The Blog Series Ends. The Ministry Continues.

We have had a wonderful year, highlighting many of the ministries and churches of the Alaska Conference. Through this series we have heard what the Tsunami Sirens sound like in Homer, what damage an earthquake did in Chugiak, and how a small church in the tiny town of Hope has become a respite for so many. And there are so many other stories; some you can find here and some are yet to be told.

You can check back to this blog to read up on, and learn about what ministry looks like in one of the “Missionary Conferences” of The United Methodist Church.

Thank you to all of the contributors.

Thank you to our friends in the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church who used these posts to help with their “Alaska Conference Sunday” offering.

IMG_0140 smaller

“Doors Opening to God’s Love in Action”–Eagle River Methodist Camp South East

Submitted by Bunti Reed, Board Member and Program Chair Eagle River Methodist Camp SE.

Kids + Adults + Eagle River Methodist Camp SE = God’s love in Action.              

Eagle River Camp Sign

Children and youth today live hectic lives. So many things–school, sports, television, smartphones, video games, and organized activities can crowd out the time for kids to be kids. Conversely, some children have to take a caretaker role in their families, or live in families affected by poverty and its myriad of ills- being a kid can be tough under those circumstances. 

In today’s world, where can kids hike in the woods; get muddy, swing on a rope swing, spend quality time with caring adults, hike down a deer trail, play outdoor games, or sit around a campfire, sing, talk about life, and learn about Jesus Christ? Here in Juneau, we have such a place.

Eagle River Methodist Camp SE has been an active part of our community for 60+ years. A place for learning, communing with nature and growing in faith, and fun. A rare jewel in today’s world. We share our camp facility with the community, a truly welcoming retreat.

Our outdoors, hands-on programs, and loving lessons encourage friendship, fun, challenge, positive faith, and a healthy lifestyle. We help develop the spirit, mind and body of our campers in supporting faith, caring, stewardship, and showing God’s love to others. Camp is a learning place for social skills, outdoor skills, spiritual development, and team participation. It is a place where being a Christian is also fun. For our program committee, the camp planning starts the year before, and much work goes into completing a quality program. All of our staff are volunteers-the counselors, cooks, medical staff, guests who come to educate, our camp dean, and everyone else that it takes to produce a camp that reaches the goals we have set for our camp experience. At each camp, the counselors, cooks, and camp staff are up at daylight and are the last ones to bed at night. It is exhausting but exhilarating. Each year we sponsor several youth camps.

Our annual faith-based “Discovery Camp” provides youth nearly a week of active interaction with counselors, spiritual teachers, and cabin mates without the distractions of the modern world. Under God’s roof, they learn new ideas, start on a journey of discovery, learn relationship skills, spiritual truths, make friends, and gain insights that will affect them all their lives. There are no paid employees, no “second shift.” At Discovery Camp, all are welcome, regardless of faith. (There is a cost to attend, but no one is ever turned away for inability to pay) 

Camp Champ is a secular camp that provides the summer camp experience to children who would not otherwise get to go. Kids attending might be homeless, have an incarcerated parent, be living in a shelter, experience poverty, disability, parental addiction, or other challenges. The Juneau School District, regional churches, and social service agencies partner with us to make it happen. 2020 will be our 15th “Camp Champ.” This free camp is by referral only. 

The camp serves Juneau, Southeast Alaska, and even beyond.  The public school and women’s shelter most commonly furnish the names of children at risk for our referral-only Camp Champ.  The school uses the camp for student “camp days”, to teach about our environment. We host annual Thanksgiving Day dinner sponsored by a United Church (Methodist/Presbyterian) congregation which is open to all.  Juneau recognizes our broad open door policy to the entire community and responds with help in various ways: Spring clean-up day which we call “Camp Get Ready” to the annual Fall Chop-A-Thon.  Logs are cut and split along with stacking them in the woodshed for year-around use in the big lodge fireplace. People come with chainsaws, log splitters, and willing hands. They leave with tired backs and gladdened hearts through enjoyable working fellowship. A man with a dump truck offers to haul rock for our pot-holed driveway, another brings his tractor to spread it.  We could not exist without the community.  In turn the Camp enriches the entire community. We seek to be a Christ-centered camp. We stand for inclusion. 

There are many opportunities to help. Time, money, supplies, and prayers all help us create this valuable ministry? Share your gifts and talents, your time and experience. You will help a child or teen see that God’s hands are yours, theirs, mine, and ours. 

Visit us on the web at 

“The Sanctuary Doors” — Birchwood Camp

Singing Sanctuary Photo

Submitted by Relena Lyddon Myers, Director of Birchwood Camp.

Birchwood Camp’s mission is to build community on common ground. We strive to offer hospitality to all, and we open our doors to groups both religious and secular. Guests are invited to retreat to a place of tranquility, a place apart from the everyday world to experience renewal and inspiration. A year-round camp and retreat center in Chugiak, nestled between the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet just 30 minutes north of Anchorage. The camp, which has been in operation since 1961. Guests and campers enjoy scenic views, beautiful Psalm lake, idyllic log cabins, multi-purpose meeting spaces, hiking trails & outdoor spaces, opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, & team building, and much more on the 160 acre property. The serene setting invites guests to take a break, to let go of the stress and chaos of everyday life and retreat to a place of peace, tranquility, personal growth, and learning. We offer rental and program opportunities for community groups, schools, churches, businesses, and private events. We have facilities available for rental for groups up to 100 people and we are open year-round. We also offer team building opportunities on our low-ropes challenge course.

There is a tradition at camp to sing “Sanctuary” after each worship service, after campfire (remember it doesn’t get dark even at night in the summer!), really whenever & wherever we, #birchwoodfamily, are together.

“Lord prepare me. To be a sanctuary. Pure and Holy. Tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”

Beautifully, at this holy place…camp… which is a sanctuary itself for so many. They are learning to be that sanctuary for others. Signing to the mountains (the Chugach mountains) that represent the rest of the world, where they are going… to live out love.


“Doors to a New Hope” — New Hope Methodist/Presbyterian Church

Submitted by Pastor Curt Matz, Pastor of New Hope Methodist Presbyterian Church.

The doors of New Hope Methodist Presbyterian Church in beautiful North Pole, Alaska.

The ministry that is now known as New Hope Methodist Presbyterian Church began about 46 years ago when representatives of both the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations in Fairbanks decided to explore the possibility of establishing a main line Protestant ministry in the growing community of North Pole Alaska located about twelve miles east of the city of Fairbanks.  Many of the existing area congregations at that time – and still today – were small nondenominational groups that interpreted the Bible and worshipped in a manner that did not appeal to those from a mainline protestant background. When one group of these representatives learned that the other group was engaged in a similar endeavor they met together and decided it was better to engage in this project jointly rather than seeking to establish two competing ministries.  Soon a group of people began meeting for worship and shortly thereafter a congregation was formed. The first building consisted of two Atco trailers purchased from the Alyeska pipline company after the construction of the Alaska pipeline was completed. A mathematical error on the billing statement – honored by the company – allowed the infant congregation to purchase them for several thousand dollars less than anticipated. Although only a handful of the founding members still remain, their legacy lives on.  New Hope is one of three Methodist Presbyterian union congregations in Alaska with the other two being located in Anchorage and Juneau. Our pastor and congregation regularly participate in activities sponsored by both of the local Methodist and Presbyterian jurisdictions (Alaska Methodist Conference and Yukon Presbytery). Because of the name, many people who visit North Pole think that they are at the north pole. They are disappointed to learn that the north pole itself is actually several hundred miles north east of our physical location.  

While New Hope is identified with the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations, the majority of those involved in the congregation’s ministries are not originally from either of those two denominations.  A wide variety of other denominations including Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Christian Reformed, Russian Orthodox and many others are represented. Some have had no previous religious affiliation.  We have one member originally from the Netherlands and another from Kazakhstan. We simply call ourselves “New Hopians” and emphasize the unity we share in Christ. We seek to serve Christ together and express Christ’s love both within the congregation and community rather than focusing on the denominational differences that often separate Christians from one another.  Since we are located near Ft. Wainwright army base and Eielsen air force base, participants in our ministries regularly include active and retired military personnel. Many of the children who attend the preschool for 3, 4, and 5 year olds operated by the congregation come from military families. Recently a Presbyterian seminary student who now works as a chaplain’s assistant with the Alaska air guard and her family moved to the area and have begun actively participating in the congregation.  Her husband is involved in preparation for the deployment of a couple of squadrons of F-35 fighter jets that is scheduled to begin sometime next year and extend over the next several years.

Besides the pre-school, our congregation has a group of quilters who create many beautiful craft items that are sold in the area to support various local ministry projects.  We help support the local North Pole food shelf with financial contributions and donations of food items including potatoes grown in a church garden plot and in the pastor’s personal garden.  In the summer, several gardeners bring excess produce and share it with other congregational members and visitors. Those who receive these vegetables make monetary donations that are later used to support some hunger project.  We distribute about thirty food baskets to area families each Easter and Thanksgiving. One family regularly shares fish and caribou and moose meat with those in need. We work together with the local Lutheran congregation to assist in a ministry to homeless families sponsored by a Fairbanks based organization called LOVE INC (which stands for “in the name of Christ”).  A cub scout troop and an Al-Anon group meet regularly in our building. Interestingly enough, the Al-Anon group was started by someone who began regularly attending New Hope some months ago and was looking for such a group. When she learned there were none in the local area, she expressed an interest in starting one and was immediately offered use of the building for that purpose.  We also collect school supplies to be distributed by the local school district to needy students and provide items for weekend lunches for school students who would otherwise go hungry.

One unique ministry involves a partnership with the Kaktovik Presbyterian church.  Kaktovik is a community of about three hundred – mostly Inupiat people – located on an island north of the north coast of Alaska.  They have had no resident pastor for many years and only sporadic worship services and Christian educational opportunities. About four years ago, our pastor’s wife was asked by the Yukon Presbytery to go there a few times a year to conduct worship services and explore other ministry needs and opportunities. She now goes there once a month for a few days at a time.  The first time she went she was present on the day in January that the sun appeared again on the horizon for a few minutes after not being visible for several weeks due to the seasonal changes. Over the years, she has baptized several children and conducted several funerals as well as establishing relationships with a number of village residents. Christmas and Easter services are especially appreciated.  Her unique background of being raised on a reservation in northern Minnesota has aided in this process. A few months ago a local resident began conducting a weekly Sunday School for children with materials and supplies provided by New Hope. When she goes to Kaktovik in November, they will hold worship in the church building for the first time in several years – something that has not been possible previously because the building was in need of a number of repairs like new windows and a new heating system.  For the first time ever, the building now has running water and flush toilets. Kaktovik is also unique in that polar bears gather in that area in the early fall while waiting for the ocean to freeze so they can go out on the ice to hunt seals. She has seen several polar bears while there. This past fall, the bears began arriving about six weeks earlier than in previous years.

Our ministry – like most ministries in Alaska – faces continual challenges.  Drug and alcohol abuse are very common as well as other types of family problems.  Many people come and are here in the area for only a short time because they are in the military or engaged in short term jobs.  Some cannot handle the long periods of daylight in the spring and summer – here the sun actually sets in the north in late spring and early summer – and the darkness and cold of winter.  Most live far away from their extended family members. It becomes easy to feel isolated and alone. In this context, the local congregation becomes a family that welcomes new people, says farewell to those leaving, and seeks to encourage and support one another in all circumstances.  We believe that our God is faithful and will supply the financial and other resources we need to carry out ministry. We believe that in an area with a small number of Christian people partnerships and relationships with other Christians are essential. Above all, we believe that the love of Christ will bring lasting hope, help, peace and comfort to all in need of such love.  We seek to live and proclaim that love in all we do.       

Wintertime at New Hope Methodist Presbyterian Church.


“Doors Open in Agape Love”–First UMC, Anchorage

Submitted by Rev. Steve Fisher of First United Methodist Church, Anchorage.

Snow or shine, the doors of First UMC are open, and the beautiful people of God are welcomed into a sanctuary of sacred space and agape love.

2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of the evangelistic zeal of Methodists in Anchorage Alaska.  In the later years of WW II, the city began rapidly growing as a central hub in the Territory of Alaska.  Of the civilians who traveled north to what is commonly called “The Last Frontier,” it became apparent there were several Methodists looking to establish a Christian community.  On October 22, 1944, the first worship service was held with 33 people in attendance. A church school ministry began just a few weeks later.

Inside First UMC

Over the years this community of believers known today as, the First United Methodist Church, Anchorage, experienced major growing opportunities as a culturally and theologically diverse community of believers, by sharing the love of God in Jesus, the Christ.  The people of First UMC have witnessed and supported the planting of no less than 3 Methodist Churches in the Anchorage area. Today this Body of Christ, continues to mirror the melting pot diversity of Anchorage and maintains a vital role in supporting the needs of various people in a variety of ways.  

The United Methodist Women remain a most vital ministry of spiritual development and generous outreach.  The forward thinkers, of a few year ago and today, continue to touch the lives of people throughout Alaska with donations from the economic gains of the established First UMC Foundation.  Together as the Body of Christ, the generous ministries of First UMC support civic and ecclesiastical groups such as: AK Child & Family, The Magic Yarn Project, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Kids Corps Head Start, rural & remote congregations, development of church camps, and the outreach ministry goals of the local church.  

This congregation of Native Alaskans, European Americans, Filipino Americans, African Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Hispanic Americans, Samoan Americans, Japanese Americans and South Sudanese, reach out in ministry to:

  • Homeless families, as a host of the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter
  • The neighboring community, A Place @ the Table (free community meal) 
  • Brother Francis Homeless Shelter, with 380 handcrafted sandwiches each month
  • Clare House Women’s Shelter, with completed meals each month
Some of the many faces of First UMC.

For the past several years, First UMC has extended the ministries of its facilities to community groups such as:

  • First Samoan UMC
  • Alcoholics Anonymous 
  • 3 ALANON groups
  • Co-Op Home School Group
  • Alaska Prospectors
  • Alaska Bar Exam
  • 2 Recreational Soccer groups
  • Other community wide events

It is not as if the people of First UMC live without challenges and brokenness.  Our experience through earthquakes serves as a testimony to God’s grace and healing.  The church building has withstood two major earthquakes. In March 1964, Anchorage was shaken by “The Great Alaska Earthquake” where the ground separated as roadways and building gave way.  Through this earthquake First Methodist’s newly build sanctuary building stood strong and the people of Anchorage rallied to recover and rebuild an even stronger community. In November 2018 another major earthquake rattled the Anchorage community.  While the destruction was not as severe, many structures were compromised, some roadways collapsed and many things were broken and seemed lost. Yet, through faith, First UMC placed broken pieces on the altar as we were reminded; when we bring our brokenness before God, we are healed by the saving grace of Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Anchorage, God continues to make “Something Beautiful” of our lives.

Come and visit Alaska!  During the summer months of tourism; nestled in downtown Anchorage, First UMC is graced with the presence of many visitors from around the United States and the World.  While most of these visitors return home for the winter months, First UMC continues to open their doors throughout the cold winter months. Snow or shine, the doors are open, and the beautiful people of God are welcomed into a sanctuary of sacred space and agape love.

Our “sanctuary of sacred space and agape love.”
A view from above.