‘I Want to Know More’
I heard a plea for God in an unexpected encounter with two native Alaskans.
I met Tami and Ben at a sandwich shop as we lamented being stranded at the Anchorage airport in the U.S. state of Alaska.
The couple wore the tired, ragged air of people who had spent the last four days at the airport.
I sat across from them as they finished the last of the soup they were sharing, the whiff of alcohol escaping with every bite. I had nothing to complain about with my two-hour delay compared to their long ordeal in getting back home to St. Mary’s village in bush Alaska.
Over time, lamenting turned to inquiry as they asked about me. They thought I was a teacher, then a health care worker. I said I was heading to Dillingham for our church camp meeting.
They stared blankly at me.
I told them I had just moved to Alaska to work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in building awareness of the challenges that native Alaskans face and to provide support for this mission program.
I could tell my message fell on deaf ears. Tami’s face dropped, and her countenance darkened once she found out I was “church people.” Ben assured me that they were religious. With her head still bowed, Tami whispered that the church people don’t come around very often in St. Mary’s. I felt shallow, a green do-gooder who clearly was disconnected from these people.
In that moment, I decided to show my vulnerability. I looked at them with as much love as I could muster and said, “Life is so hard, isn’t it?”
Tami lifted her head and looked hard into my eyes.
I told them that we are put on this Earth to lift each other up; to encourage and love those like Christ loved us. Christ came into this world and didn’t judge anyone. He found those that needed to be loved and accepted them. He put His arms around them and held them. I said this is what I believe, what my church believes in, and why I am here — to share what Christ has done in my life.
Tears streamed down Tami’s face.
“I want to know more,” she said.
Suddenly, a woman’s voice came over the airport intercom announcing that my flight was boarding. As I stared into the couple’s eyes, dark with the haze of alcohol, hopelessness, and despair familiar to many Alaskans, I felt helpless. Our Bible workers are only present in a handful of the more than 230 villages in Alaska, and the village of St. Mary’s is not one of them.
I asked if I could pray with them and reached for their hands. Then I asked God to reach down and hold these precious souls; to love them and direct them in the way that He would have them go. We said our goodbyes. Tami wiped her tears, and I headed to the gate.
From my window seat on the plane, Tami’s words kept ringing in my ears. “I want to know more.” My mind traveled to Acts 16:9: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’ (NKJV). My interaction with Tami and Ben was a present-day plea to go and reach, teach, and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ to bush Alaska.
Tandi Perkins is development director for Arctic Mission Adventure at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Alaska Conference. For more information and to receive updates, contact Tandi Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Names have been changed