Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ministry In Gelena

Picture of the flood this Spring.

This past summer and fall Victory Bible Camps has been pursuing outreach ministry to a village near the Arctic Circle, Galena. Galena sets near the Yukon River about 300 miles west of Fairbanks. There is no road access here, only boat in the summer or plane. The village existed because of the fishing on the river, hunting and fur trading. Galena’s people are Native Alaskans and early Russian settlers. The village is now a closed down Military base given to the town for the use of the facilities as City Maintenance Buildings and Offices and a Boarding School for kids flown in from all over the state. The people of Galena suffered much devastation this spring with the loss of their homes and earthly possessions due to a massive flood off the Yukon River. The flooding was caused by a massive ice jam in the river for several days. Most everyone was evacuated immediately by plane. Christian aviation ministries from all over the state stepped in and helped with the evacuation. Houses were washed away along with all their firewood for the winter. Vehicles, snow machines and ATV’s were submerged in silt filled water for days destroying everything mechanical about an engine. Septic tanks and personal fuel barrels were torn away from their homes. One home was recorded to have floated down the river for 500 miles.
Mount Mckinley, flying on the why to Gelena

Yukon River

                VBC has been sending teams of 8 to 10 people to Galena to help with the disaster relief. We are there representing the Galena Bible Church working together to rebuild, representing Christ. There is much work to be done. Though the extreme cold weather is nearing, outside work will become near impossible with temperatures plummeting to -50 degrees F before Christmas. Most of October is spent with temps below 32 Degrees. Our goal before winter was to get every house hooked up to water, sewer, and heated for the long dark deep freeze. This has been mostly successful. Many folks have left because they have no house anymore and have lost absolutely everything they have. Whether or not they return and rebuild is up to them. We have often asked ourselves, “Why would any living person want to exist here? The biting bugs and Mosquitos in the hot summer and dark long cold winters.” This is what they know and do. Their families survived off the land for many generations.

Arctic pipe. They use circulator pumps so the water doesn't freeze.

                The houses that have remained are the homes that we have focused our energy on. Galena sits on permafrost. The word permafrost means permanently frozen ground. Because of the permafrost, all the houses and buildings need to be built on pilings or stilts. The underside of the houses needs to be insulated to prevent the ground underneath from thawing out. If the ground thaws under the house, then the house will sink. With the flooding, many of the houses have sunk or become out of level. We have spent hundreds of hours under houses with 20 ton bottle jacks lifting structures back into place. Every home has needed to be completely stripped down to the studs and rebuilt. Insulation, drywall, appliances all needed to be replaced. With time, Galena will get back on its feet.

                While working with the community, new relationships were built. The people were awe struck with all the volunteer work dedicated to build Galena back up. Many ministries from all over the country have traveled for thousands of miles to lend a Christ like hand to the struggling people. All these teams were representing the Galena Bible Church with hopes of connecting the People with the Church. The community cannot ignore the love that is present among the Church. God is glorified through this all.
There is the water level line. If you see next to the tank is a 6ft ladder.

leveling house

House that has water/ice damage.

Working on cars in Gelena.

Making pilings for the house to set on. It had to be above the flood line.

Moving the house in place.

Next set of piling ready the house to be put in place.
The whole time.
Watching a flout plane coming.
The flight home from Gelena.
 Packing out the moose meat.
Processing the meat for the freezer.