As our twin engine plane slipped down below the dark clouds in our approach to Gambell’s airstrip, the bleak treeless snow-covered terrain of St. Lawrence Island came into view. Peering out the window Don Schneider muttered, “I can see that it takes a special breed of cat to make it in this country.” This was our North American Division (NAD) president’s first visit to Alaska.
Schneider, with his wife Marti, and Manuel Vasquez, NAD vice-president for multilingual ministries, and his wife Nancy, were our guests this year on the beginning of our annual western Alaska camp meeting circuit. The first stop was at Anchorage’s North Side Church for a ‘multicultural evening’ event which featured music groups and choirs from the Korean, Hispanic, Samoan, Filipino, Black, and Native American memberships of the Anchorage area.
Schneider told of the incredible growth of the church world wide. It was thrilling to hear of about twenty million souls worshiping today in Adventist churches.
From Anchorage the group flew to Nome and then out to St. Lawrence Island. Marti remarked that, “though it was exciting to see the moose, walrus, and the mountain tops of Siberia in Russia, the biggest thrill was meeting the people. It’s so thrilling to experience the closeness we have as brothers and sisters in Christ though there are many differences in our cultures.
To show appreciation for their visit, the Native membership presented handcrafted artic fur hats to Schneider and Vasquez, not only to remember the Native people by, but also to keep them warm even though the weather was unseasonably warm at 12 degrees below zero.
Impressed with the quality of our village parsonages that are only used part time, the Schneiders and Vasquezes left with a burden to help find self-supporting or retired lay leadership who would be willing to give two to four years for building up the work in these remote places. There are well-paid teaching and medical positions available in these places for that “special breed of cat” who loves people, adventure, and can handle isolation. For those who may be interested, contact the Alaska Conference or the Native Ministries department at the North Pacific Union office. You can be sure they would welcome you and you would be kept so busy that you wouldn’t get the feeling you were at the end of the world—though you can see it from there. •