Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Curse of the Yukon

A month from now, I will be packing my bags for a 3-week adventure in Alaska. It begins in Kodiak with my Native friend, Lydia, who is going to take me mountain climbing. She conquered her fears at age 50 by scaling the heights of Mount Barometer and she wants to share that experience with me (I turn 50 on June 18th this year).
After Kodiak, Greg and I will meet up with a group from our church in Fairbanks. 8 of us (Greg and I included) will take a puddle-jumper to the village of N. 14 others will take planes and boats to reach Kokrine Hills Bible camp, where they will build cabins and clear brush for a week. We will meet up at the camp six days later.
I want to tell you a bit about N. Roughly translated (in Athapaskan), the name means "good salmon fishing." And it should be, as it sprawls along the banks of the mighty Yukon River. The population is about 350, mostly Athapaskan indians, Native peoples of Alaska.
Even though there has been a Catholic influence in the village for decades and evangelical missionaries there for the past 15 years, N. is a spiritually dark place. I read an article this week that gave N. the dubious distinction of having the highest suicide rate of all the villages in Alaska. (The suicide rate for the Koyukon-Yukon area of Alaska is five times that of the state average and ten times the national). Alcohol-related deaths (mostly drownings) claim the lives of young adults (mostly males) every year. Sexual and substance abuse have replaced the amazing aspects of their culture. The language is largely forgotten and even once-essential life skills--such as hunting and trapping--are not being passed to the younger generation. Shame and hopelessness cover this village like a burial shroud.
The Yukon is cursed, indeed.
But Jesus came to set the captives free, and that is why our rag-tag team is heading to N. this summer. We want to be Jesus with skin on (even if our skin is white), we want to bring the light of Christ to a culture that the Enemy has tried to snuff out with his dark ways.
We want to speak words of life and blessing, peace and purpose to these precious sons and daughters of God.
Our fervent prayer and desire is to see the Athapaskan people fulfill their destinies in Christ.
Please pray for us and the village of Nulato. Our outreach is June 10th-16th.
I'll keep you posted--consider going with us next year!