Debbie's Story

I went on my first mission trip in 2013 with Unity United Methodist Church to the village of Akiak Alaska.  The team, including Jonathan went back to Akiak for a week in 2015 and 2016.  The mission team then went to Juneau Alaska for two weeks in 2018.  Our next trip was with the Berea Mission Team to Nome Alaska, and our last mission trip in July, 2021 was to the Mat-Su Valley outside Anchorage.


Our first trip to Akiak was our most challenging and memorable!   There were 5 adults and 3 youth in our group and we were solely responsible for all activities in the village.  We planned the curriculum, shipped food and paper products, bedding, bible school supplies, and gifts for the villagers.  At that time, we only knew that we would be staying in the school.  We flew into Anchorage, then to Bethel and finally into Akiak (on a seven passenger plane ).  The pilot landed on a gravel drive, unloaded our duffel bags and taxied off.  There was no one there to meet us, so we grabbed our supplies and headed down a gravel path into the village.  We had no hot water that first trip and several of our boxes of shipped supplies did not make it.  By the end of the week we were literally boiling water to wash paper plates.  We had rain, mud and swarms of mosquitos.  And while we had many challenges on that first trip,  we also experienced some of the greatest blessings.  Akiak tribesmen and women spend the summer fishing and gathering food for winter, so the children and youth are eager to participate in activities arranged by the Tribal Council.  Children of all ages, from babies to teens would come every morning and every evening to worship and enjoy the open gym time we could oversee at the school.  There was a need and a hunger to learn about Jesus that summer.  And the children loved the attention, especially interacting with our youth.

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On one of the trips to Akiak, one of the team members became ill.  Since the only way in and out of the village is by boat or plane, it was decided that it would be safer for this team member to be transported to Anchorage where there were medical facilities.  Our nurse/chef was to accompany the team member.  As this group waited for the plane, the ill team member witnessed to a police officer that was present.  He accepted Christ on the spot.  And when they arrived in Anchorage, they met a young pregnant woman that was in trouble and they were able to witness and give shelter to her.


summer.  We started at Eagle River United Methodist Camp.  We served as cooks, dishwashers and camp counselors for a week.  I was chaperone for the ‘teddy bears’.  I had four 5 year olds that I lived with.  We stayed in a little log cabin that had no electricity or bathroom facilities.  A bell hung in the center of the camp so we could be alerted when bears were in camp.  At night, one of the camp Moms would come into our little cabin and sing Kumbaya until the little ones fell asleep.

Our second week in Juneau was spent as VIMS (Volunteers in Missions) at Douglas Community Church.  They have an annual July 4th barbeque fundraiser that has taken place for many years.  Our group served as the hands and feet of the organizers.  The barbeque is cooked in a pit in the ground, so our men helped prepare the pit and the facilities while others made side dishes.  When we weren’t working on BBQ prep, we cleared church grounds and did other maintenance as needed.  That week culminated in getting to meet and interact with the entire Douglas community. 


One of the highlights with the Berea team in Nome was having the opportunity to interact and grow closer to the team members.  I love the enclosed photo of Shara, our fearless leader with two watches on.  She was trying to be sure we met our Alaskan deadlines and still be able to connect with the church back at home.  Again, our main function on this trip was to be the hands and feet of the organizers.  We had the opportunity to serve at two different places- first with Alaska Missions and Retreats.  We all took turns working at a basketball tournament concession stand.  The funds from that successful fundraiser went back into the community.  We also worked with the Iditarod Committee.  Team members patrolled the streets at night to be sure no one was lost in the snow.  They guarded dog lots, shoveled snow for shut ins and just met needs as they were identified.

Mat-Su Valley

This past July, a dream came true for Jonathan and I.  Our Unity Mission team leader arranged for us to work with Praying Pelican Missions.  This organization encourages families to participate and Rylee and Trysten (and Trysten’s Mom) were able to safely go on the trip with us.  We stayed and worked out of the Mat-Su Evangelical Covenant Church in Wasilla.  The assignments here were varied.  We started each day with VBS at the church.  In the afternoon we would go to different places to serve.  We worked at a consignment shop pricing and cleaning merchandise.  All proceeds from that shop sponsor community programs.  We had a group go to an elderly gentleman’s home.  He had just lost his wife and was in need of cleaning and organizing.  Most importantly, several of the team members were able to sit, talk and visit with this gentleman.  We had a group go to a Youth Shelter several times.  And one of the best afternoons was spent handing out food at a local church.  A  Feed Alaska truck delivered pallets of food that had to be sorted, boxed and then handed out to a long line of cars waiting for food.  Trysten and Rylee were able to be hands on in this ministry.  They also had some fun while doing it! 

Why Do This?

Why do this?  I didn’t plan to become a member of this Unity team that is so passionate about missions.  My best friend goes to church there.  She asked me to go with her on that first trip to Alaska.  I immediately said no.  I didn’t have the money, Mike had mobility issues and couldn’t be left alone that long.  There just didn’t seem to be a way for me to go.  My friend asked again.  And again.  I realized that this person I love was called to participate in this mission, but needed me to go with her.  At that point, I started praying about it.  And God made a way for me to go, then and on the five trips that came after that. 


One of the things that I’ve seen on these trips is that they require individuals with all types of gifts and skills.  I love young children and I’ve found that I can use a week or two of my vacation time and give time and attention to a child that may be starving for affection.  The sheer isolation many of them face is staggering.  I’ve also found that I can be ministered to in a very close and personal way by working side by side with fellow Christians.  If you’re given the opportunity to participate on a mission trip, don’t say No.  Listen to God’s call and receive one of the greatest blessings he has for you!