We’re off to the races… In more than one way actually.
I’ve realized in my first month here in Port Alsworth that the social calendar of this beautiful little village revolves around the current happenings of the Tanalian School (the village preK-12 school). Part of this social phenomenon comes from the fact that the majority of the village has young children enrolled in the school, and thus their family’s schedule revolves around the school activities.
But for those of us that don’t have school-aged little ones, the school still serves as the hub of social activities because… well… there’s not much else to do around here except attend the school sports games and school-community events. (Unless you count going to seminars at the national park center where they explain the data they’ve collected on local bears and sheep. Yes, I went to one; yes, I was pretty desperate for social interaction, and yes, Dall’s Sheep are actually incredibly fascinating.)
The big hubbub around town as of late has been that three kiddos from the Tanalian School made it to state for cross-country. It’s been beautiful to see this little community rally around it’s young ones and cheer them on as they run the race that was set before them.
And just as I’ve watched the community here cheer on their athletes, I’ve been incredibly blessed to feel them cheer my TLC team and I on as we prepared for our students, and now as they have arrived!
After all, we’re running a race here at the Tanalian Leadership Center too. (But thankfully it isn’t in the cold Alaskan rain or the squishy glacial silt. Woof.)
As I’ve mulled over the similarities between our cross-country runners’ race and my own, one of Hailey’s little “Christian Kids Bop” songs kept coming to mind. The words that accompany the sweet little diddy about running come from Hebrews 12:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
In some ways, my race will look very different from the race that the kids of Port Alsworth have trained so diligently for, but in many ways, it will look similar.
Just as those students trained for their race, we have “trained” for ours. Our team has spent the last few weeks in intense trauma intervention training, relational training, and most importantly we’ve spent some really sweet time praying together for this next year. As I told a friend right before my students’ plane touched down Sunday evening, “We’re about as ready as we’re ever gonna be…”
And just like the Alaskan runners shed their layers of sweatshirts, hats, and rain pants before they ran, I know I’ve been called to shed my own layers– layers of anxiety, uncertainty, and all of the other fun ways that my sinful lack of trust in God manifests itself. A very wise supporter told me this summer that to do this ministry effectively I would have to be more than transparent. In her words, I would have to take transparency to a whole new level and be emotionally and mentally “nearly naked”… just like a cross country runner running in one of those awkward little jerseys and jogging shorts.
Instead of keeping our eyes on “the prize” of our students becoming spiritual leaders for their villages, my team and I have been called to keep our eyes on Christ– the Author and Perfecter of our faith. For from Him, strength to run this wild marathon will come and so will the leadership we so desire for our students.
It’s only the end of week one, but I know that God is going to blow us all out of the water with what He is doing with our students here at TLC. Defenses are already beginning to come down and slowly, I can feel my students beginning to run beside our team in this race.
Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel. I am constantly in awe at the goodness of the Lord and I can hardly wait to tell you all what He does in our first full month here at TLC. And seriously, thank you to everyone who is serving as my race “pit crew” all across the U.S. Waking up to texts from you all saying that you are praying for my students and I, or finding letters and care packages from you in my PO box has tended to my sappy heart in a way that I didn’t know was quite possible. I am so blessed by the reminder that my team and I am not in this race alone.
All my Alaskan love,