Skip to main content

rain, totem poles, whales & gigabytes



This past week I got to visit Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka for the first time. Here's a bit of what I learned:
  1. It rains a lot in Southeast Alaska. Ketchikan claims to be one of the rainiest cities in North America. 12 feet of rain each year. I got lucky with a gorgeous sunny day on Saturday. 
  2. Our five United Methodist Churches in the Southeast face a similar challenge to our other Alaska churches: high rates of turnover as people move for seasonal jobs, military, government and retirement. As soon as you invite people into leadership, get them trained and empowered, it's about time for them to move on. 
  3. Everything is relative. In the lower 48, we'd drive an hour on the weekends to see someone without thinking too much about it. In Anchorage, it's a big deal to drive more than 15 miles outside your area maybe. In the Southeast, one family threw another family a going away party when they moved the 7 miles from "the valley" into town! 
  4. When you get an interview with world-famous totem pole carver, Nathan Douglas, make sure your camera batteries are fully charged. Mine died right after I asked him my favorite question.
  5. Rain is healing.
  6. There is a park at the end of the road in Ketchikan that took my breath away. Felt like I was in another world. Green, lush, streams, new life. 
  7. When we look for God's presence, we find it in ravens, totem poles, a Filipino Bible study, a morning breakfast club, a covenant group in someone's home, whales, a ferry christening, the Salvation Army, youth group teens, the capitol building and glaciers. 
  8. Five days of filming and interviews takes up 70 gigs of space on my computer. 23 more churches to go!
  9. Herring season arrived in Sitka last week. Lots of boats and fishermen wait anxiously for the all clear that they have two hours to catch as many herring as they can. There are regulations on how much each boat can get so there are enough in the future. People have lost fingers because of how quickly they work in two hours. They can each make $120,000 in one summer. On Saturday, one boat coming in with its catch capsized because they brought in more fish than the boat could carry. 
  10. The cruise industry is a significant part of the Ketchikan economy. As we strolled around the docks in the evening, I saw store after store closed up for the winter. They open in the summer when the cruise ships come into town. The same things are sold in Ketchikan that are sold on cruises in the Caribbean. They ship it to Alaska in May and send it back in September. Locals are thankful for the visitors and income they bring. But they also avoid downtown if at all possible.


































Comments

Most Read

Why Some Experienced Clergy (and Lay People) Have a Hard Time When Younger Clergy Take Renewal Leave

This is a guest post from my very own dad! He's a United Methodist pastor serving in Bend, Oregon. I enjoy chatting church leadership with my dad and it's fascinating to see how our generational differences bring different perspectives to our calling as pastor. We need each generation to walk with each other as we figure it out in this new world. We've been reflecting lately as I finished up a renewal leave and he prepares to retire this June. 
By David Beckett
I fall into the category of experienced clergy which is a polite way of saying I am old. I’ve been pastoring for nearly 40 years. When I was a young pastor my role models were mostly white males who presented an image of success that equated with dedication, overwork, and sacrifice. My first senior pastor talked about the 20 hr/wk he invested in sermon preparation. And he expected his staff to work beyond their stated hours. During those three years of full time seminary and a large youth group I put in up to 80 hr/…

Why pastors need collaboration, not competition

There's competition in every industry. Some get promoted over others. Some work incredibly hard but their gifts go unnoticed. Others do good work and people assume they're fine but underneath, they feel like they could never be honest about how hard life is in this season. People spend more energy figuring out how they measure up in a work culture instead of doing the actual work.

Competition itself implies there are two sides.

I remember field days at my elementary school in Alaska. The half-frozen spring ground was covered with clumps of dirty gray snow. Jackets were thrown on the ground as the fourth graders tried to beat the fifth graders at tug of war. Rope burns were shrugged off as sweat dripped down our young faces. We were determined to beat those fifth graders. Our pride was on the line.

Whether you're a fourth grader or an ad manager at a fancy marketing agency or a senator trying out for attorney general, competition runs deep in our DNA.

We want to be the bes…

99 sheep

Reading Matthew 18:10-14 on this cloudy Anchorage summer morning. Parable of the Lost Sheep. A guy owns 100 sheep. They belong to him. These sheep are loyal and depend on their owner for everything. But then one wanders away. I wonder if this sheep wandered on purpose or accident?

The guy leaves the 99 sheep grazing on the hillside to look for the sheep who got lost. One word in verse 13 jumped out to me. "Andifhe finds [the sheep]...he is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 that did no wander off." IF he finds it. This guy who owns the sheep probably knows the hillside very well and knows his sheep's behavioral patterns. But he may not find this lost sheep. 

When someone wanders off, it's up to them if they want to get found. 

When it comes to our connection to God, some of us may wander on accident. Or on purpose. 

We wait for someone to rescue us. Bring us back. Make it okay. But we have to turn towards the one rescuing us. God will leave the other 99 sheep…