Monday, September 27, 2010
What in the world have I done? How have I managed to take my wife, who was born and raised in a sub-tropical country in Asia to the sub-arctic tundra of bush Alaska? Who knows how far it is from her grandchildren in Illinois, because Google Maps doesn’t even calculate distances where there are no roads. Oh I forgot, we have fifteen miles of road and then barren tundra and mountain passes for 300 miles to Anchorage. What was I thinking? Bears and foxes take their separate turns cutting through our yard. Tomatoes are $4.79 a pound and gasoline is $4.45 a gallon. Visitors say, “The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in Naknek.” The closest hospital is an hour away, if you get medevaced out. Rusted vehicles and boats are strewn throughout the town as it is too expensive to ship anything out. Everything you ship in costs about a dollar a pound to ship.
And then I look around the radio station. The clock alarm rings at 5:15 a.m. I get ready, down something to wake up my voice. I must turn on lights that weren’t needed two months ago, when it was light at midnight, but will soon be needed after 9 a.m. as the sun hibernates for the winter. I poke my head out the screen door to the transmitter room, hoping I don’t surprise a passing bear, while I look up 325’ to see whether the blinking red light is on. The FCC requires I do this every 24 hours and record it. Several years ago a plane hit our tower in foggy weather, tumbled over the apartments, and landed in the front yard, killing the pilot.
And then there is the “dead-air” alarm that causes us to run for the studio whenever there is more than thirty seconds of dead air (because of a glitch in the programming.) We must also be ready at anytime—like last week, when a short in the outside pole knocked us off the air. Powering down the transmitter and starting the backup generator is the ideal in keeping us on the air, but the ideal didn’t happen this time. Let’s say there was a lot of running around, waving of arms and a steep learning curve. And then, anyone who knows me knows the thought of climbing thirty-stories up a tower to change a light bulb sends panic through me.
Throughout the day we collect and record 14 broadcasts plus download another 272 programs each week. There is always something waiting to be done: programs to download, public service announcements to rip, new music to add, announcements to be made, accounting, billing, FCC requirements, maintenance and housekeeping, emergency alert system to be tested [The President must be able to broadcast within ten minutes if he chooses to.] There are projects waiting in the wings that are awaiting either money or people to do them: weeks of changing out one recorded address for a new one on 100 episodes, a garage to be built, a dishwasher to be purchased, shipped and installed, leaking windows to be replaced; a water filter to stop the massive iron from ruining the pipes and clothes.
Although KAKN is not a church, it does provide the only Christian programming and for some, the only news in this area. I like to think of inviting speakers that the Holy Spirit will use to bring encouragement, comfort, guidance and correction to the 90% who do not attend a church in our community, and the 10% who do. Our own Pastor Jim Johnson of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Camarillo, California, Focus on the Family, Joni Erickson Tada, Ravi Zakarias, Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, Alistair Begg, David Jeremiah, Elizabeth George, and Chuck Swindoll are but a few, as well as mission updates, testimonies, Christian comedy, devotionals, and several children’s programs. Sprinkled throughout each day is Christian music, including Native American worship. Local and visiting Christians have recorded the whole Bible which is played. Natives hear the Word in their own mother-tongue as well. All of this is found 24 hours a day 7 days a week—not only on KAKN in Naknek, but on 104.9 in Dillingham, across the Bay, and 103.9 in Egegik, and on one channel of cable television! No, I’m not pastoring a church but I am facilitating dozens of pastors, teachers and lay people to bring the Good News, the saving news of Jesus Christ into people’s lives each day.
Welcome to the South Naknek International Airport Lounge.
Notice the Women sign? Just a sign…the field is it!
Pulling an 18’ skiff that had flipped over in a storm and was stuck fast in the river, before a 25’ tide returned to swallow it, afforded us the opportunity to serve our neighbor. Visiting with the family of two brothers who were among four missing on a flight that never arrived at nearby King Salmon Airport gave Jeremy and me an opportunity to bring comfort and to pray with them as the search continued for their loved ones. Later, we interviewed the father, giving him opportunity to thank those who helped their family, to give testimony of their faith, and to request prayer for the men, their families and the searchers.
What was I thinking? I might better wonder why God allows us the privilege of being part of His ministry to the people in Bristol Bay. So weak and undeserved, we are humbled to play a small part in bringing glory to Him.
And what about Margaret? God placed her in Naknek at precisely the time that a much-loved kindergarten teacher would become ill, be medevaced out and pass away on the first day of school. He had already arranged for Margaret to be available to take up the teacher’s class. She has the wonderful opportunity to meet with people in the community in a way I would never have.
What was God thinking when He brought us up here? It’s going to be fun to find out!
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Friday, June 04, 2010
Dear family and friends,
After two and a half years of inquiry and much prayer, we have exciting news to share with you. Our passion to continue mission ministry has now led us to the unchurched villages of Alaska, bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to them. Bob has accepted the AFLC Home Missions call to be a missionary pastor and Christian radio station manager for the AFLC Alaska mission outreach in the Bristol Bay area. He anticipates leaving for Alaska in late-June with Margaret following in July, after our oldest daughter, Mary, delivers her fourth child. It is a time of change, leaving the beautiful Monterey Bay area where Bob has been serving, for the coastal town of Naknek (NACK-neck), where fellow pedestrians include bears and foxes, and all the food must be flown or barged in. Yup'ik Eskimos, Alutiiq and Athabascans will become our neighbors.
Rural Alaska is unlike any other part of the United States. Its unique wildlife, rugged terrain, unusual moonlit days in the winter and sunlit nights in the summer, all display God's power and creativity. The mountains, volcanoes, tundra, and glaciers put us in awe of our Creator! But amidst all this beauty is a people in need of the Word of Jesus Christ. So many remote villages, isolated from communication and transportation (except by air), are without any Gospel witness. AFLC Home Missions is blessed to be one ambassador for Jesus Christ into these communities through its three ministries: North and South Naknek chapels, KAKN-FM Christian radio broadcasting, and mission aviation ministry into surrounding, remote villages. We, along with classmate missionary pastor-pilot Jeremy Crowell and his wife, Lacey, will join Pastor Jeff Swanson and his family.
Where in the world is Naknek?
Naknek is located on the north bank of the Naknek River near its mouth on Bristol Bay. Naknek is approximately 300 miles southwest of Anchorage and is only accessible by boat or air. The local economy is almost entirely based on salmon fishing, and has one of the largest commercial salmon fishing areas in the world and draws thousands of seasonal workers each summer, and then drops to several hundred in the winter.
With only 15 miles of paved road, the use of airplanes is very important to the lives of the people who live there, and for the ministry. The airplane provides quick and often the only access to many villages in southwest Alaska. Over 150 villages are reachable by plane from Naknek. Some of these small villages have had no mission presence; others have chapel buildings that sit empty, because there is no missionary/pastor who can get to them.
We praise God for the work He is doing through village ministry, aviation ministry, radio station outreach, and the everyday relationships built around the Naknek community.
Our e-mail is: bobmarglee at gmail.com
Our new address beginning July 1: PO Box 214, Naknek AK 99633-0214.