Revival Night in Alaska

The Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska is where 60 percent of the world’s salmon is harvested. Ninety percent of the area’s income is made in the month of June, which is the salmon season. The rest of the year is devoted to native Alaskan traditions such as weaving, quilting, sled dog racing, and DISH TV.

It’s not a cheap place to live, even offseason. Prices at the trading post would scare even the most dedicated shopper. That’s because everything must be shipped in by air, or ocean-going barges.

A box of Advils, $25. Hair coloring, $20. Cough drops, $5. Coffee, $22. Cheetos, $12.

It’s why many families pool their shopping lists, split the gas, and take the family car (a Cessna 172) three hundred and fifty air miles to Anchorage. Airplanes, three-wheelers, bicycles, and snowmobiles are the primary modes of transportation because even now gas is $6.00 a gallon.

We had four cars where I worked, all available to every employee, with one simple rule: the driver had to buy gas. All four fuel gauges stayed on EMPTY, so those that could rode the bicycles. The rest of us walked, even when the salmon runs attracted bears.

Walking employees were encouraged to pray loud, sing loud, or tie bells to their shoes, so as not to surprise the black bears. I wouldn’t have been caught dead with bells tied to anything, and if singing bought dinner I would have starved to death. It left my options at praying, and I became pretty good at talking to the Lord out loud.

That led to an invitation by a visiting evangelist from North Carolina. Come to our revival, he promised, and you will share something unforgettable. Well, why not, I thought. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Funny you should ask!

Going with a small group from work, together we decided to hide out in the back pew. It seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes I can be very prescient. This was not one of those times.

As the excitement grew and the music got louder, the preacher dude got increasingly more animated. Shouting at the rafters, swaying with the choir, and stamping his feet, he was clearly coming to a flashpoint. Then suddenly he raced down the aisle, found me cowering in a corner, and pulled me out of my seat and into the aisle.

There was no time to protest. There was no place to hide. And there was no opportunity to warn him that my left foot had fallen asleep. The discomfort of trying to walk/skip/run down the aisle, pulled along by an exuberant evangelist, left me hobbling like a drunk trying to dance at a sobriety checkpoint.

Then it got worse. As the blood started returning to my foot, and pain replaced the tingling, it became readily apparent that I had severely sprained an ankle. But even those close to me didn’t know the truth. As my face contorted in pain, and tears streamed down my cheeks, they thought I was just getting in the Spirit. They thought it was tears of joy, and they insisted on walking/skipping/running with me, as we moved arm-in-arm down the aisle.

I never did pray that night. Even the preacher thought I was overcome by emotion. But I did get to sit in the section reserved for old men who can’t stop crying. And I did pray a prayer of gratitude, the next morning, knowing that my commute to work was just a short walk and a good crutch down the hallway!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: At times, I fit into lyrics more than I fit into life.

You can reach Roger at
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