By Jady W. Copeland
For the last three weeks in July and the first week of August, my wife and I were in Alaska, “the last frontier,” preaching in four meetings. Perhaps brethren would like to know more about the churches in that beautiful state. We left Tulsa on July 9, and were made welcome by Dean Crews, who preaches in Anchorage. After a day to look around, we went to Soldotna for the first meeting. There are about twenty Christians there.
Soldotna is located in the heart of the fishing country of the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. The brethren there have just completed their building, lacking only some trim work having it completely finished, and it will seat about 100 people in its present form. Through the years they have been somewhat hindered by not having their own facilities in which to meet. Sam Binkley, not to be confused with his father, the co-author of the book on teaching, was preaching there, but since we were there he no longer preaches there due to some problems in the congregation. Brother and sister Fred Howes and their son, Monte and his family, have been greatly responsible for the work in Soldotna.
We next went to Fairbanks, where the congregation is much smaller than formerly due to several families having moved within the past year. Alaska’s economy is bad at present, having been hurt by the oil crunch. It is estimated that thousands of people leave Alaska monthly due to lack of work. Thus the number of saints in Fairbanks is down to about 10 at present. However, as noted in the Guardian of Truth recently, Cecil Willis is now working with them, and doing a good work there. There are several young men with whom he is working who have good potential. Joe and Sylvia King have been faithful workers in Fairbanks a number of years, and they continue to be a source of strength to the work there. They have a nice building, and are meeting in the basement at present, and will finish the upper floor (partially completed) when needed. The brethren appreciate Cecil’s work, and he will do them a great deal of good.
Don Spicer moved to Barrow a year ago from Anchorage, and his family along with one other family meet in his home. The other family is from a liberal background, and Don is now laying some groundwork in his preaching in hopes of being able to teach this other good family the truth on the institutional question. Both families are rather large, so the membership there is about 10. A third family recently moved out of state. Barrow is largely natives, and they are so traditional it will be difficult for them to “break through” to reach many. They hope the younger generation will not be so wed to their religious traditions so that good can be done.
As noted, Dean Crews works with the Anchorage group, having been there five years. He is doing a good work and the church is doing well. As with the other congregations, they have lost some families but they have about 100 now meeting there. The congregation there is blessed with good elders, and there is no reason to doubt that they will continue to do a good work.
Prices are high in Alaska, and therefore wages for preachers (as well as others) must be higher. But Alaska is not as undesirable a place to live as I had thought. True, it gets cold, especially in the inner regions of the state, but Anchorage is little different, we are told, than coastal cities in the lower 48 states. The constant daylight during August was a bit difficult to become accustomed to, but people there think nothing of it. We were fortunate to see the “mid-night sun” on the last night in Barrow, but it was cloudy most of our stay, and could not appreciate that as much as we would liked to have done. When making plans for vacations, consider Alaska, and visit brethren there. They are among the most hospitable people I have met in many years. So far as we were able to learn, there are only four noninstitutional groups in Alaska, and we were fortunate enough to hold meetings in each place. It is good to know that brethren are being true to his word in all parts of the world.
Guardian of Truth XXXI:21, p. 653
November 5, 1987