Rebuilding in Alaska’s Interior

2nd March 2023

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Church construction projects in remote villages are opening doors for the Gospel.

Long rainbows arced over the tundra surrounding Scammon Bay as a new planeload of volunteers landed on the community’s airstrip. Samaritan’s Purse aircraft made dozens of trips during the summer, transporting volunteers and supplies to the remote, coastal village of about 500 people in southwest Alaska.

Villages in this vast area of the state are not connected to any road system and must rely on barges, cargo ships, and airplanes.

As with many of Alaska’s secluded communities, the hardy people of Scammon Bay do a lot of living off the tundra, spending the spring and summer weeks gathering and storing fruit, fish, and moose meat ahead of harsh winters. And their buildings take a beating from the elements.

“We would need to blast the Toyo Stove on Wednesday so that the church would feel warm by Sunday,” said Drew Williams, youth pastor at Scammon Bay Covenant Church. “Sometimes there’d be inches of snow and ice inside the building.”

That’s why Samaritan’s Purse volunteers spent 18 weeks working hard to help build a 5,000-square-foot worship centre and three-bedroom parsonage for Covenant Church that will withstand the brutal climate.

The buildings are kept stable by adjustable steel-frame foundations that adapt to the drastic freeze-thaw movement of the tundra.

“This is something our church has been praying about and working toward for many years,” said Jason Stromstad, who has pastored the Covenant Church for about 12 years. “It’s been exciting to be up here and to be a part of what God is doing in this part of Alaska.”

On 9 October, 2022, Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers joined church members and village leaders to dedicate the new worship centre and parsonage. “It was something our village needed,” said Scammon Bay Mayor John Uttereuk.

Village residents are grateful for this beautiful house of worship.

Village residents are grateful for this beautiful house of worship.

“We are so grateful for the work of Samaritan’s Purse.” John is also a longtime, faithful church member, and he said the new building could not have come at a better time—just ahead of winter.

“I’m proud to call Scammon Bay my community. I want to say thank you very much. It’s more than words can ever express,” he said.

“I remember walking in here when it was still being framed, and I remember imagining how it was going to be. We have a place for community gatherings and a place to fellowship and worship. It’s a very big deal.”

This is the 33rd Samaritan’s Purse construction project in Alaska since our 2006 home rebuild efforts in Hooper Bay, a village southwest of Scammon Bay.

Scammon bay children play in sawdust from the new construction.

Scammon bay children play in sawdust from the new construction.

Russell Richardson, Samaritan’s Purse project superintendent, is grateful for the time he invested in this special project and in building relationships with community members.

“These are wonderful people and a faithful church with good leaders,” he said. “We pray this new building will help strengthen their presence and ministry here with structures that will withstand harsh winters for many years to come.”

Volunteers often prayed over the new church building.

Volunteers often prayed over the new church building.

Tony Tunutmoak is a lifelong Scammon Bay resident who volunteered alongside our teams to help build the church. “They were here building my church and trying to help build people’s lives, too. I told them I wanted to help,” Tony said. “I’ve enjoyed every single part of it.”

In September, as we neared completion of the church, a typhoon pounded Scammon Bay and the roof on Tony’s home was shredded.

Russell explained that our team decided to help Tony with his home repairs, which included a new roof, insulated windows, paint, and for the first time, insulated ceiling, walls, and floor. “Tony’s tough, but when we told him what we wanted to do, he broke down crying,” Russell said.

Jason Stromstad has pastored covenant church for 12 years.

Jason Stromstad has pastored covenant church for 12 years.

Volunteer Alan Shaffer said he couldn’t have imagined how wonderful the experiences of working on the building and serving alongside villagers like Tony would be.

“Working with fellow believers has strengthened my faith and given me hope for churches in these remote places,” Alan said. “I have loved being able to use my skills to serve these people.”

Faithful believers sing praise to God in the new house of worship.

Faithful believers sing praise to God in the new house of worship.

For Scammon Bay Covenant Church and their leaders. Ask God to use this new church building to reach many people in southwest Alaska with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

That God would raise up faithful leaders who will share His love in all the communities where we have rebuilt churches and other structures.

For our many past and future volunteers, that God would bless them in their ministries back home.

“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” – 1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)

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