Psalm 139 declares, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Every moment and chapter has been divinely authored. His hand penned the story of the universe, and it pens the story of each of our lives. The stories He writes intersect, and in the intersections, we discover beauty, brokenness, love, and grace.
For 10 days in May, my story intersected with a small Alaskan village just north of the Arctic Circle. From one noncontiguous state to another we travelled, unable to fathom the narrative of the journey ahead.
We adventured through Anchorage and happened on Whittier, glaciers, bald eagles, and snowy mountains. We flew over Denali, landing in Fairbanks.
Just one more flight awaited, but before we climbed into our tiny plane to travel hundreds of miles over the Alaskan wilderness, we spent evenings sitting in a ‘sacred circle’ pondering Scripture and the mission ahead. We shared chapters of our stories, and we sang.
“God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. God loves you, and there’s nothing you can say. God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do to earn; it just won’t go away.”
With the tune still in our heads and hearts ready to share its words, we accounted for each pound in our Navajo Panther and flew off the grid. Two hours later, we landed in Kiana, Alaska, population 371.
We unloaded our weeks worth of supplies and wandered through the village in awe of its mountain landscapes reflecting in the Kobuk River and tales of moose and caribou. But amidst the majesty stood desperation: shattered windows, discarded machine parts, and a people hurting from the effects of alcoholism, suicide, abuse, and unspoken traumas passed down from generation to generation.
Our wanderings took us to the little mint green church just below our cabin where we would come and go from all week. We opened the doors ready to worship. Most of the chairs sat empty, and no pastor was present. The piano stood out of tune and unplayed. By all appearances, it was barren, but Spirit pulsated through its simple sanctuary.
Gina, one of our team members, brought life to the piano. We were greeted with welcome songs and vignettes of village life. Inupiaq and English rang out in prayer to the Author of Life.
“Where two or more are gathered I am there,” He promises. All week, He was there working His healing story in this small community.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, children ran through the doors eager for Vacation Bible School. They waited with wide eyes for “Goliath” to come, pretending to be David with craft creations in hand. They laughed, smiled, and shouted, singing the “Hippo” song at all speeds. They excitedly raised their hands to open Easter eggs, helping tell the story of Jesus’ great love for us. In a whirlwind of crafts, games, Jesus time, snacks, and conversation, we saw the days He had ordained unfold.
Whenever we gathered, there was fervor. A fervor in the hearts of the women of the church for their community and young people. A fervor of story sharing around a table of caribou, muktuk, and sheefish. The fervor that occurs when gathered in His name.
Soon, the hellos turned to goodbyes, and we prayed the fervor of His Spirit might continue among the people, not knowing when or if our stories would intersect again. Before we knew it, we’d landed back in Fairbanks, then Anchorage, and lastly Honolulu. Now, we share the stories of those days and continue to ponder His penmanship and plans.
We never know exactly where we are in this ethereal narrative. Some chapters pass by fleetingly, while others are retold time and time again. No matter what, His presence is always there, intersecting in each moment in ways we often don’t even see and transforming our hearts to tell His story.
Whether in Kiana or on Oahu, the lessons we taught and learned again for ourselves hold true. God keeps His promises. He is strong to save. He is Emmanuel, God with us. His love never fails. Yesterday, today, and forever those themes tell the story of all creation.