Our Story or, you’re going to do WHAT?

This is the story of how Don & Cat ended up in Alaska.
This story starts back in the summer of 2001. We moved to Turlock, CA from Lancaster, CA to allow our daughter to go to a small Christian school in the town where her grandparents live. Because Don still worked at Edwards Air Force Base near Lancaster, we bought an aircraft for him to commute in and as a way to get back into flying, which he had not done for 13 years. The reason to get back to flying was so as to be able, at age 55, for Don to retire and “go fly missionaries around the world.” Don’s thoughts were somewhere like Africa or Indonesia. However, it soon became apparent that Cat’s health probably would not allow living in such austere circumstances. All Don knew was that he did not want to go to a land of snow and mosquitoes – call this Rule No. 1.

We had just started attending Cornerstone Covenant Church when they had a missionary simulation to give people a feel for what was involved in being a missionary – the Lord’s perfect timing. In the first of four rooms, we mentioned that we wanted to go into the missionary support field, and when Don mentioned he was a pilot, two of the ladies in the group suggested I contact Missionary Aviation Repair Center (MARC) in Alaska. I did call them and sent my flying hours and licenses up to them. When I heard nothing back, I did not investigate any further – remember Rule No. 1?

Through 2002 and 2003 God gently prodded us with a couple of instances where MARC was again suggested. Still in the denial mode, Don did not pursue MARC any further – remember Rule No. 1? However, in November 2003, Keith Hamilton came to our church to give a talk on the newly founded Alaska Christian College (ACC). He described how he ended up in Alaska when he had his sights on South America. Don began to squirm. He then told the story of Jonah and the whale. The moral of the story being, you can go by ship or you can go by whale, but if God wants you to go, then get packed. Keith related this story to his situation, and Don clearly saw that it applied to him as well. The final straw was the singing of a song that Don & Cat had sung often during Emmaus gatherings in Lancaster. However this time it had a completely different impact. Upon singing the chorus:

“Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart”

Don put his head on Cat’s shoulder and began to cry. In all the times we sang this song, it had never affected him like this. After the service, we went out to lunch with Keith, our pastor Brad, and his wife, Cheryl. At this meeting we got the impression that ACC needed a pilot, so we agreed to come up to Soldotna, Alaska for a visit.

Don and Cat visited with both MARC and ACC during in December 2003 around the shortest day of the year. We went at this time for Cat to experience winter weather, and for us both to experience deprivation of sunlight. We both learned about MARC's mission, and Don expressed his desire to serve the Lord by flying for them. They responded with an invitation to come back for a week or two in the New Year. Similar discussions were held with ACC staff to learn about ACC's mission, and for them to get to know us. Out of this discussion came a call letter for Cat to volunteer as a tutor/librarian/office staff relief person.

Don & Cat again ventured north in March 2004, with the purpose of getting better acquainted with MARC and ACC , and them with us. Don left with the understanding that if he could get his multi-engine license, that MARC could use him as a full time pilot. Meanwhile, Cat spent time at ACC talking to the staff and working with Sharon Finifrock on the library database. She also was happy to be invited to participate in morning worship at the college, as well as typing data input for both the library and office. She spent some time with the students, comparing guitar chords and songs. One evening, we went to a school basketball game and had ice cream (yes, even in the darkest days of winter you can find ice cream for the truly determined!) with Millie and Glen, the people with whom we were staying. They also took us to an evening home church service which combined both students, faculty and community members.

After these visits, the Lord continued his gentle prodding. On a family flight to Vacaville airport, we spoke with a pilot who was living in Alaska and flew for Evergreen Airlines out of New York – and Don thought his 280 mile commute was long! The following weekend, Don was driving his MG sports car. When he pulled into a gas station, a car followed him. It was an MG buff, and during the discussion, Don discovered that the other driver had just returned from Alaska a year ago. Both of these were very gentle reminders. The final one was a bat between the eyes.

That weekend Cat & Don went shopping for new boxers for Don. He did not really look at them and when he got them home, he just threw them into his drawer. A week later, he was very surprised when he took a pair of them out of the drawer – they had the word ALASKA written all over them!

Throughout these two years, as we look back, we see that God was gentle, whispering not shouting. He was persistent, never giving up. The farther Don ran the more God pursued. Well Rule No. 1 has fallen, and we are on our way to the land of snow and mosquitoes, by boat, and not by whale – and happy to be doing the Lord’s bidding.