From the Team….

Ben

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!

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Hayden

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.

Andrew

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.

Hunter,

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.

Reese

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!

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Wyatt

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!

 

Genie

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!

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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!

 

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Alaska 2018…

Wow, what a trip!  We just landed back in Austin after 7 days of traveling to one of the coolest spots on earth.  While I know it will take a while to process all that God did, I will say He did amazing things.  Not only where we able to help get Koksetna Lodge up and operating with a little manual labor, we were also able to bond as a small group and challenge each other to consider what God is up to this side of heaven.  It was indeed a gift to go the mountain top to have an experience, but it is a treasure to be refreshed to go live and work out that experience in the valley of our often messy, but real day-to-day lives.

Thank you for taking time to read these blog entries from the team that went with us to this incredible place.  We may have been small in number, but we indeed were mighty!

Keep living Generously wherever God has you this summer!

 

Thank you….

It is with a thankful heart that we wrap up this blog and begin preparing for our next trip to Egypt in less than two weeks.  But, make no mistake, Lord willing we will travel once again to Alaska to serve however God allows.

This trip was amazing indeed.  I hope you were able to get a glimpse of the trip through the blog posts.  Once again, I am amazed not only at what God is up to but that He allows us to join Him in it.  What a gift!

Thank you to all of you that prayed for us on this trip.  Thank you for all of you that gave so this trip could be a reality.  Thank you to Green Acres Baptist Church for your covering.  Thank you Kemp & Amy for your hospitality and hearts to serve.  Thank you North Star High Adventure Christian Ministries. Thank you to this amazing team that went and served in this isolated but magnificent place.  Yet, most of all, Thank you Lord for all you do and continue to do.  It is true that you love us more than we could ever ask or imagine.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  Ephesians 1:17
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The experience….Hayden Rich

As I sit on a plane 40,000 feet up in the early morning sky, I am blown away by all that God has done, shown, and used this team in the last week. This was my first visit to the last frontier but I doubt it will be my last (or any of our teams’ last). First off, I would like to give a quick shout out to Southwest airlines for holding it down in the airlines business because we flew on United and although I didn’t get dragged off (was that too soon) the flights were not even close as great as a southwest flight. Regardless, I knew this trip was going to be nothing short of incredible when we landed in Alaska after clearing a beautiful mountain pass, and I looked across the aisle and all I saw was Dubs with a big smile and a huge thumbs up. After spending the night in Anchorage, I experienced a couple flights unlike anything I ever had. As we pulled up to the private airport in Alaska that would take us to the isolated wilderness called Koksetna, I peered out my window to see what resembled tiny stunt planes. I thought to myself “surely our plane will be bigger.” I even joked with Bill Detamore that these must have been the planes that the Wright brothers used. This brand new experience of flying caught me by surprise but also was one of my favorite parts of the trip. My breath was not taken away because of the random drops on our hour and a half flight but because of the views of this place that has rarely been explored or touched by human hands.

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While I have witnessed God in so many different places, beauties, and seasons, I am tempted to say that this one takes the top of the list where his masterpiece and creation is so vividly evident. Verses like Romans 1:20 come to mind that read, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” I always had trouble articulating this verse until I glimpsed at the beautiful mystery of the Alaskan wilderness.

There was not an iota of doubt in my mind that this world was created by a God beyond our finite understanding when I flew over what the locals called “the pass,” which was a range of enormous mountains comprised of glaciers of crystal ice, valleys of lush plant life, and flowing rivers that transmogrified from green, to dark blue, to sapphire. At Koksetna, there is this glorious bluff where our team convened on our last night to reflect on the incredible journey we had embarked on. At this spot, we gazed at the awe-invoking horizon and all took in a deep breath and shared a moment of complete silence and surrender. You can argue facts with me all day long about whether there is or isn’t a God; whether this world had an origin or always has existed; whether my faith is real or not; whether the Bible is fact or fiction; whether Jesus is the messiah or a lunatic; whether the world began with a cosmic collision or the mere utterance of words. But you can NOT argue with the way that mountains, rivers, valleys, oceans, beaches, and even sunrises and sunsets can immediately take your breath away and leave you wondering, wanting, begging, yearning to be a part of something more- something as glorious as the heavens that lie before you.

So, if you ask me what was the best part of my trip… let me tell you what you will not hear. You won’t hear that it was the hard work, the team in general, the relationships formed, the excellent meals, the opportunity to serve, the hike we took to a breathtaking waterfall, the all-nighter that John, Ben and I pulled by sitting around a fire on the beach talking about life, the daily card games of Hanabi (just ask Hunter), or even the times I felt like I was in the presence of God. Do not get me wrong those were all great things and blessings beyond what I deserve. But what I loved most is the exact same thing I cannot put into words. The experience…

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What an experience!!….Genie Rich

What an awesome week! As a business owner, I struggle with allowing myself the freedom to take time away from work. I have always considered it my mission to work and financially support others who go off serving on various mission trips. Geoff and Greg both have worked hard on me this past year telling me it was time for me to take the plunge and join the Alaska team! Before this trip, Alaska was one of three states that I had not visited, so I thought – great – I can add Alaska to the other 47 US States I have visited.   Also, I have loved Kemp Laidley as another son since he was a first grader and was one of Geoff’s very best friends. So, in my mind, it was a no brainer going to Alaska to help Kemp and Amy. I had no expectations – I knew I was just going to do whatever was needed (and I did take some legal work along to do in my “spare time”). Can I tell you that I am already planning next year’s trip, if Kemp and Amy will allow it!

Like so many folks, I have enjoyed the “reality” tv shows that feature Alaska. Yes, I admit it – I am hooked on the Kilcher family and Alaska, the Last Frontier – as well as several other shows featuring building and buying properties in Alaska. The shows do not do justice to the beautify of Alaska. Every where you turn you see God’s majesty – from the endless horizon, mountains, lakes and mountains. There is no artist that can do justice to God’s work! I walked on the beach one morning and was patrolled by a beaver making sure I didn’t interfere with his home. Although we didn’t see any bear, I did see some tracts, which was good enough for me. It was fun watching the team fish for Pike and Trout, watch the geese fly in formation and just breathe in Alaska!

I have known Kemp and his family since he was just a little boy and am so proud of the wonderful servant of God he has become.   Amy is truly his partner in all that he does and you can see their love of each other, their family and God as well as their desire to share whatever they have to His glory. Their unselfishand desire to open their Alaska home for retreats and service is just one more demonstration of their love of the Lord. The Austin team composed of nine men and me were welcomed as if we were their family. We were fed well and taken care of during our eight day stay. We were here to help get work done clearing the airstrip, cleaning and staining the various cabins and other buildings on the homestead and general work in anticipation of future use.   The property was an Alaska homestead founded by a gentlemen named Turner over sixty years ago and I cannot imagine the isolation and his existence those many years ago. There are no roads to get to this area that is located about 1 hour flight southwest of Anchorage adjacent to the Lake Clark National Park. It is remote –no cell phone or internet, which is an adjustment for many. Frankly, I loved it – dreaded checking my email when the week was over – but truly enjoyed the rest from today’s technology.   We spent evenings playing games, reading, laughing and being creative – getting to really enjoy spending time with each other.

Hopefully, this is just the first Alaska mission trip. There is still much work to be done and I hopefully will be able to be involved in the work ahead. I can’t thank Kemp, Amy and their children, as well as Kemps mom, Sheri Maxey and her awesome husband, Ben, for making us all so welcome to Alaska. There still is much work to be done – hopefully others will take up the call to come and serve in this awesome place!

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Work, play, influence….Hunter Ruffin

Our adventure began with my first experience of almost 24 hours of sun arriving in Anchorage around 10 PM and the sun was still high in the sky. My shuttle driver explained how around 1:30 AM the sun dips down below the horizon for about an hour, out of sight but never really leaving the sky without some illumination. The wonder brought by a place like this deserves that much sun.

Throughout the week the work was hard and my arms, legs and back ached at the end of the day. We cleared, limbed, and hauled trees from the runway to widen the strip to make it safer for planes to land on windy days. We painted on a fresh coat of stain onto some of the cabins and out buildings, as well as a couple of other miscellaneous tasks. The work was rewarding and I hope we had a meaningful impact on this place.

Through our devotional times, working, playing games, fishing, and exploring, I got to spend meaningful time learning from and building into some powerful men. Without a doubt I have grown, from this trip, a better understanding of what it looks like to be a man after God’s heart, and while I may not have it figured out, I now have a wider range of sources to draw on for wisdom. Each day is a battle to fend off evil and do good, but when surrounded by Godly men and God’s wondrous creation, it becomes clear that I must not face these battles alone. Trusting God with everything, even the big stuff, is crucial. Anytime I find myself trying to control God’s plan for me I must stop and think about what I learned here. God’s Will is a mystery to me but I do know I must pursue him in all I do, and if I do that he will use me to do great things.

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The Detamore Men….Bill, John, and Scott

From Bill…

The only access to Koksetna is by boat or bush plane. There are no roads to this place. The property lies on the Chuchitna river feeding Lake Clark in the shadow of the Alaska mountains.

Wildlife is all around us. Everywhere. We saw eagles every day; reeled in Pike bigger than young girls; and wondered at the fresh bear tracks on the beach. Alaska is wild, largely unsettled, and untamed. We are in the midst of raw nature.

Our hosts are as welcoming and hospitable as the landscape is remote and rugged. Amy and Kemp are so unselfish. They go out of their way to make you feel at home – even in the middle of the wilderness. Their daughter Macy is the life of the party. Thanks for sharing this beautiful place with us.

Popular activities for the boys included a card game called Hanabi (sp?). If we were not working, chances were good someone was playing. The boys also enjoyed frisbee, fishing, and hiking.

The best part of the trip for me was getting to spend time with new friends and my sons. We also studied Fathered by God by John Eldridge. Each night we discussed a different stage of a man’s spiritual development. Sitting amidst God’s handiwork is a constant reminder of His love for us. Sharing this with my sons is a priceless experience I will take with me forever.

To the Red River 2017 Koksetna group – THANK YOU!

From John….

Here I find myself yet again, on another trip with Geoff! After an unforgettable experience in Egypt last year, I jumped at the opportunity to come and serve in the remote wilderness of Alaska. Amongst my Dad, my brother, and a solid group of friends, we spent much of our time learning about how God has designed us as men and the journey that befalls each one of us as warriors and kings of this earth.

We were extremely blessed to have such a hospitable and loving family take us in for this journey! The food was great, the laughs were many, and the memories made will be cherished for the rest of my life. I’m extremely grateful to be a part of such a special trip with relationships that I plan to grow for the rest of my life. Thanks Kemp, Geoff, Dad, and the rest of the members of the team for the memories!

From Scott…

Alaska is true wilderness. No cell phone service, WIFI, roads or any real contact with the states in the lower 48. It is more useful to have a bush plane, a boat, and an ATV than it is to have a car, a cell phone, and a computer. It is remote, wild country.

The food has been excellent. Amy, Kemp, and Macy have been so gracious. The game of the trip has been Hanabi. We have played many hands and have only won twice.

Feeling the power of God is a lot easier when you aren’t distracted by technology and day to day life. John Eldredge’s book Fathered by God displays what it means to be a true man of God through different stages of spiritual and physical development. He makes connections to movies that everyone in our group knows and loves.

This trip has allowed me to make lasting friendships. Spending time with my father and brother before I go off to TCU in the fall and John returns to the forty-acres has been fantastic. John and I loved getting one last hoorah with our Dad before the fall. Koksetna, over and out.

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First Alaska….Next Egypt (Ben Snell)

Serving the Lord is a rewarding experience, and serving a family and their vision for ministry in remote Alaska is no exception. When I first heard that Red River Ministries was heading north for the summer, I was 100% on board! Seeing the Lord’s creation is something that speaks to me, and shows me His glory and majesty. I could not pass up this opportunity to serve!

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It was truly a blessing to travel with a group of men on this trip and grow closer together as we worked, played, and participated in spiritual discussions. We cleared forest, fished for Pike, stained cabins, threw frisbees, and walked through a book about growing as men of God. I was especially encouraged by the remoteness that Koksetna provided, and the hospitality that Kemp, Amy, and their kids showed us during our time here. Their hearts for sharing this creation with others and seeing relationships with God grow was impactful and inspiring to me. I am very thankful to have been able to work hard and serve them, as well as investing time in the other men on the team. This has been an
amazing experience, and I hope I can return in the future!

 

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Dubs in Alaska….Wyatt Rich

I didn’t know what I was getting into on this trip, but Dubs loved it. (Everyone laughed at me using my name in 3rd person, but Dubs is going with it). My favorite part of this trip was clearing the runway. The runway was a natural landing strip overgrown with birch trees. We cut down trees to be used to heat the cabins in the winter. The best part was driving the ATV and hauling tree limbs from the runway to the wood pile. My uncle, Greg taught me how to drive the 4 wheeler and my dad went with me to help me practice. It was so fun. I think it is cool all the work that gets done out here in the middle this place. Another project that Dubs worked on was staining some of the cabins. I was told the winters get pretty harsh and need to be sealed, so we painted/stained a couple cabins and the bath houses. My main job was painting in the seams where the roller couldn’t reach. I also seemed to be the one that would go and fetch supplies. My dad came and pulled me off staining (thanks pops) so that I could drive the ATV with the trailer and pick up all the grass clippings around the property. I remember telling me dad one night late that I didn’t know I was going to work so hard but was proud of how I could contribute to the work and the group. It was awesome.

Another great part of the trip was the food. I don’t know if it was because we were super hungry or what, but Dubs loved all the meals. From the pancakes in the morning to the Mexican stack (chips, meat, beans, rice, and cheese), we ate well. We also had cookies and good desserts. Lastly, we read a book called Fathered by God. It outlined some of the stages we go through from boys to men. The real message I got from the book was to not try to move on to the next stage too fast and just enjoy the stage your called by God to be in. I may not have talked much during the group gathering times but I learned so much about being a young man. I am so thankful that I got to experience this with my brother , my uncle, all these cool guys and and my dad. Dubs now loves Alaska.

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