As a part of a mission work initiative, the student organization Christian Leaders on the Hill sent several students to Alaska over spring break. The students participated in Keep Alaska Warm, a service project that involved the distribution of hats, gloves, and scarves to Alaskan children.
CLOTH teamed up with GraceWorks Ministries to share the love of Jesus. Students took part in the Iditarod sled dog race restart, setting up and tearing down equipment.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies Dr. Alan Hix, who headed up the trip, has been going to Alaska on and off since 1993. “There were 60 of us total as a part of GraceWorks that participated,” said Hix. With no snow falling in Willow, the race restart was moved to Fairbanks.
The students drove 9 hours from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Then, they installed miles of an orange web fencing for race lanes and for keeping the crowd back. “They (GraceWorks) know that our group is dependable, has a great attitude, and shows up on time,” said Hix.
The group’s volunteer work opens the door for a Christian testimony. Megan Gibbs, a junior Christian Studies major, believes that serving the Alaskan people in adverse conditions has made an impact.
When the restart location was moved to Fairbanks, the volunteers in Anchorage backed out. When Shorter’s students and the rest of GraceWorks’ volunteers stayed to help, the Alaskans’ response was one of surprise. “It was a big shock for them,” said Gibbs. “They all kind of gave us funny looks.”
Shorter students also worked at a large homeless shelter, handing out coffee in 5 degree weather. They even helped clean showers and assisted in feeding people. At lunch, the students ate with many people who were facing economic difficulties.
During that time, they shared what God was doing in their lives, along with listening and encouraging those at the shelter who had struggles. Seth Broome, a senior Math Education major, now plans to do mission work full-time in Alaska because of his experiences there. “What we’re doing really does make a difference,” said Broome.
Broome has traveled to Alaska the past three years doing mission work. “Last year, I worked with a guy in Anchorage and got to share my testimony with him,” said Broome. “He didn’t really open up to me too much, but he did listen.”
Shorter’s team conducted their volunteer work in a spiritually unreached region. Dr. Hix said, “It’s the least churched state in the U.S, and the churches struggle because there’s so few of them.”
The Alaskan people had varying responses to the arrival of Georgia mission workers. Some were pleasantly surprised, while others were puzzled by their service.
Generally, the Alaskan people don’t open up that easily. Broome has been able to talk with some of the natives. “When you first meet them, it’s hard to have a conversation,” said Broome. “You get one word answers.”
The mission team worked with underprivileged children as GraceWorks handed out cubes that told the story of salvation. Gibbs developed a relationship with an 8-year-old girl and shared the Gospel with her. “These kids are continually getting the Gospel poured into them,” said Gibbs.