May 2016, I quit my job at Chick-fil-A and decided to pursue being in ministry as my full-time gig. The avenue I chose for this was to be a missionary. My destination? Alaska. A missionary means “sent one.” Missionaries often serve in various different roles. Yet, what they have in common is the desire to overcome obstacles, dedicate themselves to praying and teaching the word, venture somewhere, and are sent by their home church. For a good biblical read on what a missionary is, bookmark this blog: Is Everyone a Missionary? During my first year in Alaska, I learned that some people don’t fully comprehend what a missionary means for today. If you would like to know more about what I do personally, read my e-mail update: Bringing Clarity.
During the Summer of 2017, I discovered a second concept that appeared to be uncommon as well: serving the church as a whole. When I say the “church as a whole,” I am emphasizing involvement beyond the church where you attend. To help explain what I mean, let’s start with two examples of what I’m not talking about. Example one: I was a part of Chosen Generation, a youth and young adult conference in Reading, PA. The people I served with behind the event were from various different churches. The same applied to those who attended. Example two: Here in the Copper River Valley, we have the Wrangler Mountain Bible Conference. A joint conference where everyone puts aside their differences to seek the Lord together, as one body of Christ rather than a single church. I love seeing churches coming together like this to get behind local events.
Now think of serving beyond the neutral events like conferences. Would you volunteer at another church’s event to help it become a success? Even if it means that your church/ministry/etc gets no recognition nor growth in members? Would you come alongside another church that you do not attend so that the Kingdom of God can advance? Would you serve in someone else’s youth ministry? If you do, it is a humbling experience. It forces you to put, well, you and anything you represent aside for the Kingdom of God.
Here is one example of what I am talking about. Two summers ago, I helped with a local Vacation Bible School in Copper Center. I assisted Todd, the local Lutheran minister, and the missionary team that came from Michigan. Unbeknownst to me, my involvement and two other ladies from a LightShine team filled a bigger need than we anticipated. Through the week we served with Todd & with his wife. We loved on the kids to help the program along and helped staff the different age groups. In a short amount of time, I was able to see Todd’s heart for the people of this valley. It was a blessing to serve with someone like that for a week. Want to know the best part about this VBS? It was an amazing program that taught about Jesus, who He is as our fortress, healer, and Savior. The kids learned they have the victory in Him while lessons connecting the Old Testament to the New Testament were taught. I look forward to serving with them again.
Serving the church as a whole is what I do here in the Valley. Here is another example, previously mentioned in my newsletter and speaking engagements. I became a part of a Community Junior Youth Group my first Winter here. Glennallen Community Jr. Youth Group has a solid group of leaders. However, due to everyone’s jobs and the nature of needing to travel for work or things like supplies, an extra dedicated leader was helpful. The ministry met in the main leaders’ home on Mondays after school. It followed the school schedule so it was on break during school vacation time (including summer break). Summer of 2017, the main leaders graciously allowed me to stay in their trailer as I tried to find a more permanent solution to my housing need. During that time, I learned the junior youth group was under the covering of Glennallen Community Chapel. GCC is one of the 14 churches in this Valley. They also host Awana during the school year. This is another community ministry I assist with – giving kids rides to kids from Tazlina Village. During my first year here I also volunteered at the local radio station, KCAM. I stopped by for a few hours each week when I was free to help them clean. I continue to find local opportunities like these and come alongside existing ministries/churches to help their vision/ministry be a success.
LightShine is an interdenominational ministry….read more. I serve as a youth minister under a ministry that serves the church of Alaska as a whole. They do this primarily through short-term building projects. However, they also seek to build long-term relationships with those who live here. Seek out opportunities where churches have a need, and then become a part of the solution. By attending a church’s main service, meeting with the pastor, or checking out their events I am able to learn of ways I could bolster their vision. I understand what I do is not meant for everyone. But it is a core part of what God has called me to do in the Copper River Valley. During the summer months, church members often have to travel for long periods in order to find work. Or they are working long hours putting in overtime. This makes it difficult for a small church to put together a simple event like a Vacation Bible School or host their own youth group. I look forward to continuing to working not only with Mt. Drum Lutheran or Glennallen Chapel, but with all of the churches here in the Copper River Valley.
Ephesians 4: 4-7 “4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (ESV)
Q1: “Do you attend <insert church I’m helping> now?”
(example: Mt. Drum Lutheran)
Q2: “Are you a part of that <insert ministry I’m helping> now?”
(example: KCAM – local Christian radio station)
A1&A2: “No, but let me tell you how I serve the church as a whole and why it’s important to me.”
Author: A.P. Smither
Editor: P.J. Walk