As many of you know, December has been an interesting month here. I'm not sure about the month as a whole, but there were at least 2 or 3 days where we set record cold temperatures. Starting in late November, we had about 2 weeks of temperatures around 40 below zero, it warmed up to about 10 below for a few days and then went back to 40 below for a couple more weeks. I think the lowest we saw on our thermometer at our house was 48 below. We did fine, and nobody got frostbite ( not even the husky that we are dogsitting who never wants to come inside), but it does give you cabin fever because you can't get outside much. (Sue here. I did manage to get mild frostbite--on my stomach, of all places! While loading groceries into the back of the Suburban, I was leaning against the hatch with my coat unbuttoned and only a t-shirt between me and the metal (not very smart, but I was in a hurry to get on the road back home!). Upon feeling a burning sensation, I hurried to finish and hopped down, but I continued to feel that burning sensation all through the day and had a very red belly for two-three days following! I learned a lesson on that one!). Right around Christmas, it started to warm up and is supposed to be above zero today. After being at 40 below, zero feels really warm, although we're not in shorts (except maybe Bridger, who loves this climate). The big problem with it staying cold for so long is frozen water lines. At one point, we had 9 houses of mission personnel at the clinic or the Bible college that had no water. We have 2 maintenance people who have been working hard to thaw the lines and 2 of the lines are open at last count. They tell me that it is not unusual for some people in the community to have their water to freeze and for them to live in a "dry cabin" all winter. Our house has had no problems to this point. I know that many of you have been praying for the temperatures and the water situation and we appreciate it.
The other big news this month is that Luke is home for Christmas (thanks so much to the team from Riverview who helped us get him here!! That was the best present we could have gotten). He had a great first semester at Liberty and is looking forward to returning. His broken leg is healed, but he still has to wear a brace when exercising. He has been out cross country skiing and we've played a little indoor soccer and he seems to be doing fine. Bridger has finished a couple of classes at the community college and we're talking about what to do for college in the fall after he graduates from high school. He is Russ' main cross country ski partner. Case is now enjoying playing JV basketball for the local school. He goes to the gym almost every day, even when he doesn't have team practice. Ansley had a good season playing basketball for the middle school. She had a great Christian coach, and Ansley was able to pray for the team before each of the games. Sue was a chaperone for many of Ansley's trips, which meant that she got to know many of the girls better, got to sleep on the floor of classrooms in many schools, and was given a stadium seat by the coaches because she sat through 6 or more games each weekend.
Life at the clinic has been good , but busy. It was slower when the temperatures where so cold, but not as slow as last year. We have had a busy 2 months from an emergency standpoint, seeing people with heart attacks, strokes, and serious abdominal issues, who have had to fly into town. We've seen two people show an interest in following Christ after a serious illness and our chaplain has been visiting with them. We may have a change in the spring as Melodye, our physician's assistant who comes up part time from New York, may not be able to come consistently. That would mean we may need extra help, especially for the busier summer. Russ was able to go to a missions conference in Louisville, KY to recruit help. Nothing definite has come of that so far, but it was a great encouragement to be around medical missionaries from around the world. He heard a speaker on Christian suffering and was reminded that many times life can be hard for those trying to follow God's plan, so don't be surprised if things get tough sometimes. Russ also read the book Not A Fan on the trip and liked it so much that we are reading it as a family.
We continue to be involved in our local church and serve in AWANA, which we enjoy. We get to see kids from Glennallen, but also from the local villages. Russ is the Game Leader and Sue continues to be a TNT girls leader. Bridger, Case, and Ansley all work in AWANA, but are also continuing to work on their own books as well. Sue and the kids continue to travel to Chistochina at least once a month to teach Sunday School for the kids in the village. The church has a new pastor and we're hoping that more of the adults from the village will start attending as well. Quite a few of the adults came out for a Christmas program put on by the children. Sue and Ansley, just helped out with a sleepover for the girls in the church at Gulkana. In some ways, it is a slow process getting to know the people in the area, but it has been fun to get to know the kids through Russ' work, basketball, and the ministries in the area.
We had a good Christmas and holiday break. Luke will be heading back in January. Thanks to all who have visited, encouraged and helped Luke since we are so far away. We are hoping that December is the coldest month this winter and that January won't be as bad. We are also hoping for more snow, as it insulates the ground. We hear that some people may be visiting in the spring, and that is always a treat. We are always encouraged by all of the prayers, cards, packages, and support we get from our friends and family "back East". Thank you.
-For Luke's safe trip home and a good 2nd semester at Liberty.
-For the continued outreach through the medical center, AWANA, and the local churches and for the many people in our community who need the light of Christ in their lives.
-For more moderate temperatures, more snow, and flowing water to the houses in the area.
-For the personnel needs of the clinic in the coming months and that God would send the right people here at the right time.
-For continued guidance for our family in particular as we pray about our plans for the coming year.
-For a boy we have been working with in Sunday school, who had been growing greatly in the Lord. Because of difficult circumstances, he had to move, so we are no longer able to see him. Pray that the Lord will bring people into his life who will pour the Word and love of Christ into him.
Alot has happened since our last blog. We've all been home to Virginia and now Luke is at Liberty University in Lynchburg. We returned to Alaska in mid-August and plan to stay until next summer. After we got back, Shahn and Juanita Wilburn, our pastor and his wife, came to visit. Then we had a visit from Jeff and Susan Rolen from Camp Bethel in Wise, VA. We had a great time with both sets of visitors. They were a great encouragement. It was pretty cool and rainy the whole time, but they made the most of it. Susan Rolen is the niece of Dr. Pinneo, who was a missionary doctor here for years. We actually live right across from the cabin that he built to live in here.
The kids are back in school, Sue is still teaching them at home. Bridger is taking a class at the local community college. Ansley is playing basketball for the local middle school so she is traveling most every weekend. Last weekend Sue and Ansley took a 2 hour bus ride and then a 5 hour ferry ride to play a game. Case is playing alot of basketball; he plays for the high school this year and his season starts in November. Luke seems to be really enjoying his time at Liberty, which is a blessing. Hopefully he will get his walking cast off next week. It dropped below zero last night, and we're waiting to get enough snow to go out and play in it.
AWANA has started back at church and we're in full swing. Ansley is helping with Cubbies, Russ is the game leader with Case is his assistant. Sue and Bridger are working with TNT and both have been teaching in the council times. Russ has enjoyed being back in AWANA and getting to know the kids. He has alot of good memories of AWANA back at Riverview and we have seen AWANA make a great impact on many kids, including our own. Sue and the kids continue to help out with a church in Chistochina, a village about an hour from here. They go up about once a month to teach Sunday school for the children, most of whom are natives.
It's been busy in the clinic since we've been back. Russ has continued to make house calls and we have had quite a few hospice patients lately. House calls and home visits by the nurses have been a great opportunity for ministry to families in the area. We've also had a quite a few emergencies since we returned, which can be stressful at times since we are so far away from other medical facilities. I'm thankful that God is faithful and there to help us in the hard times. In the past month we have been giving patients cards for them to write their prayer requests. Russ leads a devotion weekly where we pray for our patients and the nurses get together each morning to pray for these requests. We are also considering finding a medical missions clinic in another country that we can partner with and potentially send staff to help out short term if needed. It's been exciting to see the missions focus of the clinic continue to grow as we seek to be a light for Christ in the valley.
Pray for the clinic as we continue to seek God's direction for ministry here in the future. We face many challenges with the continual changes in medicine in our country.
Pray for future direction for our family as we continue to seek God's direction for us over the next year.
Pray for the personnel needs of the clinic, including a doctor, nurses, a physical therapist and a lab technician. Russ will be traveling to a medical mission conference in Lousiville, KY in November to recruit more help.
Pray for AWANA at Glennallen Community Chapel as we seek to reach children for Christ and teach them His Word. Also pray for the church at Chistochina and their outreach in that area.
Pray for Luke at Liberty, that he would continue to do well in his new surroundings.
We so much appreciate all of your prayers and support. Cross Road Medical Center is beginning a newsletter that can be sent by email. If you are interested, let us know and we will have them send it to you.
It's the middle of July and it's been a busy, but cool summer. We've accused people here of not quite telling the truth when they told us about the great summers here. Apparently, this is the coolest summer they have had lately and the one with the most mosquitoes!
We've enjoyed getting to see many people from home over the last 2 months. We started in June with a visit from Sam Steele, one of Luke and Bridger's good friends from home. We had a great week with him; got to go visit an old mining ghost town and made his hands go numb from the cold when we went fishing for salmon in the rain. After Sam left, a mission team from Riverview Baptist, our home church, came to help. They had team of 23, who worked to replace a leaking roof and put new windows on the nurses dorm here. They also did some interior remodeling on the church in Gulkana village and placed a roof over a storage area there. The women also helped by cleaning the church, serving a luncheon for the native elders, and helping organize records for summer missionaries. A few from the team worked with children's ministries in a couple of the villages. We even had a nurse on the team that was able to help us with some of the regulations that we have to meet at the clinic. Overall it was a great week together and a great encouragement to our family.
In July, Russ' family came for a visit and we were able to go down to the Kenai Peninsula to explore. Some of us, including Russ' mom, went on a boat tour and got very seasick! The boys also got to go fishing for halibut and everyone got their limit of 2 fish. We were able to visit Homer and got 2 sunny days there. It is a beautiful place with a bay surrounded by snow capped mountains.
In between, life has continued on here. Russ has continued work in the medical clinic which has picked up some with the tourists that abound in the summer. We continue to also minister to the natives in the area as well. Yesterday, we actually had a visit from the governor of Alaska who toured our facility. The team from Riverview brought some Christian literature that we are able to distribute in the clinic. With funds from last year's VBS at Riverview, we were able to buy a DVD copy of The Saline Solution, a series made to help you incorporate your faith into a medical practice. We have been going through this with the staff at the clinic. We have been excited to see the mission aspect of the clinic continue to grow. Sue and the kids have been involved in an outreach to children and teens in a village about 2 hours from here. There is no established church in the village, but the missionaries have continued to work there, particularly with the children. Sue and the kids have been helping to do a VBS type program with the kids and some members of the mission team were also able to participate during their time here.
Our next big focus is getting Luke ready for college. He will be starting at Liberty in August. He wants to major in computer science and he's had some great experience here volunteering with the computer specialists at the clinic and the local Christian radio station. Sue and the kids will be traveling to Virginia on July 27 and Russ will follow in mid August. The plan is to get Luke settled in college and return to Alaska in mid-August. We had originally planned to have a doctor come this winter, but unfortunately that has fallen through. We continue to pray for God's direction and a doctor to come in the next year to serve in the ministry here.
Praises for the time with mission team, for their safety, the work that they accomplished, and their encouragement to our family
The continued outreach to the native villages, particularly the children and teens, many of whom have to overcome difficult challenges.
For a physician to respond to the need to serve here at Cross Road in the next year.
For safety for our family on our trip, and that Luke's transition to college will go smoothly for him and the rest of the family. We are very thankful for our family and friends in the area, who have volunteered to help however possible.
A good verse that I ran across during a trying time at work-
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knows those who take refuge in him.
Hi Everyone, sorry that we skipped April, it was a busy March and April. Here is the update.
Medical- We continue to be fairly busy at the clinic. We have had many emergencies lately and actually flew 6 people to Anchorage in 1 week. Russ had a medical student from Washington come to work with us for a month. She said she had a great time and learned alot, and we enjoyed having her as part of the team. We have continued to be in contact with Datcha, a doctor in training in Michigan. She is very interested in working here and plans to work with us in June. She is has a heart for missions, and has to work in an underserved area in the US. We hope that she can come long term sometime this winter. We recently had a miraculous recovery of one of our seriously ill patients. From my standpoint, it was nothing less than a miracle, and we pray that it continues to bring glory to God in our community.
Ministry- AWANA is wrapping up for the year. We have our awards ceremony next week. Luke and Bridger served as coaches for the TNT boys and went with them to the First Annual AWANA Bush Olympics 3 hours away. The AWANA kids had a good time, as they had never been to AWANA games before. Sue and all of our kids have all been involved as leaders and it has been a good learning experience for them. Sue has joined a ladies craft group weekly at a church in one of the native villages. They like her to bring her bread for supper. She is learning to do native beadwork and it has been a good opportunity to get to know some of the native women in the area. Rodney and Heather Mann, as well as their children, came to see us around Easter. It was a great encouragement to us to see them, and we had a great visit. They also served as a scout team for the construction team from Riverview Baptist that is coming in June. The team will be replacing a roof and windows of the nurses dorm and doing some remodeling of a native church in Gulkana village. Rodney and Heather were able to look over the arrangements for the team and meet with people here at the clinic as well as the pastor at Gulkana. Everyone here is very excited to have the team coming to help out, and it will be a big help to the clinic here and to the local native church.
Life -We started off with a bang in March. Russ had an medical meeting outside of Anchorage and we used the time as a vacation for our family. We were planning on going to Fairbanks to see the ice sculpting world championship but ended up staying in Anchorage for car repairs! We stayed with the Caseys, a missionary couple who were wonderful to us during our time there. We also had to make a big decision at the end of March. As most of you know, our original plan was to return to Virginia in July. The clinic has asked us to stay for another year. The plan is to stay and have another physician, hopefully Datcha, come to continue the medical ministry here. It was not an easy decision, as we have missed our friends and family, as well as activities like soccer back at home. After much prayer, discussion and tears as a family, we have decided to stay until next spring. Even though it was a hard choice, we feel like God has given us a continued opportunity to serve him in the ministry here in the Copper River Valley. Luke still plans to attend Liberty University in VA in the fall, and that will be hard (particularly on Sue!). We hope that we can get everyone home for a visit in August and get Luke settled in college. We had some great surprises in April. When the Manns came to visit, they brought Sophie Steele, one of Ansley's best friends with them! Just last week, Russ had Laurie Steele, one of Sue's best friends, fly up for Sue's birthday. Ellowyn, Sophie's sister and another of Ansley's great friends, came along. So we had some great reunions with friends over the last month that have been a great encouragement.
For the continued outreach with the love of Christ of the Cross Road Medical Clinic, to the people in our area, as well as to the people who come to visit us short term. Some of them have never seen a faith based medical clinic. We are also starting to have an influx of tourists and the clinic should get busier.
For Sue's continued relationships with the native women at Gulkana village.
For the personnel needs of the clinic, including a physician for the future, our new nurses and our need for a physical therapist.
For the construction team from Riverview Baptist, as we continue to make plans for their trip. For safe travel, a productive week, and good weather to work while they are here.
For our whole family, that we would grow in our love and knowledge of the Lord during our our time here, and be used for His purposes here. For encouragement when we miss home.
We forgot to put the New Years pictures on the blog. Here it is too light to shoot off fireworks on July 4, so they have that on New Years Eve. This is a picture from the youth group party. It was so cold they had to light the fireworks with a blow torch!
Medical It has been cold this month, so people don't travel as much. Despite that, we still saw 100 more people this January than they saw here in January 2011. It has been great to see the practice here grow, which I think is related to having a more stable group of medical providers. Before, they had different people that would come every month or two, and now we have 3 providers that have been here since January. We are still seeing a mix of different problems with natives and non-natives, thankfully no major trauma. We did have a little girl that got frostbite on her hands, and we had to fly in a person who had to have open heart surgery.
Ministry Sue and the kids continue to work with AWANA. Two weeks ago, they had Family Fun Fair, which was like a smaller version of the Fall Bash that we have at Riverview Baptist. We even used some of the ideas for the games here! We've gotten to know the kids better with time. So many of the children seem to come from broken homes and abusive situations. 4 of the 6 girls in Sue's group come from broken homes. AWANA seems to be not only a place to learn God's Word, but a place to show these kids love and hope. The boys continue to go to the youth group at Copper Center, where they get to meet more of the native teens. Hailey, that we put on the prayer list last month, is still coming. Russ seems to be getting more and more hospice patients. He actually seems to have more here right now than he usually had in Pearisburg. We are able to make house calls on many, sometimes traveling more than an hour. We continue to pray with and for our patients, and to share with them the hope found in Jesus Christ. Sue will be leading the Women's Bible Study here for a couple of weeks in February. We continue to deal with alcoholism in the area and the many effects, including children with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Life It has been very cold this month, we really got a taste of winter here. It was around 40 below for about 10 days straight. When that happens, you don't go outside for very long. Now we know what cabin fever is like! We did go into town last weekend to stock up for the month and took some pictures to put on the blog. We saw at least 15 moose on the way home and thankfully did not hit one. We were planning to drive down to see Valdez. They have had over 300 inches of snow and were paying $20/hr for people to come and shovel. They told us that the snow was so high that it was like driving through a maze. We also heard that 3 boats sunk in the harbor due to all of the snow. The day we were planning to go, they had a blizzard in the pass, so we stayed put. It's an adventure! Thanks for all of the prayers, calls and packages! The daylight is getting longer every day!
Prayer Requests For wisdom for the leaders at Cross Road Medical Center as they plan for the future
For nurses for the clinic- we are in desperate need of nurses this spring and hopefully will be getting one to come from Lynchburg, VA for 3 mos
For a lab tech to work in the lab this summer
For the continued outreach of the AWANA program here
For two of the native churches here that will be losing their pastors this spring
For our continued outreach to the patients in this area through the medical center, and encouragement for the people who work here
For N'Kara, a girl in Sue's AWANA group, who will be moving to Anchorage to live with her great grandparents due to a broken home situation