The view from the top

There’s something about standing at the summit of a mountain and screaming with joy that makes all the agony of the ascent worIMG_2877th it.

Maybe it’s the 360 degree panoramic view that comes with being thousands of feet above your surroundings. Or the way that view causes the adrenaline to course through your body, momentarily allowing you to forget the pain in your exhausted legs. Perhaps it’s the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with conquering something that seemed “impossible” at least once on the way up the trail. Or maybe it’s the dizzying feeling of intimacy with the Creator that comes with realizing how minuscule you are when compared with the mountain you’re stand on… and that the God who created that very mountain is infinitely bigger than it is. (Say what?!)

I don’t know which of these things it is that causes me to shout, “HOOOOOOOLLLLYYYY CRAAAAAAP! JESUS! WHO ARE YOU!?” at the top of my lungs everytime I stand on top of a mountain, but I do know that all of those factors add up to create the “climbing high” I’m so love with. It’s the euphoria that leads so many of us to attempt ridiculous feats and turns so many Coloradoans into “14-er junkies”.

I may not have “14-ers” accessible to me these days, but oh do I feel like I’ve climbed my fair share of mountains lately. (Some literal, some metaphoric…)

My students and I climbed the mountain at the base of our village the morning after our Tanalian Leadership Center graduation. As I watched them cut trail and post hole through the snow ahead of me, I was struck (again) by the similarities between ministry and mountain climbing.

I’m pretty sure that to be either a climber or a follower of Christ, dedicated to raising up disciples, you have to be a little crazy.

Both tasks are difficult, but incredibly rewarding. Both require you to keep your eyes on the High Place you’re striving to reach. Even if you’re in a ridge or valley, you have to keep looking Up if you want to continue moving forward. On the climb, you learn to endure sore, aching muscles, battle wounds, blisters, and exhaustion beyond what you thought was humanly possible. Like I said, you’ve got to be a little crazy (and a lot fixated on the euphoria of being at the High Place) to be willing to suffer through the pain of the ascent and the disappointment of false summits and trails that lead you down before they zig-zag back up.

Both in ministry and on mountains, I’ve hiked a few grueling miles with students only to realize we’d hit a false summit or a plateau that turned into a valley of sorts. More often than not, this realization lends to all of us hitting frustration and being tempted to take our eyes off the High Place and quit. But this year I’ve watched as my students have learned that when they do that, they settle for so much less than what they know they’ve been created to be able to do.

That Saturday morning as I climbed Tanalian behind the students I’ve come to love, I saw the courage and tenacity that the Lord has grown in them over the past 8 months as they grappled up rough terrain, refusing to give up. Even when they were tired, I watched them take short breaks, look up to the peak above us, and keep trucking forward. As I hiked behind them, a proud “mamasita” (as my boys call me), I was reminded of the speeches and charges each of my students gave to the community and one another the night before at our TLC graduation.

Their words contained the power of the Holy Spirit– the truth of the transforming power of our King. They urged one another on toward the Lord and thanked those in the community who had pushed them to where they stood at the top of the “TLC mountain” with their diploma in their hands.

The students who got off the plane in Port Alsworth on October 5th of last year are not the same students I heard speak at graduation or that I climbed that mountain with on Saturday.

In October they were all a bit timid and unsure of who they were created to be and what they were capable of doing.

But as we stood on Tanalian, waist deep in snow, looking out over our little village and Lark Clark, I stood among “different” young men and women who are now confident in their identities because they are more confident in the Lord and Who He says He is. As I stood with them, I realized I was no longer standing with “my students”– No, I was standing with fellow ministers of the Gospel who are all excited to share what the Lord has done in their lives this year.

I stood in the company of future counselors, preachers, teachers, and missionary pilots.

To get to where they were that morning, or at graduation the night before, they all had to climb a mountain or two of their own with the Lord and I will never say the climb was easy… But by the grace of God, they never took their eyes off the High Place and they learned that while climbing mountains is difficult and exhausting, it didn’t kill them.

As I watched my students board my boss’ plane and take off to their respective villages later that week, my heart overflowed with joy knowing they’ve been equipped, and now sent. I know our paths might not physically cross in the foreseeable future, but I look forward to the day in heaven when I get to hear their stories of the mountains they climbed with Jesus after leaving TLC and the ways they were able to watch the Lord show up in their own “students” lives and hearts.

As for me, all I want to do is rejoice– scream out in joy and praise at the top of my lungs on this Tanalian Leadership Center “mountain”, for the Lord is good. GradHike

He keeps His promises, one of the most beautiful being,

“‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

 How, then, can someone call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring Good News!”

(Romans 10:13-15)

My sweet students know the One who saved them. They know in the depths of their hearts that He will never put them to shame, so long as they keep their eyes on Him. They’ve been sent out to declare the Good News and have the opportunity to do so at the very ends of the earth this summer, in Cambodia and in the Alaskan island village of Little Diomede (where there is only one known believer, ps.).

Would you join me in praying for my students as they’ve now returned to their villages as witnesses to the glory of God and as they travel the world (this summer and for the rest of their lives) declaring His powerful name? 

Sweet Jesus, would you build Your Kingdom here.


Exciting life update: Joey and my missions trip to Cambodia is over 95% funded and we’re expecting to hit the 100% mark in the next week or so! If you’re interested in supporting our team in prayer or financially, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at

Or! If you’re interested in spreading the Gospel throughout Alaska, you can support Brandon, Emilyn, Trevor, and our staff as they prepare to go to Little Diomede. You can make a contribution here and earmark it “Little Diomede” in the comment section.

Invited in


There’s something about being invited into the home of a person you hardly know for a warm cup of tea (and toast with nutella—yum!) when it’s grey and blustery out that warms the soul in a way few other things can.

That feeling of a mug warming your frost-singed hands is one that says, “You are welcome here. You are loved.”

That is what Port Alsworth has done for me in my first few weeks in Alaska.

Families and friends have welcomed me into their homes for dinner and tea—even though it’s the end of the month and everyone’s groceries are a bit scarce. Hospitality is so important here that no one has batted an eye at welcoming me in and sharing the little they have left. (Guys, these families in this village… they trust Jesus to provide in a way that has warmed my heart while simultaneously melting my brain. Their faith is ah-mazing.)

As I’ve settled in to my new home, I’ve wrestled with feelings of homesickness in the strangest of ways. I’m not homesick for the busy-ness of Denver or for Mexican food yet (although I could really go for Fuzzy’s Tacos, now that I mention it…) No, instead I’ve been homesick for the people whose hearts I call home and the way my friends in Denver filled the Yarrow House as a family would.

My stubbornness, pride, and independence would all like me to tell you that I’m completely fine here on my own– that every day I wake up ready to do the work the Lord has called me to do. While that is mostly true, there is still a hollowness and homesickness in this empty house that will remain until my students come on Monday and fill it.

But when I contrast the emptiness of my house with the way afternoon tea and deep belly-laughter with new friends has warmed my hands and heart, I see so much about the character of our beautiful God and what He is teaching me about Himself in this quiet time.

I have been constantly reminded here that God, like the people of this delightful little village, is a God who welcomes us in.

In Luke 14 Jesus tells a story of a great banquet that illustrates this characteristic of God.

“But He said to them, ‘A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come! For everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to the servant, ‘I have just bought a field and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ Yet another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

So the servant came and reported these things to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you have commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel my people to come in, that my house may be filled.’” (Luke 14:16-23)

This is what God has done for me here in Port Alsworth, but more importantly, this is what God has done for us all. He has invited us into His Kingdom, even though we are poor, crippled, blind, and lame.

He knows that we are imperfect, yet He calls us to Himself as we are.

He knows that I am poor in spirit and blind to His goodness most of the time, crippled by my own crap and sin, and oh so very lame, but He loves me anyway.

He loves you and me, and not just in the endearing, “I will take pity on you and give you the scraps from my feast,” kind of way. No, He loves us so much that He invites us in, out of the cold, grey climate of our hearts and calls us to sit at His table with Him.

Have tea with me. Tell me your heart. Let me love you. Let me heal you. Let me teach you what life is supposed to be like– life with Me. 

This is the call of the Creator of the universe.

Yet, I am so guilty of making up excuses, as the invited guests of the parable did. I have to clean the house. I have to do (insert important ministry task here) to ensure that (insert name here) gets to see Jesus. I have to… I have to… I have to… We all do it. I will never trivialize the importance of the daily tasks that God has called us to, or the life altering work that we have been called to as His followers.

But what if we are missing out on the most beautiful parts of our day? Our lives? All because we get caught up in the hustle of our lives and ourselves.

My hope and prayer is that Monday I would be able to stand undistracted, next to Jesus as my students show up at the front door of our new home, and I would be able to say to their hearts, “Welcome! Come in! There’s room for you here. Sit down, let’s have some warm tea and talk. I long to know you. I long for you to know my sweet Jesus the way I do. Don’t worry, He knows just how screwed up and crazy I am, and how scared you are to be in this new place with me. Yet loves us anyway.”

And as I get to do this in the middle of the Alaskan bush with the Tanalian Leadership Center, I hope that you can hear Jesus right where you are saying, “Come in! There’s room for you here, with Me. Sit down; I long for you to know Me and know the way that I love you. Don’t worry, I already know how screwed up and crazy you may feel, and how scared you are to be here with Me. But relax. I love you anyway.”

Oh, what the world could be like if we all looked to Jesus and held out our arms to the people He has placed in front of us, saying, “Come in! There’s still more room for you here with Jesus…”

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

(1 John 4:10-12)

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