In fall 2022, Ryan Rogers, Palmer Adventist Church pastor, received a call from Petu Koonooka, Gambell Adventist Church elder, asking him to join in collaborating with community leaders to bring a message to combat fear in their community. The people of Gambell were reeling from several deaths and the recent arrival of the U.S. military to guard the island from a potential invasion from Russia. As St. Lawrence Island is approximately 35 miles east of Russia, everyone was fearful and on edge.
The trip was sponsored by Arctic Mission Adventure and was Rogers’ first time both off the road system and in a Native village. After settling in, he made his way over to the Presbyterian church where the workshop was to begin at 7 p.m.
Around 7:10 p.m. when no one had arrived, he was told that the meetings were running on Eskimo Standard Time. At 7:34 p.m., a mom with two daughters arrived. Within a few minutes, she shared about her 7-year-old son who has a cancerous brain tumor that limits use of the left side of his body.
The session started by reflecting on the story of Job to guide discussion about the fear of loss. The group was asked, “What have you lost?” and “What are you afraid of losing?” With no hesitation, a young woman shared that she lost her mom and had since become an alcoholic. One night, she drank heavily and crashed her four-wheeler, breaking several bones in her face, her ankle and her hip. She is left with scars and a desire to remain sober. Rogers later learned that both women came from the same family.
God has used their challenges to call them back to Him. The mother is inspired by her son’s faith, cheerfulness and outgoing personality. Reflecting on this, she said, “I want to feel like when I was a kid and my heart would be so happy, learning about Jesus and about his love and that he’s always there.” Seeing their determination to hold onto Jesus, Rogers asked how they planned to stay close to Him. Both shared a desire to start going back to church every Saturday morning. The mother of the 7-year-old wants to teach her son about the God he is putting his faith in and to "lean on the Word when times get tough."
With an enthusiastic smile, the other woman shared, “I want to start Bible studies again.” Since her head injury she has struggled with forgetfulness, and said, “Next time I see you I might forget your name, but I won’t forget this,” referring to the spiritual growth shared over the past few days.
We all have brokenness. This family’s pain has come in a larger measure than many of us have felt, but their response is the same response we need. Don’t let your pain keep you from the Savior for one more moment. Bring your brokenness to Jesus.