I have now been in Alaska for over 4 and a half years. It seems every time I talk to someone in the lower 48 they have a thousand questions about living in Alaska and Church in Alaska and anything related to life here. So I thought for a couple of days I would share my insights about life and Church in Alaska. Some of it you might expect, but some might be surprising.
1. In Alaska, your concept of distance changes. I often quote a T-shirt that says, “If we cut Alaska in half, then we would just have two states bigger than Texas.” With a state this big and so few people you find yourself always going a great distance to do anything. For example: We have a local grocery store and a hardware store that has everything, but a Wal-mart is about two hours away. A visit to a mall requires a 4 hour drive to Anchorage. Simple purchases like jeans, shoes and groceries require a long distance trip. For sports, my son recently had a 4 hour bus ride followed by an hour and a half flight to get to a tournament. All games are a minimum of an hour and a half away.
For Church – that means people are gone from town a great deal for the time. They fly south to visit family, they go to Anchorage for a weekend to stock up on everything, they travel all across the state for sports which require whole day trips or entire weekends. While here the Church has gone from 25 in attendance to 50 each weekend, but we now have about 80 people who call the Church home. Most weekends we have families all over the state.
2. In Alaska, your concept of money changes. Everything in Alaska is expensive – I mean everything. Because of shipping costs to get items to Alaska everything costs a little more. For example – our local McDonald’s does not have a “Dollar Menu.” Instead it has a “Value Menu” where prices start at $1.80 and go up. We have no $5 foot-longs at Subway, instead we have $7 foot-longs. Take that concept and add it to every item you can imagine.
For Church – There are several layers of implications. One, a pastor’s salary has to be higher than most places. This is true in every Church I know. Two – giving needs to be higher to pay the inflated bills we face. For years our heating bill has been killing our budget. Third – I rely heavily on the internet for all resources and materials. Thank the Lord for Amazon’s free shipping. Finally – Churches work together to share resources. Since having an outside speaker for any topic is costly, we openly promote the Churches working together to maximize resources.
I know these are simple, but this is life in Alaska. I will give you a couple more tomorrow.