Alaska is by far the largest state in the nation and much of it is land where no one can live. There are nearly 225 remote villages in the state, accessible only by boat or plane.
Although missionaries and church planters first traveled to Alaska in the late 1800s, few indigenous evangelical churches exist today. As a result, international Christian organizations continue to send missionaries to reach people in these remote areas.
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Unfortunately, these missionaries are often unprepared, under-supported and simply overwhelmed by the challenges of living in the Alaskan bush.
“Coming to Alaska’s like coming to a foreign country. It takes two days of travel to get out to the villages and you get there and they keep their old language,” said Michael Hassemer, with Arctic Barnabas Ministries.
Helping Those Who Come to Share the Gospel
Arctic Barnabas is a ministry that cares for those who come to share the Gospel. Michael and his wife, Ranada, have been working for the organization since 2008.
“Our mission in two words is ‘strengthen’ and ‘encourage.’ We want to strengthen and encourage those pastors and missionaries and ministry families that are out in remote villages so that they can be effective disciplers and evangelists on the front lines,” said Hassemer.
Arctic Barnabas offers vital support and encouragement and has the means to reach missionaries even in the most remote villages.
“Our biggest goal is to simply come along side them, strengthen them, encourage them, have fellowship with them — but sometimes our foot in the door is a project,” said Hassemer.
In one of the villages an indigenous pastor was recently scheduled to start, but he said he wouldn’t move out to the village until there had been some much-needed renovations done on the parsonage.
Faced with the delay, church elders called Arctic Barnabas. A team worked with elders to identify the repairs needed, addressing mold, poor insulation and other issues often caused by the extreme weather in the bush.
“How do you focus on doing ministry when living conditions are your primary focus? You can’t,” Hassemer said.