What an amazing experience! I was once again blown away by the beauty and grandeur of the Alaskan wilderness. The landscape is enormous and can’t be fully captured or described in a photograph. Among these mountains and rivers is where we spent our week preparing Koksetna Wilderness Lodge to host groups for the summer. I loved our time together as we read through the discipleship book and learned from one another. It was also rewarding to see our labor bear fruit as we chopped wood, cleared brush from around the cabins, and put the boats in the water for the summer. I enjoyed growing existing relationships on this trip as well as building new ones through the mutual bond of a shared faith. What a glorious week of feeling alive in Christ and living in relationship with spiritual brothers! My favorite memory of this week is by far summiting Tanalian Mountain overlooking Port Alsworth. Gaining 3700’ of elevation made the views worth every step! The surrounding mountains covered in snow and the vibrant greens of the deep valleys were absolutely stunning. What an incredible mountaintop experience to finish the week!
Well, this summer has taken no time to get started for me. On May 23rd, I left for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to play in the national ultimate Frisbee tournament with the rest of my Texas Ultimate Frisbee team. Only twenty college teams receive the opportunity each year to play in the national tournament, and our team made it by fighting through and winning the difficult south central regional tournament despite expectations and seeding. It was my first experience of nationals and I am determined to get back there next year. After a week of team bonding, jersey trading, hotel parties, laughing, crying, heckling, and a little bit of Frisbee playing, I woke up last Tuesday at 3am in order to board a one-way-trip to Koksetna, Alaska. Despite being a couple days late, I was excited that I got the privilege not only to play in the national Frisbee tournament with some of my best friends, but that I also was returning to one of the most beautiful and majestic places in the world. During the 1 ½ hour flight over Lake Clark in a two-seater plane, I reflected on how much had changed in my life since the last Alaskan adventure a year ago. I was overwhelmed with emotions as I could clearly see and sense where God was at work in my life. Upon returning, I immediately fell back in love with this wilderness amongst the last frontier. I do not think I have been in a place where I could more visibly see the magnitude of God’s design, creativity, wonder, and beauty. While I am sure every person who has been here, including every member of our team, has tried to capture this place in words or pictures it is truly indescribable. This trip was part 2 of my ongoing experience of Alaska and it seemed to pick right back up where I left it. It filled me with joy to see that the fruit of our labors from last year had a lasting effect and encouraged me that the hard labor we put into this trip would only add to this. This year’s team was just as incredible as last years and each day was filled with laughter, card games, spike ball, fishing, hard work, adventure, and deep and lasting conversation. I am more than thankful for this trip and these wonderful people I have grown to know this week. The highlight of my trip was last night where we spent hours on the beach cooking burgers, roasting marshmallows, playing horseshoes (and making bets), playing spike ball, and telling stories. I want to voice a huge thank you to all the people who made this trip possible through support, prayer, and financial help. I especially want to thank the Laidley family for heeding God’s call on their hearts and giving their life away to open up this lodging place as an area for retreats and trips. Now, if you will excuse me… I need to get back to another game of Hanabi.
I came to this trip from a different place than the rest of the guys. Most were coming for the second time, and most were already friends. I knew Hunter and no one else. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I trusted that a week spent with brothers in Christ would make for a worthwhile experience. My assumption was correct. One of the most rewarding aspects of the trip was becoming fast friends with people who were strangers just a few short days before. Before I was a believer, I would not have had an interest in investing time with people who don’t share my interests, but now that I understand that brothers and sisters in Christ are my true family, my outlook has changed drastically. It was such a joy to quickly get beyond surface level conversation in favor of talking about how God has worked in our lives and what we hope to do for the Kingdom with our remaining years. I look forward to seeing what God does with this group and this place in the future. I pray that God would reveal himself to many as they come here to unplug and enjoy the beautiful Alaskan landscape.
What is up everybody? I am writing to wrap up our Alaskan service trip. This year I found myself, in a completely different place in life than I was a year ago. Completely new problems, joys, struggles, and projects. Hopefully we filled our role here to prepare the lodge for several groups to come this summer and experience God’s creation at a very intimate and impactful level. The cabins are clean, the firewood is cut, the boats are floating and all the little things are hopefully in place to give the next few groups an unforgettable experience. Coming into our book study this year, like I said I had an entirely new set of questions and insights to share with the group, and I was extremely thankful for opportunities to share my story and learn from some wise men, and be challenged by our book on the Barbarian Way. I resonate strongly with the idea that sharing the gospel and speaking boldly isn’t just a legalistic showing of servanthood, but rather a pure expression of our love for God and our love for others. As I learned through some tough experiences this Fall, that kind of love is a choice, one that has to be made daily. It will start of small, choosing to simply make an attempt each day to know Jesus better, but realizing that as love compels you to know him it will also compel you to speak boldly on how he is changing your life. It is easy to fall into security with Christianity, but it is hard to truly choose each day to pursue God and love him in the way that he deserves. I have been challenged in these things through this trip, while also getting to help Kemp and his family prepare for a summer of ministry and work in God’s Kingdom. I have never relied on God for financial provision the way I am doing this summer, and I want to thank deeply everyone who felt called to pray for me and support my summer service opportunities. Pray that I will leave this place changed and prepared to live in the valley.
Something that Geoff really emphasized on this trip was freedom. No set schedule, no real agenda, just do some hard work that Kemp needs to get done and enjoy your surroundings. Being out in remote Alaska is a forced disconnect with the rest of the world around you. We got to recharge by doing “manly” things like working a chainsaw, fishing for pike, hiking, running along the beach, and playing card games for hours every night. When you’re out here, it is easy to forget the rest of the world around you carries on as if you are there. Your world consists of the late sunsets (11:30), fires on the beach, snow-capped mountains, and the outhouses next to the cabins. It’s so easy to get caught up in the feeling of being out here and forget that God’s glory doesn’t stop at the Alaskan border, although you can see God’s glory here more than most places this side of heaven. With the mentality that God’s glory is everywhere and not just in the mountains, I am ready to take what I have learned and experienced here at Koksetna Wilderness Lodge and utilize them to help realize my own hopes and dreams for ministry back in Austin. Today I am thankful for both Kemp and Geoff’s visions of where they see their ministry going, and their willingness to take the leap to act on them. Next stop, Egypt!
I can’t believe how it could get more beautiful than last year, but the landscape and mountains were so unbelievable and can’t be captured without coming to Koksetna wilderness lodge. I’m so glad we didn’t have to clear the runway or stain the cabins. Instead, we cut and split wood that was used in the winter and cleared out a ton of weeds and ugly plants that were piled up along the cabins and storage areas. I loved everyone who was on the trip and the relationships grew a lot. One of my favorite parts of the trip was playing Spike Ball with the outstanding Alaskan background in the distance. I love this trip so much and can’t wait to come back next year!
Many adjectives go through your mind when you try to describe Alaska – but nothing does it justice. You are surrounded by beauty and God’s handiwork in every direction you look. What a wonderful, refueling and peaceful week! Yes, we worked physically, but can I tell you how awesome it was to be in a place my cell phone didn’t work, no internet and no TV! It was great to see the guys spending time with each other, playing cards, spike ball and throwing the Frisbee, fishing and just hanging out together. Although the study was geared toward the guys, I know that they clearly fellowshipped and learned how to be a “Barbarian” in their journey serving our awesome Lord. There are not enough words of gratitude to Kemp and Amy for sharing their wilderness lodge in Alaska and warmly welcoming this group of Texans. It was so much fun sitting around reminiscing and hearing new stories about Geoff and Kemp’s many adventures from first grade on! What a great gift true friendship is and it is so neat to not only see the friendship which has survived over forty year between these guys, but to see how both of them are serving their God and leading their families to serve with open hearts. I am already planning next year and look forward to many more year fellowshipping with the Laidley clan and others who join in this wonderful journey!
From the Lodge owner – Kemp
Once again I’m humbled at the generosity and support Geoff and his crew has given. It is always refreshing to dream and hang out with my good friend, Geoff. It will be exciting to see how God uses this place and how it can be used in His Kingdom. I’m also encouraged at the depth of the young men who came to visit this year. Not only are they hard workers, but are and will continue to be spiritual leaders in each of their circles. I know God will guide and direct them into greater service and knowledge of Himself. Genie was irreplaceable. Her help in the kitchen and creativity was amazing. Please come back, each of you!