Locals headed to Alaska for missions

Published 1:12 am Friday, June 8, 2018

A group of 31 area residents is leaving Andalusia today bound for Anchorage, Alaska, where they will do mission work in an inner city church and at a homeless shelter.

Shannon Jackson is one of the coordinators.

“First Baptist Church is sending us, but there are other people from the community going with us,” she said. “It was really neat how it all came together.”

Jackson said she had been praying about where she could serve this summer.

“Alaska kept coming to my mind,” she said. “It was Some place we always wanted to visit, but serving on a mission team there not really on our radar.”

As she and her husband, Chris, considered a trip, she contacted the Alaska Baptist Association and asked about options to serve. The organization’s director of missions is actually a native of north Alabama and a graduate of UNA.

“One of the things that was compelling to me was the needs there,” she said. “We have poverty here, but the homeless rate is extreme in that area.”

During their week away, they will the 18 adults and 13 teens will be busy.

“We will do some things as basic as leading Vacation Bible School for a week in a church in an inner city area,” Jackson said. “We won’t be serving in a privileged area of Anchorage. Just having VBS, and providing meals for them is a big deal.

“This is an opportunity for those teenagers to get a really good picture of how fortunate we are,” she said. “And the people who live in Alaska may not take a fee meal. They are suspicious of something for free, so I think this will be a good experience.”

The pastor of the church where they’ll be working recently purchased an assisted living facility to supplement his income. The group will sleep on air matresses in the facility which is currently being renovated and has two-and-a-half working bathrooms.

“We’ll also have an opportunity to work downtown in Hope Center, which is a homeless shelter,” she said. “It is similar to some of the ministries that have taken root even in Andalusia. They have a laundry facility there, and can get a hot meal. Many of the people in our group have never even visited a soup kitchen, or participated in something like St. Mary’s does in Andalusia. We are going far away to serve, but I think we have same opportunities to serve right here at home. This trip should kind of create a shift in perspective.”

Jackson said she always thinks about the perspective she and others will bring home.

“There is the value of service, and reaching others with the Gospel. But there are also changes that will occur in every individual’s lives that goes on the trip. We are all going to be changed.”

The travelers have benefitted from the contributions of FBC members, and have held fundraisers for the church. Each individual also has provided his or her own funding. For instance, the Jacksons are travelling with two of their children, who did yard work to raise money for the trip.

The travelers range in age from 14 to 79, she said. Three members of the team will concentrate just on feeding the mission team. Others will provide labor in the soup kitchen, a food bank, and conduct VBS.

“We are taking socks and underwear to leave at the homeless shelter,” shes aid. “Since we started planning, I’ve read a lot about what a big deal that is, for someone who has nothing, to have underwear someone else never worn.”

Jackson said she hopes that those participating in the mission will bring back a different mindset and a heart for people all around who also need help.

“Sometimes we have to take a step back to get the best perspective of what is front of us,” she said.


The group returns on Sun., June 17.