InterACTION - Winter 2024 A Publication of InterAct Ministries

Rhea’s Journey to Faith

Are missionaries still needed in villages?

By Carrie Curtis

My screen cut out for the fifth time during the short video call. Internet signal is intermittent in bush Alaska. Finally, my dear friend’s face and warm smile appeared again on the screen and we resumed our conversation. I had a purpose to this chat.

Rhea grew up in a small, interior village in Alaska—far from the road system and neighboring villages. I had asked to interview her in hopes of sharing her perspective on the importance of discipleship in villages. Rhea’s testimony of coming to faith in Christ reveals the importance of missionaries building meaningful relationships with those they serve.

Rhea (right), with her friend and writer of this article, InterAct missionary Carrie Curtis.

Her faith journey began at the age of five when a team from Texas held Vacation Bible School in Rhea’s village. These believers prayed continuously for God to send missionaries to the village. Those prayers were answered when a missionary family with two young daughters came to live in the village. Rhea was twelve by then and recalls being curious when they arrived off the airplane. Her mother informed her that they would be having a kids’ Bible study and teach them about Jesus.

In addition to leading Bible studies, the missionary family made their home in the village and visited Rhea’s home often. Over time, they built a relationship and became family to her. For Rhea, it was even worth the hour walk between her house and theirs to spend time with them.

Later, she learned the missionaries had prayed for her village long before they got there and continued to pray for each person in the community.

As a teenager, Rhea also heard the gospel while attending Brooks Range Bible Camp. It was within these years that the Good News all made sense to her, and she accepted Christ as her Savior.

During our interview Rhea reflected on what life is like for most Alaska Native youth and teens. “Parents don’t do much with their kids. I notice kids get bored, because they don’t have good relationships with their parents, so they get into trouble.” Loneliness and boredom can be a big struggle for teens in the village. Add fear to the mix, and life can be pretty hard without God. She went on to share that despite appearances, villagers do care deeply about their youth and know they are the next generation of leaders.

My friend’s life was different because she had the friendship and support of the missionary family! Many villages in Alaska, Canada and Siberia have no missionary witness like Rhea did in hers. Countless youths and teens are living in fear and without hope. She emphasized that if more missionaries came to villages, prayed for the people and stayed there in daily life, it would help other youth as it did her.

Knowing they are prayed for by name, have a place to visit where God’s love is shown and an opportunity to learn about His Word, can make all the difference in a young person’s life.

Rhea spent two years in InterAct’s LEaD program where whole life discipleship is the goal. Participants enjoy the outdoors, grow in life skills, study the Bible and deepen commitment in their walk with the Lord.
Jill Horsman, InterAct’s LEaD director, regularly meets with students.

Now a young adult, Rhea has had many opportunities to serve in ministry. She has served as a girl’s counselor at Brooks Range Bible Camp, led worship music and helped with a new Vacation Bible School outreach in a neighboring village. When asked how she tries to be a light to those around her, she quotes Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. (NIV)” She adds, “I can complain, or I can do it and do it good.”

Rhea’s life is a testimony of God’s great love reflected through His people to a young girl in a remote village.

There are at least five villages in Alaska pleading for a missionary to live in their community. Perhaps God is calling you!

Raising the “Steaks” with Pitchfork Fondue

What do pitchforks, vats of hot oil, steaks and Bible camp have in common?

For Rock of Ages Bible Camp these all converge in their annual pitchfork fondue fundraiser. InterAct missionaries, John and Anne Giesbrecht along with their son, Gordon, began hosting this unique and anticipated fundraiser in 2018.

The event not only draws the community but people who’ve never heard of Rock of Ages. Tickets are sold ahead of time, but there’s always extra food and space reserved for those who stop in unannounced.

On the day of the event a tent and 200 chairs are erected with tables for appetizers and side dishes. Propane burners are lit beneath the 15-gallon deep fryer full of cooking oil. Clean pitchforks are readied, and orders are taken for steaks well done, medium or rare.

While folks are consuming their quota of beef and other culinary delights, a short program is presented about Rock of Ages Bible Camp. A lively auction of donated items comes next where some sought after pies sold for as much as $300! Bids are placed on other items in a silent auction taking place throughout the event.

At the September 2023 event, $11,000 was raised, which is about 40% of the funds needed for five weeks of camp. “This is getting our camp known outside the Christian community and giving others an opportunity to support it,” John explained.

Bible camps are an integral part of sharing the gospel–particularly in rural areas. Kids attending these camps have the opportunity to develop a relationship with Jesus that can change the trajectory of their lives.

Resources are often a struggle for Bible camps. Creative fundraising activities like pitchfork fondue help open the doors for more people to participate in impacting the next generation for eternity!

From David & Vicky (missionaries in Calgary, Alberta):

(In reference to Restora, a business as mission outreach to indigenous young adults)

“I continue to be thankful for how much working together with young adults breaks down barriers for relationship and ministry. The jobs we do together create tangible shared experiences, and there’s a real camaraderie in taking a project from start to finish together.”

“Youth nights and youth retreats have continued with the Eden Valley crew on the reserve. We took groups of youth to two camps this year which were really good bonding times and were able to get some hiking and outings during the summer months.”

From Jon & MaryAnna (missionaries in Nulato, Alaska):

“Our long term goal in Nulato is to see a body of believers here who are gathered together, in worship of God and in striving to know and obey His Word. We long to see it be locally motivated, and for Nulato to be a place that overflows with love for God and love for people. Recently an elder joined us for Sunday Bible study. It was a delight to have her with us and we hope it might be a start of a contagious desire to be listening to God’s Word together.”

From immigrant ministry missionaries:

“Our Punjabi gathering (Satsang) on Sunday evenings is going well, albeit with a small group. We have opportunities there to disciple Christ-followers and introduce others to Jesus and his Gospel. …With our Punjabi friends we’ve celebrated births & birthdays, grieved deaths, counseled in troubled times, and simply spent time together. This is ‘ordinary life’ but with extraordinary opportunities to share the love and truth of Christ. What a privilege to serve our Lord in this way!”

From Andy & Jesi (missionaries in Calgary, Alberta):

“At the beginning of July Jesi served with our teammates, Dan and Bev, at a tent meeting on a reserve near Calgary. The ministry of indigenous believers in this community is so vibrant and the tent meeting was an amazing opportunity to see God’s powerful work there and hear some incredible testimonies of faith.”

From Amy Miller (missionary in Kodiak, AK)

“Providence hospital ministry went well on Monday with a couple of good visits. One of the patients was sour on religion and church, but said that she would think about what I said on having a relationship with God through Christ.”

Dale Smith, Executive Director

A common thread running through much of this edition is God’s movement among young people of the North Pacific Crescent. A key part of Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” is ministry to the rising generation. The future of churches across the area we serve will be transitioning from the adults into the hands of impressionable youths. As we invest in their evangelism, discipleship and mentoring, we are building His Church!

The importance of this was driven home more strongly when I read the Barna Group statistic that 64% of believers made their decision for Christ before the age of 18!

Many voices across the globe are heralding the looming crisis of young people without anchors in their lives and this is particularly true in the First Nations and Alaska Native communities. A respected Native Alaska leader considers this the primary emergency among his people.

Will you join us in praying for workers who love the challenge of youth ministry? Engage with us in the battle for the souls of our most vulnerable!

“…go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:18-20 NIV

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

For more information go to https://interactministries.org/go/ 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