A few weeks ago, Toby flew to Gambell, Alaska for work. It’s a remote, rocky island off the coast of Western Alaska in an environment few people could survive, much less thrive.
Aside from the lack of cell coverage and crawling internet, life here is rugged. Literally perched on the edge of the world generations of villagers live by ancient ways, hunt whale to provide food for winter, and rely on each other for survival. Here, unlike silly Sarah, you really can see Russia from your backyard.
It was the first week of April and while most of the country was enjoying the fresh blooms of Spring, villagers trudged through snow-drift covered streets wearing fur-lined parkas and goggles to protect their wind-burned eyes from the 60 mile per hour gusts.
Toward the end of one of his training sessions, a sweet seventy-year old woman wandered up to get more information from the table. Her kuspuk was worn and her eyes spoke of years of a hard, full life. As their conversation grew, it came out that she and her husband shared a little two-room shack with their seven grandchildren.
On top of struggling to fill their cupboards and finding strength to match the energy of a household of children, there was a much greater need: they had no heat.
That weekend in April, the wind chill factor put the temperature at under 30 below zero. Who knows how cold their little wind-ravaged home was during the deep of winter! In the Fall, their little stove had died and they found themselves broke and freezing cold. Luckily, someone in the village loaned them a space heater and so they spent their nights huddled together with the heater and a Coleman lantern to keep them warm.
He didn’t even have to ask. As soon as he shared the story we were on the same page. We contacted friends and our church, and ideas began pouring in.
Within a few days we purchased an oil stove and fittings, filled tubs with food, kid’s clothes, toys and books. We packed the 400 pounds of treasure and sent it 800 miles away.
But she was in our path.
One of the premises of Christianity is a call to help others, to reach out and share the love of Christ. For many, this “missional” mindset is a means to increase church membership. When church membership isn’t the focus, people often think of immunization track marks on their arms and traveling to far away, drought-ridden lands in an experience half do-gooder, half exotic adventure.
Jesus called us to love others, but he didn’t define “missional” as caring for those on the opposite end of the planet, or those who would fill a pew. He simply said to love the people in our path. The Samaritan didn’t have to get Yellow Fever shots. He didn’t throw a church pamphlet into the care package. He simply cared about the person in front of him.
So, how can you live out Jesus for the people you encounter every day?
Who is in your path?