Naknek, Alaska * Bottom of Alaska, Top of the world, a truly Heavenly experience!
Main street in Naknek.
My friends are reminding me that I haven’t sent out a letter or put it on my blog page for some time. I guess I don’t know how to describe a missionary experience quite like we are having. It is anything but typical and way to much fun to be called work. First let me describe Naknek – a small village of about 600 people. We have a trading post, a tiny awesome library, a school for all ages, a restaurant, about 8 bars and 8 churches. We have one road, Peninsula Highway 1, which leads to King Salmon, an abandoned air force town, about 18 miles away. Our address is Peninsula Highway Mile 1.5 or Box 508 99633. Or don’t put any address on at all the postmistress knows everybody in town. As does everyone else. We did not move to this small village unnoticed.
Home is where the heart lies.
The church, our home, is among the bushes, just off Peninsula High Way 1 on the left and about 500 yards from the Naknek River on the right. There are very few drawbacks and a lot of things we like about living in the church. There is always room for lots of people to come for activities during the week or meetings on Sunday. One of the two classrooms is our bedroom and we each have a bathroom marked “women” and “men” so we don’t get confused. We have lots of room to exercise in. We have a “small” church kitchen but large compared to the tiny kitchen we had in Anchorage and no kitchen at all in Fairbanks. We are always up in time for meetings and our home is always clean for company.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The Tundra between Naknek and King Salmon, they say is beautiful in the spring, which can’t be far off now. When we first arrived, January 4th ,the temperature was –38 and with a wind (we never had wind in Fairbanks so this was new to us) it was VERY cold. This last week in March the evening temperatures hover around zero. The day time temperatures are from 20 – 40 above. That sounds warm but there is always a wind blowing so it really hasn’t been very warm yet. It doesn’t snow much here but we had ten inches last week and every few days we wake up to hoare frost covered trees, so beautiful! Living at the church we don’t have to get out very often and the cold just doesn’t bother us. The church is warm and cozy.
Our foxy friends and others.
Naknek is a commercial fishing village. Eighty percent of the Red Salmon catch is from here. Anyone in town will give us salmon and we love it! We have become fanatics about high and low tide. High tide brings in the whale and seal and low tide bring the eagles to fish along the shores. So many picture taking opportunities! We saw a small herd of caribou, about 50, and a large herd of moose, about 20. Usually the caribou run in herds of a couple of thousands as they migrate through Naknek and moose don’t get in herds so it was unusual to see 20. This little red fox is our pet. He comes outside our back door at 7:20 every evening to step into the church and eat doggie treats out of our hand.
Across the frozen river!
Our friends at the library took us over to South Naknek one beautiful day in cold January. That is the only way there, to drive across the river. There are only appx. 50 people living there and they have a “flying school bus” to bring a teacher and a handful of kids over to Naknek for school each day. The ice was very bumpy, there were pockets of water standing on the ice. We were a bit nervous but Burt drove over in Al’s truck. They went ahead and Al got out and checking each “puddle”, pronounced it safe, then Sheila and I drove across in her 4 wheel drive. Two weeks later they drove a 28,000 lb piece of equipment over and residences are still driving today, the last week in March.
Up above the world so high!
It was so exuberating to cross that frozen riber but then we were offered a ride in a helicopter through the Katmai National Park and along the Aleutian and the Alaska Peninsula Range, and Oh, My Goodness! The former branch president flew us to the Brooks Falls where the bear come to eat salmon each summer, to the top of glaciers, down and around steaming volcanoes, to the Valley of the Ten Thousand Smokes and we saw a sun set from up above the world that stretched from one end of the sky to the other. Words can’t describe it! I felt like I was in heaven and could almost imagine how God feels when he looks down on this beautiful world! We have over 600 photos to show you when we get home.
The Heavenly Kingdons!
In Naknek we have done family history, volunteered at the school, cleaned the church house for meetings and activities, talked and/or given a lesson every Sunday, and performed all the branch presidency duties, and written a news letter every month. We plan a game night every week, a Napoleon Dynamite party, weekly YW/YM activities, YW conference High Tea, a Conference Sunday brunch and pot lucks galore! But the crowning moment in our mission experience was when we invited a family to hear the gospel. (This picture of them is at the Napoleon Dynamite party). They accepted and we have started teaching them. They come out to all the meetings and have searched their whole lives for the gospel. They are humble sweet people, have wonderful family values, and will be such an asset to this struggling branch here in Naknek. This is the reason we were sent here. With only 11 members of which only 2 are active, they were considering selling the chapel. You can’t hold church when the only members are a man from one family and a woman from another. Well, we haven’t activated any of the “hard core want to be lost Alaskan Mormons” but we found instead a wonderful couple who could add so much strength and a reason for church every Sunday. Pray for us and we will send you a picture of them being baptized in “Paradise Point”.
It is conference weekend. I love to hear from these prophets, seers, and revelators. I am so thankful for Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel. Everyday here in Naknek is evidence of God’s love for his children.
We love you all and will see you soon,
President and Sister Robbins