Going the Extra Mile

Going the extra mile to get kids to camp takes on a whole new meaning when you consider the efforts of Dave Pavish, a Young Life leader in Galena, Alaska. In fact, getting to camp took almost as long as camp itself.
Each of the 14 kids who came with Pavish and three other leaders live in rural Alaskan villages that are not on the road system; even Galena, Alaska, where they attend boarding school, is only accessible by plane.
For each one of these kids, the journey to Timber Wolf Lake this past July started with a minimum of two connections (and we’re talking dirt landing strips) just to get to Anchorage. They spent an entire day at the airport gathering up kids from different flights. They flew from Anchorage to Seattle and then on to Chicago. There, they rented SUVs and drove first to Ohio to stay with some friends of Pavish’s and enjoy a day at Cedar Point, an amusement park, before making the trek to camp.
For Chrissie, this was her first trip outside of Alaska. “She is stoked!” Pavish said before they left for camp. And her leaders, Pavish and his sister, Kim, were thrilled about her getting this opportunity, too.
“Chrissie is just a great kid; she has heard the Gospel many times but has never professed her faith publicly. We couldn’t wait to see what would happen to her heart at camp,” he said.
Equipping Alaskan natives
Chrissie is of Yup’ik descent and lives in the village of Tuluksak, a community of about 300 people. She attends the boarding school in Galena where Pavish is a resident advisor. Like many of the kids there, Chrissie speaks her native language and English, often intermingling the two, which presents unique challenges when it comes to communicating and understanding the Gospel.
“There are a lot of common words and phrases we use as Christians that some of our kids up here have just never heard before,” Pavish said. “Club talks have to be short and to the point because we have to do so much explaining along the way.”
That’s why language and other cultural considerations have shaped the greater vision for ministry in Galena and similar communities. “Part of our grand vision is to equip young Alaskan natives to become mature adults who can return to their villages capable of effectively communicating the Gospel to others,” Pavish said.
This year’s trip to Timber Wolf Lake was especially meaningful, since they had to cancel last summer because of three consecutive tragedies involving teenagers in Galena. “Last year was hard on everyone. The whole community was affected. So we were just so excited about this year’s trip,” Pavish said.
Camp surprises
Then, on the day they were leaving for camp, just hours from departure, Pavish got a disappointing phone call. “I can’t go,” a voice announced. His heart sank with news of the last-minute cancellation. “Months of planning, prayer and preparation and now this,” he thought.
Frantically, Pavish called other kids with the hope that someone could fill the spot. He thought of Roger, but Roger had other commitments. He exhausted his list of possibilities then, with only a shred of hope left and “a nudging from the Lord,” he called
Roger again.
Miraculously, within two hours, Roger’s circumstances had changed and he was able to come to camp. Without any hang-ups or hassles, they were able to change the name on the ticket, fax in camp paperwork and arrive at the airport in time to leave.
Sure enough, it was Roger who, one day at camp, sat up and listened when the camp speaker announced later during club: “God is head-over-heels in love with you, and He’s trying to get your attention. You aren’t here by accident.” Right away, Roger told Pavish, “I think God has me here for a reason.”
“Throughout the week, God continued to work in Roger’s heart and on Thursday, July 21, he committed his life to Christ,” Pavish said.
Roger’s breakthrough was obvious: “I think I need God to come into my life and clean up my stuff,” he said.
New beginnings
Two other young men, Craig and Francis, also made commitments to follow Christ while at camp. And, as for Chrissie, her confidence blossomed when she had the opportunity to teach her group a native dance song that they performed on talent night. “It was awesome to see Chrissie come out of her shell and share what she loves and values about her culture,” Pavish said. “She had an amazing time and learned so many new things about who Jesus is in her life.”
Kids and leaders from Galena left camp awed by the experience, Pavish said. “Everything about the camp was absolutely incredible,” he said. “We are so excited to see what God is going to do in the lives of all our students.”