ECC Conferences Partner With Alaskan Bush Villages

Post a Comment » Written on April 17th, 2009     
Filed under: News
EAGLE RIVER, AK (April 17, 2009) – Over the last year, regional conferences of the Evangelical Covenant Church have begun partnerships with Alaskan Bush villages to improve the lives of people in remote areas.

“This is not just an in-and-out project, which is what they’re used to in Alaska,” says Rodney Sawyer, the ECCAK regional field director. “The superintendents are really committed to a long-term relationship, and in that way, the family of God becomes a lot more known. That’s what makes it a wonderful thing.”

The process of connecting conferences with churches began in the fall of 2007 when superintendents met at Alaska Christian College in Soldotna for their quarterly meeting.

“I guess it was just hearing some of the stories of life in the Alaska Bush that tripped a switch for a lot of people,” Sawyer says.

“Great Lakes Conference Superintendant Dick Lucco stood up and said, ‘We have to do something to help Alaska!’ I think he even beat his fist on the table,” Sawyer recalls.

Conferences and their congregations have been working to raise support and sending teams to work on parsonages, buy snowmachines (snowmobiles), and be of general help to pastors and churches in need.

Sawyer points to the example of the radical transformation of the Elim parsonage, which was re-insulated. The pastor and his wife had to wear winter boots inside year round because of the lack of insulation in the parsonage before the work took place,” says Sawyer. “There’s a great sense of appreciation from everybody.”

To see a previous Covenant News Service story on the renovation, click here. The accompanying photo shows typical road conditions with examples of some of the housing in the background. Click here to see additional photos.

Many conferences have flown in pastors and spouses to connect with churches. “As good as these partnerships will be for Alaskans, it will be even better for the churches to build relationships with pastors that have such a strong call and commitment,” says Sawyer. You really can’t be around them without it touching your heart.”

In general, the value of the partnership program may lie in shining a light on some of the conditions in rural Alaska, far away from infrastructure and modern amenities. “The partnerships will help bring an awareness of a part of Alaska that most people don’t see,” Sawyer says. “We have pastors and villages living in Third World conditions. Some places have no running water or electricity.”

Conferences hope to enable individuals to address the roots of problems and to see long-term change. “This is more than people simply joining hands to not just help wounded individuals, but to put a halt to what’s hurting people,” says Sawyer.

Churches can contact conference offices for more information. Following are descriptions of what each conference is doing, listed by conference with the church that conference is assisting.

•    Central Conference – Elim
•    Midwest Conference – Mountain Village
•    North Pacific Conference – Scammon Bay
•    East Coast Conference – Koyuk
•    Northwest Conference – Unalakleet and Shaktoolik
•    Pacific Southwest Conference – Nome and Golovin
•    Southeast Conference – Bethel Covenant
•    Great Lakes Conference – Mekoryuk
•    Midsouth Conference – White Mountain

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