Image by markcbrennan via Flickr
A few days ago I was featured as a guest on Jason Stasyszen’s Blog. It is always an honor to be featured. To read the article he featured about “trees” from my pastor’s message last fall – you can find it here.
I know Jason because of his wonderful blog and because he is a pastor in Juneau Alaska, where Greg and I used to be in youth ministry – many years ago. I found him when I read a guest post that featured Jason – I learned he was a pastor there. It has brought some interesting conversation and we feel connected somehow by Alaska. We have never met in person – but we have Christ in common with each other and our hearts are unified.
Greg and I went to Juneau, Alaska as our first ministry position right out of college in 1983. They were wild and scary times for us. Greg had never been a youth pastor before – and he was also serving as the bus driver for the Christian School. I was learning to be the bookkeeper for the school – something I had NOT been trained for and clearly did NOT do well. But I tried. We were young and made many mistakes – including thinking that the job would last beyond a year. And we bought a townhouse. Wrong decision. The job did not last beyond a year, the market was in recession and when we left town – we could not sell it. We moved to Fairbanks and rented out our place. In the end we had to give the townhouse back to the bank because we could not sell it and we couldn’t handle the payments. Lesson learned. We did not buy a home for 20 years after that.
We eventually moved on in ministry – living in PA, CA, TX, FL and then back to Washington. And although we had been back to Fairbanks for the occasional visit because Greg’s parents lived there – we had not been back to Juneau in 20 years. When my parents, sister, brother-in-law, Greg and myself went on an Alaska cruise in 2004, one of our stops was Juneau. We rented a vehicle and drove around to all our own “haunts” including the church where we served and the Mendenhall Glacier we once saw from our street in town. It felt like time had stood still – but strangely familiar too. Once you live in Alaska – even for a brief amount of time – it gets inside of you and stays with you.
We go back to visit this September – as my husband and I celebrate 30 years of marriage. I would love to show my daughter and son-in-law where we had our humble beginnings. And I would love to meet Jason in person – because we share something. Christ and Alaska.
Greg and I have some very fond memories of a youth group that we were in charge of as youth pastors in Jeannette, PA for one year from 1985- 1986. We had already had a previous youth group in Juneau, Alaska when we were fresh out of Bible School – from 1983-1984. Wow. Was it EVER a learning experience for us – not too many fond memories of that place – but there were a few kids from the youth group that have followed us as we have lived around the country. It was a hard first experience in the ministry and we found ourselves “wanting out” for a season – so we took an entire year off and moved to Fairbanks where Greg is from. When we were settled there and in secular jobs (making really good money) we had an encounter with a pastor from Jeannette, PA and he was looking for a youth pastor. We were pretty sure we didn’t want to do that again – but he was so kind and generous to us – had us flown to PA to look it over and meet the kids – and after praying about it and weighing our options we decided that it was the right thing to do. It is a year that we will never forget – for many reasons – but I would say that working with LaVerne and Beverly Clute (the senior pastor and his wife) was a rich and wonderful experience that we will never forget. They taught us what it was like to really love and care about people. They became like our parents and we had many good times at their house.
The youth group was an amazing group of about a dozen young people and we had so many good times with them! I would LOVE to find them online – but so far have not been successful – but I will keep trying – they are all in their 40’s now! Unbelievable. There are 4 young men in particular that we were especially close to – I called them “my lost boys” and I became their “Mom” – even though I was not much older than some of them. Two of them were brothers being raised by a single Mom. Two of the other boys had interesting home lives – one of those boys lost his Dad while we were there and that was Greg’s very first funeral service. Man – was that HARD. I am listing their names here in my blog in hopes that someone will read this and be able to tell them to get in touch with us. They names are as follows:
Bill and John Hermansen
And for those of you that enjoy classic rock – here’s a song from 1985 “Addicted to Love” that our youth group in PA used to listen to and these lyrics just used to CRACK us up!!! Many good times!
Be kind – this was 1985 and the kids in the youth group loved this stuff!