Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alaksa Environmental Awareness Conference at Aquinas College(Oct. 25, 2004)

Connections with the Gwich'ins don't always happen in Alaska. Bill attended an informational program at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan which featured Luci Beach, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee and Subhankar Banerjee, author of "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land." They shared about environmental concerns in Alaksa due to the unwanted influences of industry. The subject of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was cause for a very heated debate and dominated the Q & A portion of the program.

At a reception following the program, Mr. Banerjee held a book signing for his photographic journey, the book mentioned above, as Ms. Beach was asked more Gwich'in specific questions. She allowed Bill to field the questions knowing about his caring relationships with the Gwich'ins and his concern for their land. Bill's answers appeared to have an impact speaking on behalf of the Gwich'ins from the perspective of a white man from Grand Rapids.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Supporting My Gwich'in Family

Bill has made several trips to Arctic Village since 2003. He has seen the needs of the people and has been able to help them in many ways. Hundreds of pounds of books, clothes, and food have been sent in hopes of making life there a little easier. A subscription to Sports Illustrated has also been sent to the school to help with reading skills. The gardening project is a result of Bill's concern for the health of the villagers. We plan to leave around June 1, 2008 to lead and participate with the village in growing both community and home gardens. We ask for your prayers, especailly for the students' involvement and realizing the importance of a more complete diet and combating the effects of global warming.

Environmental Programs Update, Arctic Village 2004

Bill was invited back to Fairbanks, Alaksa for the wedding of Margerie and Danny Gimmell (in the caribou picture). Immedialtely after getting off the plane upon a return visit to the village after the wedding, Bill walked into an environmental meeting held in the village council office. The office was filled with energetic youth who were truly interested in the future of the village. He was happy to see that the recycling program continued to be an ongoing village awareness project and still is today.

Recycling Above the Arctic Circle

During Bill's 2003 trip to Arctic Village, the tour group noticed the man-made clutter of this pristine land. After establisihng recycling programs in Michigan involving youth, Bill approached the Arctic Village school principal and teachers. They were already considering a recycling program through the school. So, through brainstorming and discussions with the students and Bill, a plan was developed and implemented. The entire village was cleaned by the students, teachers, and Bill with recyclables be sorted and flown to Fairbanks. This is an ongoing program and the villagers say the first above the Arctic Circle.

First Connection with the Gwich'ins

Bill first travelled to Arctic Village, Alaska in 2003 as part of a tour group led by David Radcliff of New Community Project. It was a tour to learn about the Gwich'in people and their culture. This trip also helped Bill better understand the Church of the Brethren philosphy that he had learned the previous three years. By living with the Gwich'in for nine days, he experienced the struggles of living in this harsh, but beautiful land. Bill was permanently bonded with the Gwich'in as a result of risking his life along with two Gwich'in, one who is now the village chief (the lady, Margerie), to bring back much-needed caribou meat to the village one night. Bill choose to stay and help butcher the 5 caribou, even after dark when the threat of bear attacks is at its greatest. Due to global warming, the caribou were not migrating near Arctic Village as much. So, even sighting the caribou was considered a blessing by the Gwich'in. This marked the last time that five caribou have been killed by anyone in Arctic Village in one incident. Bill was honored to witness the Caribou Dance in being called a real Gwich'in for his warroir spirit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Gardening Mission 2008

The green houses shown are located at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. They were used for student research, holding in heat and helping to maintain a controlled environment. We are hoping to gather funding for the construction of a greenhouse in Arctic Village that's secure in keeping pesky critters away. Yes, even bears! Many methods of gardening are being considered including raised gardens, growing plants in containers to be moved inside, and even growing on roof tops. All of these methods have differing costs for materials and the transporting of the materials by small airplane to Arctic Village. We know that this is just the beginning as we hope to help each one of the fifteen Gwich'in villages as the project expands. Perhaps, the dream of a large cooperative between the villages will evolve as discussed in the 1940's at a Gwich'in conference. These native brothers and sisters are fighting to keep their land and culture from the clutches of oil interests. If you are moved by the Spirit to help preserve this beautiful land and culture, a love gift can be sent to us at 227 W 100 N, Monroe, IN 46772. All gifts will be used for the materials needed to follow God's call for this project.

Gardening in Alaska

Last year's gardening project energized the village due to the successful growing of 15 different vegetables. The 2007 trip was the first gardening trip. It was planned for only three weeks, not knowing if the plants would even grow or how receptive the Gwich'ins would be.

Ms. Heidi Rader, Agriculture & Horticulture Agent of the UAF Cooperative Extension for the Tanana Chief's Conference, has been helpful and expressed much interest in participating with and assisting us. She surveyed the villagers and received an overwhelming positive response to the gardening efforts of 2007. So, more gardens will be planted this summer. Mr. David van den Berg of the North Alaska Environmental Center also expressed an interest to help as their organization's aim is to protect and preserve Alaska's land and people, including withstanding the pressures of oil companies and their influences.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Welcome to our Adventures!

Fairbanks, Alaska 2007

Hello Friends,
Thanks for your interest in our adventures! We have much to share as our lives have travelled many paths. We've been many places and have focused on helping others.

We are planning to return to the Gulf Coast in March to continue to help in the relief and rebuilding in Katrina's aftermath. We will be working with the Brethren Disaster Ministeries in Pearl River, LA with a group from our church, Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren. (Some of you may not know, but we met last March on the Gulf Coast only by God's plan and were married in October.)

We also have an upcoming trip this summer to Alaska to work with Gwich'in Indians in Arctic Village in a community gardening project. Global warming has affected caribou migration which has limited a major food source for them. We hope to work along with the folks there to provide more food and a self-sustaining lifestyle by being better eduacted and informed.

After our time in Actric Village, we will travel south to Fairbanks to be joined by a group from the Midwest to work with Habitat for Humanity before heading back to Indiana. This year's group is at capacity, but please let us know if you're interested in a future trip.

We are excited for what lies ahead for us in serving our Lord, Jesus Christ, and our fellow man.