Alaska Pastor Takes Issue With Article on Suicide

Post a Comment » Written on May 11th, 2007     
Filed under: News
HOOPER BAY, AK (May 11, 2007) – Editor’s note: Following is an open letter from Grant Funk, pastor of Hooper Bay Covenant Church, which appears in the current newsletter published by the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska. The letter is in response to a front-page article in the Anchorage Daily News that addressed the state’s high suicide rate.


I read your article and appreciated your interest in a very touchy and difficult issue. I live and work in several capacities in Hooper Bay, a village that has suffered dramatically in past years due to suicides. I have lived here seven years and worked in the YK Delta with youth for 15 years. I am currently the youth pastor, church pastor, chaplain at the police department, EMS trainer and volunteer teacher at the high school in the areas of emergency medicine and aviation.

Having a broad range of experience in dealing with suicide over the past 35 years has lead me to some conclusions that are slightly different than the ones that you have in your article. I will list a few and keep my comments to a minimum, but would invite further dialog if you would like.

1. The number one reason for suicides in Hooper Bay is not alcohol or drug abuse. It is relationships. Young people desperate for relationships place all their hope and self into a relationship, and when that falls apart, their hope is gone.

We were designed for relationships. Very few people can be hermits. Everything in us cries out for relationships. Those needs are also designed to have some substance given to them in a family. If they are not met in the family in the early stages of development, chances are that individuals will struggle with relationships much of their life. (This is where alcohol and drug abuse come into the picture. Families that use drugs or alcohol are dysfunctional in relationships.)

2. Looking to the past will provide some substance for life. However, it is not the lack of a past that has kids killing themselves. It is a hopeless future. We need to provide a future with promise and hope that it will not always be this way.

We must face the fact that the generation gap is wider than ever before in history as a world youth culture has developed due to the media available today. Ways must be found that will allow this culture the freedom to change.

Rather than chain them to their past, we must bungee them there. That is to give them freedom to stretch their dreams into the future without feeling guilty about leaving some of their past heritages. I know this is not a popular opinion, and I welcome debate on this subject.

3. Ultimately, the only hope for a relationship that heals is the relationship we have with our Creator. Our school system is “educating” God out of their lives with the atheistic evolution that currently permeates our society. Kids are growing up told to feel good about themselves with this theory – you came from slime, you will someday die and that will be the end with no hope because there is no God. What in that philosophy would make someone want to keep on trying to live?

What’s the use? Jesus was a brown-skinned, tribal man who grew up in a culture where ceremonies had an important place. His was a commercial fishing society. He worked with his hands as a craftsman.

He invites people into a relationship with himself and promises them hope for the future. He also gives them a way to deal with the past. Why do we dodge this politically incorrect solution?

4. Behavioral health is not the answer. It has a place, but it isn’t the final answer. Many behavioral health workers have far too heavy a work load. A lot of them have family dysfunction they are working through. The stress of the position is unreal. They are severely limited in what they can accomplish.

5. Family life is a key to turning the tide. Teen pregnancies have babies raising babies, or elderly having to shoulder the load. Sexual immorality has produced a plague of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-AIDS. The solution is not condoms, but rather family where moral standards are taught and lived, where relationships are not only valued, but are healthy and loyal. Dads and moms create a loving home that teaches family structure and security by example. Alcohol and drugs are sacrificed instead of family time.

These are some scattered thoughts. By the way, I come from a family where suicidal attempts were frequent, sexual abuse took place, relationships were temporary, and teen pregnancy occurred. I found hope and direction by stepping into a relationship (there is that word again) with Jesus Christ. My life has been transformed, and I now have six kids (five of whom are adults) that are emotionally healthy and are making a difference with their lives. I lived a life of hopelessness; I found a life … a life of hope.

Grant Funk
Hooper Bay, Alaska

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