So They Will Know

By Jon and MaryAnna Casey

The first of many trucks arrives at the cemetery as the annual clean-up commences. While one family unloads rakes, a chainsaw, fresh fencing for one of the graves, water and snacks for the day’s work; others arrive. Each one knows where their loved ones are buried. Several hours are spent cleaning gravesites and remembering family members who have died. Stories, tears, and laughter mix together.

We do not have any family in the cemetery. So when we arrive, we look for neighbors that we can help. Some prefer to work quietly by themselves, and some would rather not be alone. We help rake leaves and cut willows. Our kids use their smaller arms to reach through the graves’ fencing to pull weeds. Over the nine years we have lived here, we have helped dig multiple graves. Our grief is different, but we still mourn the death of many friends we knew.

Our Native friends hold many unspoken beliefs about spirits—fears and traditions that we do not yet understand. We often hear stories of people who have died and learn family connections. When alcohol is shared, it is rarely offered to us. “I have seen it hurt too many people,” is a common phrase our family uses. People are quick to understand, so we simply stand alongside people as they grieve. Our main purpose for being there is to listen and help.

Conversations of our faith happen in these natural moments of the day.

As the work at the cemetery wraps up, we help haul trash to the dump, then prepare food to bring to the community hall where everyone meets for a potlatch. Women have been cooking all day while they process their grief. As people gather and the food is set out, a few selected ladies quietly collect small portions of food. This offering is taken outside and burned on a nearby campfire. The belief is that, after the small amount of food is burned, it multiplies into a larger amount and feeds the spirits of those who have died. I am thankful that no one ever asks me to help with that.

After everyone is seated, speeches and stories are told before the day ends with eating together. As the speeches begin, we hear stories of loved ones or thankfulness expressed to the community. Sometimes we feel a prompting from God to share a story or give a short speech. Sometimes there is nothing we are prompted to say and we just listen. If the Catholic priest is absent, then I am asked to pray. I do not pray a blessing on the food, but rather I thank God for the food, and pray that our community would love God well and love each other well.

There is a mix of spiritual worlds in every context. Our call as Christians is to be the light of Christ wherever God has placed us. We must navigate through what we can participate in, and what we can graciously decline. The message of truth from God is best lived out and spoken with gentleness and respect. We must let God’s Word and the Holy Spirit determine what is right and wrong.

MaryAnna often uses her gift of cakemaking to bless others in their community. This cake was made for a memorial anniversary.

We pray that our community will see reality of the gospel lived out through us and that our words will bring the refreshing hope of eternal life.

Jon and MaryAnna Casey and their family have been serving in Nulato, Alaska for nine years.

Anchored Warriors

As a shy young girl, Charlene was generally fearful of people, especially strangers. That changed after she began attending Midway Bible Camp in northern Manitoba. Each year she returned to camp and her connections to the staff deepened as they showed her the light of Jesus. At the young age of twelve she begged the director to work at the camp. She was welcomed into the Servant and Leadership Training group (SALT) where she studied the Bible and was challenged to serve others as Jesus did.

Charlene attributes much of her journey of faith in Jesus to a discipling relationship with InterAct missionary, Kyla Plett. Kyla mentored and encouraged her through her teen years and Charlene thinks of her as an older sister.

After high school, God provided for Charlene to attend Steinbach Bible College. She now serves as a discipleship leader. In a recent interview, Charlene expressed her desire to pass on to First Nations youth what God has gifted in her life.

“I saw all the brokenness in my community and it made me want to pour out the same love God has given me…and show them there is hope in the world.”
The ultimate desire is to see youth maturing as they study the Bible.

Midway Bible Camp is one of many ministries to First Nations youth and young adults under one banner called Anchored Warriors. Missionaries serving in Western Canada have collaborated to better reach the youth in their communities.

With the end goal of discipleship, Anchored Warriors employs diverse methodologies. Annual conferences, Bible camps and youth events on reserves flow into follow-up with regular Bible studies and ongoing friendships.

Enthusiastic First Nations youth gather at the Waymaker conference.

A unique approach to discipleship, Restora uses property maintenance, repair and cleaning services in the Calgary area to provide entry-level job opportunities coupled with one-on-one mentorship and skills training. Hours spent together create opportunities for long-lasting friendships and allows staff to share the love of Jesus.

The passion for First Nations youth goes beyond programs. Most of the families serving through Anchored Warriors have welcomed young adults into their homes where the daily habits of family life and godly living are modeled.

Takoda* was one such young man. Living without purpose in his life, he was invited to a sports night attended by missionaries on his reserve. The guys were chatting excitedly about the upcoming youth conference. Reports of hundreds of First Nations youth enjoying crazy games and good food eased Takoda’s apprehension about going to a Christian conference. It was there that he clearly heard the gospel and became a Christ follower.

Many obstacles lay before him in his return home. With the support of believers and exposure to God’s Word, his view of life was transformed. The summer after high school graduation, Takoda planned to leave the reserve to find work or attend school. He was relieved to hear he could get his first-ever job with Restora. In addition to trade skills, he learned job interview skills and how to make a resume. He got his driver’s license and best of all, he earned a paycheck.

*name and circumstances fictionalized

Every Anchored Warrior missionary has the same desire—to journey with First Nations youth in the midst of the hurt and struggles they carry. Together they learn more of who Jesus is. Many statistics support the importance of reaching young people by the age of 14.

The theme of Anchored Warriors, found in Hebrews 6:19a, expresses their desire well.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

From our Siberia Field director:

“Carrie is our colleague from InterAct who recruits at college campuses and helps our field get the word out about the needs of Siberia. She came all the way from her home in Alaska to spend the month of March with us, and was delighted to finally see Krasnoyarsk, Ulan-Ude, and Tuva for herself!

In late March our team gathered for what is typically an annual conference. However, it had been a few years because of recent political events, and so it was extra sweet to spend encouraging downtime with our InterAct family and discuss our future goals of seeing churches in unreached areas of Siberia. Between the two provinces that we are currently focused on, there are over 800 towns and villages with no church.” (More to come from the Siberia field in the Fall 2024 InterACTION!)

From Kyla (missionary in Manitoba, Canada):

“One big way I have seen God work involves my former neighbor girl. She spent a lot of time with my dogs and I was able to show her love and had opportunities to share the gospel with her very clearly. Things were going amazing! So you can imagine my great disappointment when she chose to leave her foster home and go to a group home a bit over a year ago. I was extremely worried for her! I recently found out that she moved to Brandon and is really good friends with a girl (originally from Split Lake) that has been very involved in the Bible studies and in camp. Not only is she regularly visiting a home where some of the siblings are actively following God, but she is staying with her uncle who is a believer and is reading her Bible! Praise God for how he works. I felt so hopeless when I found out that she moved away, but God knows what is best. He also doesn’t need me!

From Dick and Ruth (missionaries in Saskatchewan, Canada):

“We, as well as some of the people from the Loon Lake church, went to the Native Christian Conference in Kamloops, British Columbia at the end of April for the weekend. It was good to see old friends and enjoy the fellowship and messages at the conference. After the conference the two of us headed up to the Cariboo where we were located the first 15 years of our ministry with InterAct. It was encouraging to visit some of the people who had become Christians back then and see them still serving the Lord today.”

Dale Smith, Executive Director

At times, the life of an InterAct missionary is like an extended road trip—a variety of sights and sounds interwoven with monotony. Each day of ministry brings routine and surprise, the joy of changed lives and occasional weariness. Rarely would an observer conclude a missionary’s life is dull!

The common denominator that ties the variety together is relationships. We have been called to bring the Good News of Jesus to the unreached and lesser reached people of Siberia, Alaska and Western Canada. Programs and crusades play an important role in the spread of the gospel but InterAct chooses to invest deeply in personal relationships. Sharing life relationally is our primary means of making disciples who make disciples who gather (as church).

loving relationships → opportunities to share good news → disciples → reproducing disciples → local churches

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” ...(I Corinthians 9:22b ESV.)

You love to share the gospel message but you’re better with your hands or in an office. Maybe you’re retired or self-supported. Are you ready to invest a season of life to serve in a support ministry? There are places you can plug in right away.

  • Alaska: Facility maintenance; guest house services
  • Canada: Building skills or land development (camp); office administration (experience in non-profits a plus)
  • Oregon office: Communications; IT specialist; facility maintenance

For more information go to or call Jim (503) 668-5571 ext. 117.

Will you partner with us to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the North Pacific Crescent?

InterACTION is a publication of InterAct Ministries