Monday, June 13, 2016

Facing Fears- Eli Leary

I've gotten a lot braver in this trip. I used to be really scared of flying, now I'm only kinda scared. This is also the longest I've been away from home without my parents. I was really scared at first. But everyone was really nice to me even when I was scared of things that are irrational. I've also had a fear of highs for the longest time. When er climbed Mt. Gastineau, I was really scared at first, even if we were just hiking. When we were heading back from the top, me and some others went over to some peaks and walked in them (there are lots of pictures). I didn't go as far up as some other people did, but I really pushed my limits of what I thought I could do. Later while we were hiking back, we accidentally got off of the trail. We were faced with two choices: sliding down the snow bank, or walking across a cliff side above the snow. Because    
I didn't want to sled down, I went across the cliff side. About halfway through, I got mentally stuck and felt I couldn't keep going. Chris and Tim helped me across while I was having my panic attack and helped keep me calm. When I was across and walked down the tail to the bottom where everyone else was, I saw that what I did may have been a lot scarier than sledding down (there are also pictures of this). In this trip I faced a lot of my fears. I'm still not over them, but I'm a step in that direction

Friday, June 10, 2016


Every night after evening prayer and just before we go to bed, Tim leads the group in a discussion around a series of questions, starting with “What happened today?” and ending with “Where did you find God today?”  The answers have ranged anywhere from obvious (the majesty of the mountains), funny, trivial, and profound (On a day when we encountered a frightened hiker with her dog who told us she had just seen a bear which in turn placed us on high alert for the bear we never saw, Eli said God was like the bear where we didn’t actually see him but his presence pervaded everything we did).


In my own search for God, I’ve realized I find God in community and in how we relate to each other.   God is present in the way our group of 11 very different teenagers have come together protecting and enjoying each other.  God is present in the way Tim enthusiastically leads us together in morning prayer, noonday prayer, and evening prayer.  And God is present in the conversations we have on the trail and in the bus.

 On Wednesday, we went to a park in downtown Juneau and saw the Empty Chair Memorial.  John Tanaka was the valedictorian of Juneau’s 1942 senior class.  One month before his graduation, he, his entire family, and every other Japanese-American resident of Juneau were forcibly removed from Juneau and relocated to internment camps around the country.  At the graduation, the other graduating seniors prominently displayed an empty chair to honor their classmate John and to protest his internment.

 Juneau state representative Sam Kito spoke to us at the park and told us about the memorial and Juneau’s reaction to the internment of its Japanese-American residents.  The Juneau community banded together to help preserve the removed families’ property and to run their businesses.  Four years later when they were allowed to return, they came back to Juneau and were able to resume something of their prior lives.  Rep. Kito’s grandparents were among those forcibly removed, with his pregnant grandmother and three children being sent to one camp and his grandfather sent to another.  They returned to Juneau and, like the other Japanese-American families, continued their businesses and rejoined the community.  Rep. Kito explained to us that many other cities with significant Japanese-American populations didn’t respond this way.  They didn’t preserve the businesses or the property of their interned residents and didn’t welcome them back into the community when they were released.  


For me, God was present in the spirit of the Juneau residents who not only recognized the injustice but gave of themselves to help their friends.  I imagine the people who helped preserve the businesses of the interned residents had their own very busy lives with kids, jobs, church, and who knows what else.  It would have been so easy to rationalize not getting involved (e.g., “it’s all I can do to feed my own family”, “I wonder if they really support the emperor”).  Yet, they found a way to do what was needed to help their friends.  God’s abundance is real for Juneau whose residents still see the benefit of the decisions the residents made in 1942.  Today, the families of the Japanese-Americans who were interned play a prominent role in the Juneau community as evidenced by Sam who represents Juneau in Alaska’s House of Representatives.


I left the park wondering where I have a chance to be Juneau and experience God’s abundance through giving of myself.  I pray I recognize the opportunities and don’t succumb to the temptation to rationalize my way out.



[photo of empty chair memorial]

Letting Go- Celeste Crotty and James Bryan

At 10:00 this morning, we set out to Mt. Roberts, where we took a tram up some of the mountain then hiked to the summit. Before we left, though, Tim asked us to meet by the shore of the Shrine, where we were told to find a medium sized rock and place it in the bottom of our daypack.  He didn't tell us why, but we continued with our day.  The hike was very strenuous, especially with the rock adding some extra weight to our load. When we got to the peak of the mountain, we were reminded of the rocks and pulled them out. He asked us to hold the rocks and imagine them as a mental weight we could let go of. We each did this and formed them into a cairn that we decorated with flowers.  Tim told us that he was leaving behind needless worry, but no one else shared their's as we stood around the formation silently.  Although the rocks symbolized a burden we carried, many of us had forgotten that they were in our bags, but noticed their absence on the hike down, as we left them behind. 

On the way down the mountain, we somehow got off the path, and Max said, "Watch this!"  He was sliding downs 75 foot snow bank on the side of the mountain, where, at the bottom, we could reach the path easily.  So, out of options and a with a bit of adventure, we all slid down one by one (except for Celeste, Eli, and Chris, who managed to climb around it). 
[Editor's Note: We judged it within the limits of what was safe. There was plenty of room between the end of the snow and any danger from falling. They were in NO DANGER].

It was so much fun, as we all trusted ourselves to steer  and stop at the right spot. Most of us slid down on our rain paints or rain jackets, and got sprayed numb with snow.  After leaving behind the rocks with our burdens, sliding down the snowy mountain did not trouble us all, as it was difficult to not do it again and continue hiking down. Leaving behind our rocks did not just lift a physical burden off our backs, but a mental one as well.  Although none of our burdens were sliding down a mountain at a 75 degree angle, we felt free.  We were released of what had troubled us before, so we could enjoy what we were doing in the now

Intense day of Beauty and Climbing

This will be short because we are beat! We hiked up Mt  Roberts (see the pictures on the phanfare site!) james and Celeste got started with an entry but were too tired to finish. We get tricked by the long days- we ate dinner at about 830 and had our  night worship and talk about 11:00! 
So, here's some highlights:
- One of the pilgrims getting help for fear of heights and climbing to the top (in spite of their fear!)
- Pilgrims playing in the snow- sledding on their rear ends or raincoats down some snowfields- laughing and screaming in delight.
- sitting at the top of gold pass trail reading John 1- praying for all of you
- building a cairn with rocks we carried from the seaside to the top- and leaving them behind as "burdens" we wanted to be freed from
- One group making serving and cleaning up dinner- with little or no help.
- sunset in this beautiful place. 
Nights like this you are convinced that all is indeed grace. Grateful for your prayers for us all and for making pilgrimage and important ministry of your church. It makes a difference . It changes lives. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Update - Tim

We are on our way to ride a tram up Mt Roberts and then hike to the peak and down the mountain. 
Yesterday the crew was exhausted- we slept in today and left out late. Such an abundance of everything of God's best for us this week: friendship among all the pilgrims, lots of laughing, everyone enfolded into new friendships. 

We have had near perfect weather every day, too. The Juneau natives, when we tell them we are on a pilgrimage, smile and say, "Must
Be you pilgrims who brought the good weather."

These are nice kids- good human beings. I've seen from
Each of them patience and kindness and a deep understanding of what it means to pray and to live in community. 

All is well. Thank you for your confidence and trust and for bringing them to church.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Myrna: The Sweetest Lady In the History of the Earth- Faith

Today was magical. I woke up to Tim telling us it was time for morning prayer. Instead of dreading waking up, I was looking forward for the peacefullness. I ate breakfast and slowly woke up. Having no idea what we were doing, other than whale watching, I tried to live completely in the now. We stopped and hopped off the bus, heading in to a church. Stepping inside we saw the cutest old lady, Myra, I have possibly ever seen. She had the biggest smile on her face and greeted us as if she'd known is forever. We sat in the pews, waiting for Myra to speak. She talked about her experience as a Tlingit and her culture. We heard her language and the different sects within the one tribe. There were the Eagles and the Ravens, which then had their own clans. After listening to her life and the life of her tribe we got to try on some of the tribal regalia. During this time I got the chance to speak to her one on one. Before we left, I felt the need to hand her one of my gifts. My gift is simply a card with a quote on the front, and a bible verse in the middle, along with my name and email address. I added my email address knowing that who ever I gave my gifts to, I would love to talk to more. I handed Myra the gift and the look of joy on her face is nothing that I have ever seen before. She looked so genuinely great full. Just being around her gave me a sense of fulfillment and joy. She gave me a hug, like none I have ever had before. There was so much love in that hug. She hugged closely and with emotion, even rubbing my back. I have never met someone like Myra in my life. It is a moment that I will remember forever.  She taught me the necessity of being kind to everyone you meet and generous with all your time and possessions. Myra left a positive impact on me, one that I will keep with me forever. 

Naked and Afraid-Max

I spent 4 hours watching Naked and Afraid on the plane to Alaska. For those of you who don't know, Naked and Afraid is a survival show on the Discovery Channel. On the show, two people, a man and a woman, venture into the wild. They are stripped of all clothes and they leave behind all family and belongings. For 21 days, they survive with no outside help. There are snakes, rats, wasps, and deadly preadators. The only way they can make it through is by relying on one another. It's amazing to watch 2 people come from completely different walks of life and overcome their differences in order to complete one of the most difficult challenges of their lives. There was one group that really surprised me. A 30 year old redneck farmer from the South and a strongly opinionated 51 year old woman from the North were paired together. At the start of the show, I knew that they were not going to get along. I was wrong. They were the most successful group I had seen throughout all 4 hours. At this point, you're probably wondering what this has to do with pilgrimage, God, or anything relevant to modern society. Well, I think that Naked and Afraid is pilgrimage on steroids. The hardships they experience can bring them closer to God. There is plenty of time for quiet contemplation. Even during their worst times, God is there keeping watch over them. Although our pilgrimage cannot be directly compared to theirs, I believe that pilgrimage and Naked and Afraid both help people find God in different ways.