Acteens plant seeds of love in hard Alaskan soil _72803

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Posted: 7/25/03

Mountain scenery was one sidelight of a trip by 17 girls and six sponsors from First Baptist Church in Duncanville to minister on the banks of the Copper River in Alaska.

Acteens plant seeds of
love in hard Alaskan soil

By George Henson

Staff Writer

GLENNALLEN, Alaska–A group of Texas Acteens recently traveled north to plant seeds of the gospel in people's hearts but reaped a greater understanding of the power of prayer themselves.

Seventeen girls and six sponsors from First Baptist Church in Duncanville flew to Anchorage and then traveled in vans for hours more on mountain roads that snaked toward the settlement of Glennallen on the banks of the Copper River.

The girls went to lead a Vacation Bible School for children in the area and three-on-three basketball games at the community center to attract teens. The projects were planned in conjunction with First Baptist Church of Copper Valley.

The Duncanville Acteens toiled in the mornings preparing a garden prior to leading Vacation Bible School.

But despite their best preparation, the Texans did not know what to expect. They had been told that last year's VBS enrolled only nine children, and the year before that, not a single child came.

“We really didn't know what to expect, but we just kept praying,” said Acteen leader and pastor's wife Vicki Brister.

Believing God would use them, the girls prepared VBS supplies for 40 children.

Thirty-three children attended the first day, and by the end of the week, attendance neared 60 children.

The girls also had been warned not to expect any teenagers to attend because the location was a tribal center and the white children would not come there, nor would the native Alaskans come because the Texas girls were white.

Nevertheless, about 50 youth came each day, with the racial tensions prevalent in the area never becoming a problem.

In addition, Acteen leaders drove out to native villages and knocked on doors telling mothers about Vacation Bible School. Native mothers let their children leave with these white women they never had seen before, something people in the area thought incredible.

The youth and children attending accounted for about 25 percent of the people in that age group living in the area, said local pastor Harry Porter.

Unexpectedly, local native and white teens showed up for basketball and other activities.

“It was amazing,” he said. “But missions and evangelism are all about prayer. It begins with prayer, ends with prayer and continues in prayer. There were thousands of people who were praying for this week, and God was responding to those prayers.”

Brister also has no doubt that the success was due in part to the hours of prayer the Texas teens had done in preparation for the trip–as well as the extensive number of people on the Porters' prayer list.

“With the people on Harry and Pam's prayer list and the people in our church, we literally could have had thousands of people praying for us, and that made all the difference.”

God broke down every barrier that stood in the way of a successful ministry this summer, Brister said.

One of those barriers was the expense of the trip.

The trip cost each person $600, a daunting figure at first. The girls did housework, yard work and a variety of other jobs for church members, allowing them to work their way to Alaska without any parent having to write a check.

Not all the preparation was physical, however.

“We had a lot of preparation we did besides raising the money,” Acteen Amanda Vanderzwart pointed out. Six weeks prior to the trip, each of the girls participated in a fast. Some gave up going to movie theaters, others watching television and others favorite foods as a spiritual preparation for their ministry in Alaska.

“I had never done anything like that before, but now I know I have the discipline to do that and I can show someone else,” Vanderzwart said.

The girls also worked in community service projects such as feeding homeless people in Dallas. “We all learned to be spiritually closer to God and see things in different ways,” Acteen leader De-De Henson said.

Once they arrived in Alaska, they saw how important all the spiritual preparation was.

The Acteens daily tasks included planting seeds before planting the gospel.

The large turnout was a spiritual blessing but also physically demanding.

“All these little kids needed me, and they came from everywhere wanting attention,” Acteen Allie Bolen recalled. “I prayed, 'God I know you want me to do this, but please help me.'”

But even that was further validation of the importance of the mission trip, she said. “There were so many kids, there was no way Harry and Pam could have physically been able to do what we were able to do. We were extensions of Harry and Pam and their ministry there to those children.”

Just as the Texas teens were overwhelmed with the turnout, a group of college-age missionaries arrived mid-week, wondering if there was anything they could do. The extra helpers allowed for more time to develop closer relationships with the children.

Even though the Texans have returned home, Porter is enjoying the benefit of those new relationships. In addition to being a pastor, he is the only pharmacist for 128 miles in the remote area.

“It's interesting because we see some of the youth and kids in the clinic a lot, and there's a much better rapport,” he said. “From the standpoint of relationship building, it's been great. It's a little early to tell, but I'm thinking it's really going to have helped.”

The Acteens continue to communicate with many of their newfound friends through e-mail. They are conversing long-distance with those still seeking God and with Christians who have little local support.

“I think we were there not only to start relationships with non-Christians, but to encourage the Christians there as well,” Acteen Katie Brister said.

The Duncanville Acteens toiled in the mornings preparing a garden prior to leading Vacation Bible School. Pastor Harry Porter reports that broccoli and cauliflower plants already are flourishing. The Texas teens also took in the Alaskan scenery.

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