Utqiagvik Hosts Arctic Camp Meeting

What a wonderful camp meeting we had in Utqiagvik. There are so many blessings and so many miracles to be seen. I wish to take a moment and share with you the activities of our Arctic Camp Meeting. 

Yvonne Biswokarma, first elder, started organizing the event after Alaska Conference and Arctic Mission encouraged us to have Arctic Camp Meeting in the spring. She quickly informed church members, sent out the camp meeting poster with the schedule and emailed church members asking for help and participation.

Biswokarma kept contacting people asking for help with potluck food for each service, chairs — as we don’t have enough at church — and sound systems. Emails and text were answered with, "Yes, we can get chairs," and "God will help."

On April 2, we received a beautiful poster to share with the community, and God pushed us to think even bigger. Rachel, deaconess, and Salemale, elder, reached out to the community on Facebook and in person, and they started cooking.

On April 6, special guest musicians, Tianyah, Aleki and Meaali’I: The Toleafoa Trio, did musical advertisements by playing pianos and singing around town to everyone’s delight. 

On April 6 and 7 the pastors started flying in. None of the flights were delayed or canceled and everyone arrived before Friday vespers. A mental count of pastors, special guest and community members lead to a last minute venue change for vespers. There was no way we would all fit into our little home church for vespers or any of the Sabbath services.

A last-minute request to use Lions Club Hall for Friday vespers was granted thanks to Rachel Aumavae, community outreach. A note was written on the church door to go to Lions Club Hall for dinner and vespers. The blessings of food poured in along with church and community members and everyone ate until they were full.

Vespers started at 7 p.m. with the introduction of the camp meeting speakers: Steve Huey, NPUC Native ministries director; David Salazar, Idaho Conference vice president of administration; Ashwin Somasundram, Alaska Conference vice president of administration; and Puleia Onesemo, retired Somoan pastor in Anchorage. Huey introduced his special guest singer, Amber Bazemore, who sang for us at every service. He had just met Amber weeks before in Bethel and asked her to sing for him in Utqiagvik. We were also blessed by special guests, Tianyah, Aleki and Meaali’I: The Toleafoa Trio staying to sing for each service. The service ended with cleanup, which included making to-go plates for community members in need.

Sabbath morning started with continental breakfast at 9 a.m. and more food came in than I could count who brought it. We moved smoothly into Sabbath School with Somasundram teaching adult Sabbath School for around 40 people and Salazar teaching children’s Sabbath School for around 20 children.

We transitioned into worship services with singing, special music and prayer. Salazar spoke for around 55 attendees. The service ended in song and the blessing of Sabbath lunch.

We had a special community service after lunch which included praying for healing for a child and family in the community and ordination services. The afternoon service was integrated with cultural greetings, Samoan introductions, appreciations and finished with Singspiration. 

We closed out Sabbath with Samoan service by Onesemo in Samoan and English for 37 people and a blessing to start our Polynesian outreach.

Sunday morning brunch was held at Arctic Adventist Church with prayer and singing before we went into the town hall meeting led by Somasundram. With much discussion, we all agreed that we want the church building to service a community center, we need a bigger space to meet for church services and we must get a solid rotation of pastors to serve the community in both English and Samoan. We ended in prayer and grateful heart for all the miracles God granted.