Young Life Lite

So you think you've been to the middle of nowhere. Really? To get there, did you fly in, boat in on the Yukon River or ride in by dog sled in winter months when the high temperature can be 50 degrees below zero?

Welcome to the middle of nowhere: Galena, Alaska, population 476. Although no roads lead to Galena, it is home to 35 local high-school students and 205 vocational boarding-school students from 60 villages across Alaska attending Galena Interior Learning Academy. Kim Kopp, Galena area director, describes doing Young Life here. "There's not even a McDonald's. There is a coffee shop, but it closes at 2:00 p.m." (About an hour before sunset in December.) "Contact work here is challenging." So Kopp and her team of eight leaders find creative ways to connect with kids. For Prom 2012, that meant airlifting 1.3 tons of fun.

Prom in Galena is the only formal dance all year. It's attended by seniors, underclassmen and, until 10:00 p.m., Galena residents. But the budget for this event, which keeps students safe and entertained all night long, had been stretched thin. There had been no DJ for years — just a playlist and an iPod. After Prom attendance had declined. So this year, Galena Young Life surprised the community by flying in a DJ, a human hamster ball, inflatables and a mechanical bull.

That entertainment was preceded weeks before by the transport of an Anchorage, Alaska, church team with donated formal wear for the "Galena Young Life Boutique." The pilot making these fun runs is Tim La Porte, owner-operator of Iliamna Air Taxi. Years ago, after receiving a misdirected prayer email, he and his wife, Nancy, invested in the mission. First with a donation, and then with the monthly gift of a 2,500-pound-capacity aircraft to use any way Galena Young Life needed.

La Porte said, "I wasn't sure about hauling these ladies, piles of dresses and all this girl-bop stuff, but later when I heard about the girls with traumatic problems who had given their lives to the Lord after a woman spoke to them about inner beauty, well, the Lord used it to get hold of me. I said, ‘OK, Lord, whatever you decide.'"

La Porte continued, "But I did laugh about the After Prom run. Now I'm going to have to haul a load of bull?" La Porte makes these flights because Young Life's outreach to hundreds of kids from remote regions of Alaska is so rare. "I've been in aviation for 40 years and there is no way you could have the time or resources to fly to all these villages or even make contact with the kids once you did. It would be totally impossible to do what Galena Young Life does so well," he said.

Kopp and her team have hosted other events for Galena students, each concluding with a Christ-centered message. But there was no time for that during a celebration that ran from 1 to 6 a.m. with a Pilatus PC-12 waiting to fly out the rentals at 0800 hours. The conversation about Jesus would come later. For now, it was enough for students to know that God so loved Alaskan kids that He sent a mechanical bull, a hamster ball and a bungee run that whosoever gathered in Galena would experience the outlandish, extravagant love of a Father who knows the way to the middle of nowhere — and calls it home.