportunity (short or long-term)?

If people are considering a mission opportunity, our advice would be “GO!”.  I believe there is no better way to hear and grow closer to God than when you step away from your daily life – – away from the “white noise” of our lives. I haven’t met anyone who comes away from a mission experience unchanged in their faith walk.  Mission changes your perspective and helps you to see the world a bit more as God does. I think there is no greater joy than being even a small part of what God is doing in the world.  Why wouldn’t you want to jump in?



I became addicted at a young age. My next door neighbor growing up was an addict, and his addiction became mine. My first set to support my addiction was rescued by my brother from a trashcan on Main Street in the small town we grew up in.

My addiction was golf. I studied it, inside and out. I played it. I watched it. I thought about it – a lot.

Before kids and full-time ministry in Alaska I played more golf than I do now.

After being somewhat away from golf for a while, I recently made an interesting observation. The simplest piece of equipment in golf is the tee. This is the gadget you set the ball on before striking it from the teeing area. Golfsmith, “the world’s largest golf superstore,” sells 77 varieties of golf tees on its website. On page after page you can choose from different lengths, materials, colors and styles – all available to help you play better golf.


Back in the day when I played more golf, pro shops offered a single basket of standard tees, often free, and you’d grab a handful on your way out to the first tee.

Today’s market is flooded with tee selections and I am amazed at what they charge for them. My question is this: Has all of this variety in tees helped make the game more enjoyable for players?

And what about in today’s busy world? Could variety and selection have just as many bad effects as good effects? Has the game of golf given a greater importance to the golf tee than it deserves? Maybe – it’s just a game after all.

Here’s the real question: Is there anything in our lives that we are giving too much undeserved importance to? Life is a delicate balance.

What’s something in your life that feels out of balance, gaining more attention than it deserves?


Travel Connections


Stepping into the airport headed to a new place, I’m amazed at the things I see and the possible people I could meet. Scanning the crowd, I wait for my boarding call. Each traveler in the boarding area has a story: the person catnapping after multiple hours and flights; the family with two small children sharing a breakfast of yogurt and bananas; the elderly couple, together requiring assistance to their seats. Everyone coming from somewhere . . . and going somewhere else.

Once on the plane, I find my seat amongst the rows of As and Bs and Cs. Someone settles next to me, scrunched into the compact seat just like I am. We share space, handing each other packs of peanuts and complimentary drinks across our laps, helping load and then unload our carry-ons that may have shifted during the flight. In that finite amount of time and space, we have the opportunity to learn about each other’s lives. And if it’s a long flight, we might even become friends.

There is something to this compact traveling thing beyond the annoyances of cramped spaces and uncomfortable travel . . . it’s the opportunity to connect.


Every Tiny Joy

What happens if you start pretending that every tiny joy in life is straight from God? Be it a break in the clouds on a stormy day or waking up refreshed from a peaceful night’s sleep. What if you begin thanking God for the tiny things and pretending that they’re all whispers from Him? Maybe you’ll discover the truth.

They are.



Emma, born in the South and raised in Alaska, is a freshman in college, majoring in English and Bible. She loves Jesus, minimalism, organic food and anything in nature.

Painted Stories



This is my story, this is my song,

praising my Savior all the day long;

this is my story, this is my song,

praising my Savior all the day long.

                                                                             “Blessed Assurance”, Fanny Crosby


God is the ultimate artist storyteller. This is especially true in the way He paints life stories: distinctive, yet blurred; singular, yet in unison.

Sometimes He paints with brilliant, vivid, momentous events, primary color oils on a stark white canvas.




Sometimes He paints in subtle hues, watercolors blending, shadowy and vague.




Most often, He uses both oils and watercolors, primaries and pastels, together on immense sheets of art paper. He slowly blends them together, striking lines and hazy splotches, a mysterious mingling of everyone’s stories. My story and your story and others’ stories all together – oils and pastels, joys and sorrows, triumphs and losses – shared.


IMG_0141 (1)


He creates what He alone can bring to life, individuals contributing to this grand work of art: the one enormous living canvas of humanity.

His art, our stories, continuing on . . .




Historic Chapel

This picture is from a very old slide (circa 1950) in SEND North’s archives. This log chapel, since named Chapel on the Hill, was built by hand in Copper Center, AK in the early 1940s and served at the time as the only church in the Copper River Valley. Though no longer in use, it still stands in its original spot today.


(Photo courtesy of SEND North)

Have a great weekend!

Steven and Natalie

Fireweed (hope)


Fireweed grows where the charred branches still lie, and the soil still smells of smoke. The earth around it colorless and bleak, it stands as a beacon of hope, a vibrant pink and green floodlight in the midst of a bleak and scarred landscape.

The fire killed and burned the color.

But the fireweed grew and flourished in the ashes of the fire’s chaos.


“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;

the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;

it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

the majesty of our God.”

Isaiah 35:1-4 (ESV)

Be patient and cling to hope; fireweed can grow in seemingly infertile ground.

Gardens can be born of suffering.

The wilderness and dry ground can sing.



Avatar     Emma, born in the South and raised in Alaska, is a freshman in college, majoring in English and Bible. She loves Jesus, minimalism, organic food and anything in nature.


The Alaska Rules of Camping


Our family just got back from our Annual Family Camping Trip. I must say it is one of the things I look forward to most each summer. In 10+ years of making our pilgrimage into the woods for some summertime R&R, we have learned a few tricks and set a few family camping rules:

  • Tent camping only! None of this RV / camper stuff. Canvas should be the only thing between you and nature.


  • No need for flashlights. It’s Alaska in the summer – it never gets dark.
  • You can never pack too many blue tarps. Being dry and staying dry are very important.
  • Always cook over an open fire. These propane camp stoves take all of the adventure out of the process.(And being married to a gourmet cook really adds to the adventure!)


  • Take the people you love most with you. Nothing brings people together more than a roaring fire, melted chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows on a stick!




Drive On – There’s a Rest Stop Soon


Life is a journey. We’re all on one, trying to get from Point A to Point B, in the most efficient way possible. And as with all journeys, we’ll experience a few unexpected stops along the way. An empty tank of gas. A flat tire. A bout with car sickness. We may run out of cheese crackers or Dramamine or forget the highway bingo game.

Do you sometimes feel like you’ll never arrive, like the destination you’ve set your sights on always hovers just beyond your reach? A job change, a growing family, a better relationship, a fresh start . . .


Sometimes when my perfectly laid out, as-the-crow-flies plan falls apart and I find my GPS Route B irrelevant, I just want to quit; to abandon the whole trip, right there in the middle of the highway with no rest stop in sight.

I expect my perfect plan to work out . . . well, perfectly – because I took the time beforehand to iron out all the wrinkles. Shouldn’t I be able to move smoothly towards my destination?

Maybe. But like wearing linen on a long, hot car ride, the reappearing wrinkles are inevitable for all of us.

Even so, press forward! Drive on because the destination isn’t the only thing that matters. The journey matters, too. The long road with its potholes and switchbacks, the things that shape our character, make us resilient and adventurous. There will be time to rest and regroup, and then we must move on again.

God uses perseverance as our instructor, and she’s an unpredictable navigator who insists on bypasses and detours, just so we’ll have rich experiences to carry through life.


This journey is yours to own; the destination yours to conquer. Embrace every bit of your travel time – the stops, the starts, the layovers.

And then the air conditioning on the fritz and the whining in the back seat and the unexpected construction delays will serve you well.

Drive on.

Don’t give up.

There’s a rest stop soon.



30 Years and 4000 Miles Later


On November 16, 1986, my dad took me to see the Atlanta Falcons play the reigning Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. I remember the excitement of that day like no other.

But one thing stood out as we drove through a rough area of the big city. I saw my first-ever homeless man passed out cold just off the sidewalk. Was he dead and did anybody care? That image has stuck with me ever since.

30 years later and 4,000 miles to the northwest, I see a very similar scene as I drive to work every day. Numerous homeless people are passed out or milling around in parking lots, on sidewalks and in yards.


I recently heard someone explain that homelessness is not simply the loss of a roof over your head, but rather it is a result of losing key relationships. The loss of those relationships result in no one to fall back on when life comes crashing in on you.

As I encounter broken people from broken relationships I try to remember behind every hopeless situation there is a story. Most likely it is a story of hurt, abuse and shame involving a mom, a dad, a sister, a brother or a friend.

So as we pass these people on the corner at the next red light, let’s remember what they have lost . . .


Interview: Open Doors of Opportunity


We’ve known Paul and Marcia for the last decade. They have volunteered with SEND North in numerous capacities over the years, most recently as hosts at the SEND North Anchorage guesthouse. And while I’ve met many people over the years with a heart for ministry and service, I’ve not met anyone with larger hearts than theirs. Their commitment to serving others exemplifies the life that I most want to live.

It is my privilege to share them with you, as I asked them to tell a little bit about their journey in missions and the advice they have for anyone starting out. I know you will glean much wisdom from their story, as I have over the years.


  1. What first interested you in mission work and how were you called to a life in missions?

Marcia: I was greatly influenced by stories of experiences from my two great aunts and uncle in Nigeria, an uncle and aunt in Iraq, and from the Mission Festivals at our home church where I heard about the work of Dora Boonstra and Ida Scudder in India, and Harvey Hoekstra, the Swart family and others in Africa. As a child’s wild imagination or God’s calling, I envisioned this as a part of my life, playing that I was a missionary nurse with my mobile clinic reaching out and serving the villages in Africa.  At age 9, I declared I knew I would be a missionary and this was revealed to me by a Sunday School teacher years later.

I continued to hear God’s call and the pull into mission work as I sought my course of study and career plans as a young adult.  Meeting Paul and sharing similar thoughts, ideas, plans, desires to serve wherever God would lead us made our desires possible as we pursued serving Him in mission as a couple.

Paul: I had a long-time interest in mission work.  This increased when I was teaching in Kuwait and made friends with some missionary families.  Their encouragement led me (us) to pursue mission work in Africa.  I believe that God was preparing me through my desire for adventure by going to Kuwait and through that experience I was acclimated to a foreign culture.


  1. What were your first mission experiences?

Kuwait 1969-1973 – taught in the American School in Kuwait

Ethiopia 1975 – working in a hospital and teaching in a school in western Ethiopia

Sudan 1978

Kenya 1982-1986

15 different volunteer experiences since 2004


  1. How have you known what to do, where to go, etc. for each new assignment?

We have known through God’s leading as He has opened doors and provided opportunities to work, love and serve.  Also the training and skills that God has given us and that we studied, have helped to determine our assignments.  He most likely will not lead someone to be a surgeon when he has a teaching degree!


  1. Briefly describe the assignment you’re currently working on and the parts you most enjoy.

We are the SEND North Guest House host and hostess. Our responsibilities include meeting, greeting and encouraging folks as they come to the guest house in need of rest and relaxation from their busy schedules.  We are also responsible for the general upkeep of the house and grounds.


  1. What is the most challenging aspect of this assignment?

Perhaps winter for us sun lovers!


  1. How does your faith change/grow with each new experience?

In each new experience, we have a greater realization of how great and wonderful our God is and a greater appreciation of the privilege we have in glorifying Him.


  1. What advice might you give to someone looking into a mission opportunity, whether short or long-term?

Know yourself. You need to have a love for people and concern for their souls.  Reaching people with the gospel must be primary.

Be willing to “serve”.  There are so many physical and social needs that call to be addressed.

Be a person of prayer and Bible study, drawing daily strength in your personal walk with God.

Be adaptable. Life may be very difficult from a physical survival standpoint and lonely from a cultural perspective.

Before you accept a position, set goals; then fast forward your life to age 65 and imagine you are writing a biography.  What achievements or goals did you accomplish for your personal fulfillment?  Examples: I want to write a book, be an accomplished woodworker, learn to paint, make 30 quilts, foster 30 kids, kill 5 moose and 3 grizzly bears and other wild game, climb Denali, become a State Senator, or learn survival skills, etc.

What achievements did you accomplish for the organization, church, or society in which you worked?  Examples:  Start a men’s/women’s Bible study, develop a study book for the people, start 3 churches, upgrade a medical facility to a regional clinic, mentor 3 men to become pastors, become a member of the international mission board, become a medical doctor in reconstructive surgery, etc.

It is important for your own satisfaction to look back and see a change.  To look back and say, “I didn’t accomplish anything of significance,” could be a very deflating and devastating memory.

Develop hobbies during your younger years.

God will use you and your talents and ambitions in ways that you know and the Holy Spirit imparts to you.  God gave you skills and abilities to use and not to let lay idle.

Thank you, Paul and Marcia, for sharing your story and your wisdom!