Revival in Alaska
A NEW CHURCH BUILDING OPENS DOORS FOR EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP IN A REMOTE VILLAGE.
When Luther Harrison went to coastal Alaskan villages to assess typhoon damage, he expected to find homes that needed repair.
Instead, Harrison, vice president of North American Ministries, discovered a different need when he arrived in Koyuk, an Inupiat village on the eastern edge of the Seward Peninsula.
After meeting resident Grace Morris, Harrison knew that Koyuk would be the site of the next major Samaritan’s Purse construction project. Why? Her impassioned request was simple: Koyuk really needed a new church building.
Grace, 72, has an infectious smile, an endearing laugh, and an overflowing love for Jesus Christ. She is a 30-year member of the only church in Koyuk and she often wondered if the building would collapse.
Many in the community were afraid to go inside. The foundation was shot. The ceiling and flooring were in bad shape. The church doors were typically closed during the week due to lack of heat. We thank God that those days are over as the old building was demolished in spring 2023 and Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteer teams began work on a new structure.
“Meeting Grace as we were walking down the road was truly a divine appointment from the Lord,” Harrison said. “It was great to see this process unfold.”
Finished and dedicated in October, the new building has a special foundation that can withstand the constant freeze-and-thaw cycle of the Alaskan climate. Solid materials and superior insulation mean heating will no longer be a problem. The new building features a sanctuary, kitchen, fellowship hall, pantry, and more.
Pastor Don Cross is grateful for the way God used the efforts of Samaritan’s Purse to answer the congregation’s prayers. “It’s a big blessing to be getting a new church here,” he said, referencing the difficulties of building in remote Alaska.
Materials must either be barged up the Koyuk River or flown in by air using Samaritan’s Purse Mission Aviation Services. And it’s a long and expensive trip for volunteers to fly from most of mainland America. As thankful as church leaders are for the physical building, they see beyond it to new ministry possibilities.
Reaching additional children in the village of 300 people is a major goal, and there are also ideas for a feeding programme, as many in the community could benefit.
“The biggest thing is not just to attract more people to the church but for more people to come to know Christ,” said Melvin “Duma” Otton. “When you start showing them that God is real, it makes a change in their lives. It changed my life, so I know it’s true.”
Duma, 73, almost died in a construction accident about 25 years ago. He was airlifted to an Anchorage hospital where he spent several days in a coma. God worked in his heart during that time, and not long after, he repented of his sins and gave his life to Jesus Christ during an Easter gathering.
“You never know how God is going to work,” he said. “God worked on me. I was one of the worst.” Grace was also saved in middle age and is grateful that God now guides her steps. “He can change the vilest person in the world,” she said. “You have to lean on God to direct you, to help you with everything. Man is not the answer, but God is.”
Today, with a new building, the time is ripe for revival and renewal in Koyuk. During construction this summer, attendance at church services—held at the town’s municipal centre—increased. Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers were consistently out in the community forming relationships, helping with smaller home repair projects, and even rescuing a sinking boat and fixing a flat tire. They invited people to church and shared the Gospel.
“The workers have connected with our people on a personal level, and we've been seeing different people at church, so it's really exciting,” Pastor Cross said. Our volunteers and staff made an impression deep and wide on the community. We praise God that 14 people were baptised before the church construction was finished.
Grace is excited about the opportunities ahead in Koyuk: “We need to keep that spark going so other people can come to know the Lord.”
Will you join us in lifting up the following prayer requests?
That the new building will be a place of God-honouring worship for decades to come.
For the church in Koyuk to be known for their unity and love, and for drawing people to Christ.
For the Lord’s continued guidance and blessing on Samaritan’s Purse construction projects in rural Alaska.
“ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33, ESV
Will cover a week of food for a starving child and help us share with their parents the hope found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Can provide Biblically based trauma counselling and spiritual care, while introducing people to the Lord who is near to the brokenhearted.
Can help to send out a doctor or nurse who will deliver medical care and the message of everlasting hope in Jesus' Name.