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!