9 airplanes and 20+ staff are loaded and ready on the runway. It’s Monday morning, and Kingdom Air Corps is a buzz of activity, getting ready for 2 weeks of Brooks Range Bible Camp (1 week of Junior Camp, 1 week of Teen Camp). We fly 6 hours up to the Alaskan villages, seeing a side of Alaska we hadn’t before. Villages accessible only by airplane. Villages without churches. Villages full of so much need.
It’s hard to know where to begin..
Every summer, Kingdom Air Corps puts on a Bible Camp in the Brooks Range for the village kids in Northern Alaska (also called BRBC). They fly out staff and supplies for 2 weeks in the middle-of-nowhere, Alaska– no cell reception, no internet, no roads. The kids come from 2 nearby villages– Alacacut and AKP. We spent the night in Alacacut on Monday night, finding ourselves weathered in. We spread sleeping bags and camped out in the community building in the village, Alacacut’s sweet missionaries bringing us dinner of soup and hot dogs.
The village doesn’t have running water, and so the main wash house is located in the center-ish of town. For $4, you can wash a load of laundry. And $2 will get you a 10-minute hot shower. The village is quiet when we arrive, and cold. We are a big group of white people, walking in the direction of the Fox’s house (missionaries who live in the village). An occasional 4-wheeler drives by. Village life is what they call upside down– day is night, and night is day. Because summertime up here in never dark. So life doesn’t typically begin until 5 or 6 in the evening.
The next morning, the town feeds us pancakes and sausages for breakfast. I talk with the woman standing over the stove, listening to the story of her daughter who started packing for camp 3 months ago. We quickly learn how eagerly these kids anticipate camp, and how much it means to them. Pancake batter splatters on the stove. I struggle to wrap my mind around village life and how this camp impacts these kids- something I will do for the next 14 days. I ask if I can help, but “No, no. We are happy to be able to do this..”
We arrive at camp, and the set up immediately begins. Tarps need to be pulled across cabin frames and tents set up. A small generator runs electricity to the lodge, and a water pump system so that the kitchen has running water for dishes and cooking. There is 1 day between when we get there, and when the first batch of kids come for Junior Camp. That one day goes fast.
Looking back now, I have to smile at the way the Lord works. When we found out about Brooks Bible Range and that we would have the opportunity to go this summer, I found myself making deals with God. And essentially our deal ended at this, “I will do anything. I want to do anything. I feel adequate to help in a lot of ways, but just not a counselor. Ok, God?”
Sure enough, God has a way of taking that “never” and placing you smack in the middle of it. And Tuesday afternoon, when more planeloads of kids came than ever before and the cabins overflowed, Stephen and I found ourselves as makeshift, last-minute counselors. 43 kids came to camp that week– one of the biggest years yet. The following week (Teen Week) is a lot smaller, and we resume our general staff and craft-time coordinators job.
Planes come and go all day long– dropping off kids, and then turning around to go pick up more. The ones left are acquainted (or reacquainted) with their counselors and friends they haven’t seen since last year. Then, when another plane comes, the counselors and staff are left frantically trying to corral the kids off the grass runway and keep the kids away from the airplane until the propeller stops spinning. We thought we had experienced crazy to its fullest in Haiti, but this was a new one, that’s for sure. haha!
There are aspects to village life we try to understand during our 2 weeks there. “I won’t get picked on this week... There’s too much drama at home, I don’t want to leave camp… We would go to a bible study, but our village doesn’t have one.. Does a person who commits suicide go to heaven?”
The devastating need breaks my heart and weighs heavy on my mind. For 2 weeks I find myself constantly wondering, “God does this do anything? It is 5 days of camp. 5 days.” I question and wonder.. why no missionaries and no churches in these villages where kids are hungry for it? Why doesn’t He supply?
We swim in the ice-cold river (ok, I swim twice. And watch the rest of the days). We run around on the airstrip, playing Wreck the Castle and Drip Drip Drop. We sing before chapel time and help kids find the verses the speaker is referencing to. We roast marshmallows and stay up late, late, late. In Cabin Time and Bible study, we tell classic Bible stories that most of the kids have never heard before. One morning, little Anna in our cabin wanted to be woken up early to read her Bible. I asked if she had heard the story of how God created the world, and after she said no, we spent the next half hour reading through the first few chapters of Genesis and talking about the story of creation and Adam and Eve and the serpent.
The need is overwhelming.
Two weeks come and go, with so many stories and experiences between the days. And flying home in a cozy, little 150 plane there is this realization that the need.. it will never end. Somewhere, always there will be need. And so we do what we can, when we can, where we can, for however long we are there.. and trust that God will put us where He wants us how He wants us, and will grow seeds long after we have left.
(we have so many stories and photos to share from the past 2 weeks, so rest assured you’ll hear from us again pretty soon 🙂 Leave us your questions in the comments, or things you are wondering about.. so we can try to explain things better to you and know what to write about!)