A few things to know before you read!
Iditarod- A dog sled race of almost 1,000 miles. This year's winner Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway finished in 9 days 12 hours with the last finisher coming in at 12 days, 17 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds. These guys and gals do this on minimal sleep, camping outside with their dogs in the freezing cold weather!
Musher- the guy driving the dog sled
Bush Village- Any village of the state not connected to the highway system or ferry system. Most of these villages are west of the Yukon River and largely depend on hunting and fishing to survive.
Day 1(Thursday)- Travel day! We left DFW around 12:30, had a quick layover in Seattle, and then arrived in Anchorage around 8:30pm. We spent the night at the La Quinta and got a good night's rest!
Day 2(Friday)- This was a travel day. We arrived in Anchorage the night before, but still had 1 more flight to go. While in the Anchorage airport I captured this beautiful sunrise over the mountains.
Alaska's topography is truly amazing. Here are some aerial shots from the 1 hr 30 min plane ride.
|The Yukon River|
When we arrived in Nome the training began.
We also walked over and saw the Bering Sea(completely frozen). I was unaware that it froze and thus impacting getting supplies in and out of Nome. The sea is the frozen are directly behind the sign.
We were fed well while in Alaska by Mrs. Kathy! She made sure we had hearty meals to warm us up and plenty of coffee!! After dinner, we had heard that another couple of mushers were going to be coming in soon and since Brian didn't get to see the one earlier in the day, we decided to walk back over and see them cross!
Day 3(Saturday)- We got up early this day to help take dogs to the airport! 6am and 4 or 5 of us piled into the van to head to the dog lot. Once the mushers cross the finish line their dogs will eventually be flown back to Anchorage on a cargo plane. As a service to the mushers, we help take dogs on the flatbed trailer.
Then it was our turn to work concessions. Nome holds a huge statewide basketball tournament every year called the Lonnie O'Conner Basketball Tournament. For the last 13 years, Alaska Missions has run the concession stands and donated all of the proceeds to the Bering Sea Women's Shelter. We were making popcorn, pretzels, nachos, you name it! It also gave us a time to interact with the locals. I noticed lots of babywearing in Nome too, which I thought was cool and gave me something to start up conversations about. Saturday night they held the awards ceremony and a native drum/dance celebration that I thought was really neat! Both Friday and Saturday nights after the tournament, we were also in charge of cleaning up the gym to get ready for the next day. For Saturday night, we would get it all cleaned up for the Musher's Award Banquet on Sunday.
As we were leaving the rec center, it began snowing. Like blizzard like snowing!
Another service opportunity was to work the Dog Lot. Saturday night they really needed someone to work the 2am-6am shift. Brian and I along with our new friend Kerry volunteered. Your job at the dog lot is basically to walk around where the dogs are and check to make sure no one is shivering, needs more straw or having trouble breathing. Sue, a seasoned Iditarod volunteer, was there with us. The first hour was hard. It was snowing hard. We were replacing some bedding for a few dogs and added blankets to a few others. Finally the snow stopped, the wind shifted and it turned into a beautiful night. We did catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights that night as well!
Y'all I was so surprised at how comfy and acclimated these dogs are to cold weather. They love it and have no problem sleeping on straw in the snow. The dogs are loved and treated so well my their musher and dog handler.
Day 4(Sunday)- We were spent from working the night shift! Plus with the time difference(it is 3 hours earlier than Central Standard Time) we were still adjusting. We ended up sleeping til about 10 and then headed over to the rec center to help prep for the Musher's Banquet. Later that evening we would be hosting the event for 800 guests! We had to set up tables and chairs, set the tables, get food ready, set up buffets and then we were able to enjoy the banquet. When it was over it all had to be put away. I definitely got my work out this day. Thanks CG! We were more than exhausted by the time we got back to the church.
This sled was full of strawberries!!
Day 4(Monday)- I opted to get up and help our lovely cook make breakfast! She was set with the task of feeding close to 50, so help was much needed and appreciated. Today we began breaking down the dog lots. With teams starting to leave some areas were ready to be cleaned up and chains put away. I worked with friends Derek and Earl on unhooking chains and dragging them up to the front to be put away in storage for the next year. Yesterday was a shoulder/chest workout with moving tables, today was my legs! Those chains are not light! We worked there until lunchtime and then I stayed back and helped prep more food for dinner and breakfast! ! Brian and some guys went to a few locals houses that needed some repairs to see what could be done. Blessing the community! They also broke down the Convention Center(a.k.a.- The Mini) where the Iditarod headquarters were located. They cleaned it out and put all the stuff in storage. I'd like to say that I got to bed early, but the social butterfly I am stayed up and visited with all of my new friends
Day 5(Tuesday)- Today we got up early again to take more dogs to the airport! This was definitely the coldest day. Windchill was -10 this morning! After breakfast I returned to the dog lot to help with the rest of the work there.
I made a friend!
After lunch, a group of ladies and I were able to go to the Bering Sea Women's Shelter and talk to the residents there. It was a humbling, emotional time to hear these women pour out to us and tell us their stories. At the end of the conversation, one lady accepted Jesus! Her and her children's lives will be forever changed. After the shelter, I was given an opportunity to go dog sledding! I was so excited! It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Unfortunately, I have no proof that I actually did this. My phone froze, legit too cold, froze a few minutes into our ride. When we returned back to the church, one of the mushers that was staying with us, Ketil, walked in with fresh crab he had just caught! It was so delicious!
Day 6(Wednesday)- It was time to say goodbye! We left Nome around 1:30pm. After landing in Anchorage, I was blessed to get to have coffee with my best friend's cousin, Crystal, who is currently doing sex trafficking mission work in Alaska. I was able to share with her my time in an Alaska bush village and she gave us a small glimpse of what she does up there. We then met back up with some of our group and got to spend one last meal with some of them. Danny actually got Brian to try SUSHI!!! I almost fell out.
When going on a mission trip you always feel like family by the end. We definitely formed a relationship with several others there and can't wait to spend time with them again.
Alaska Missions was also able to host several mushers and their dog handlers for the week! They were provided housing and 3 meals a day. I was able to get to know a few and they were so thankful for us. It was great to talk to them and hear their stories. There were also 2 nights that a high school basketball team from another village got stranded in Nome, due to weather. We were able to take them in and speak love into their lives, spreading what Alaska Missions is and does into their home villages.
1- The church that we stayed at is currently for sale and Alaska Missions wants to purchase it. Pray for funding and that the church selling it will accept their offer. They need this church y'all. I was able to see what a blessing the church building could be to the village of Nome and others.
2- Pray for direction and discernment for Brian and I. I'm not sure what the future will hold for us, but I pray God guides and directs us and clearly shows us his plans.
3-Pray for the bush villages. They have 3 times the suicide rate as the lower 48, some villages have 100% incest and alcoholism is the root of these problems. Pray that God begins showing himself to these people and a revival is started.
My takeaways from this trip-
1- When the Lord wants you somewhere, he will make it happen for you. I'm not sure what will happen with us long term, but I definitely left part of my heart back in Nome with those people.
2- I have never worked that hard on a missions trip before, and I have been on tons of them. Upon returning home I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I definitely took a few days to get back to normal.
3- God knows me and knows what pleases my heart. I saw glimpses of things that I know God made just for me to enjoy this week. I am a mountain lover, adventure seeker, world traveler, who loves to serve the Lord. He gave me all these things in 1 trip and I couldn't be more thankful.
4- Those dogs are athletes. I can not believe how strong and resilient they were! Those dogs are loved by their mushers too! They really are treated like family.
5- God put some amazing people in my life on this trip. Between the others that were on the trip with us to some mushers and dog handlers. I made some good friends that I hope to stay in touch with and see again!
If you feel led to give to Alaska Missions directly, here is a link http://www.akmissions.com/donate.html
Thank you for all of your support and prayers! We are truly blessed. We have many more stories to tell, so if you want to hear more just ask!
This is the church building we stayed in.