Reflections on Fairbanks Trip

Reflections on a mission trip to Fairbanks, Alaska
By Don Fulton and Luke Fulton

On Monday our group of 25 from Gloria Dei were split into 2 groups. Our group that affectionally called ourselves “The Drill Team” were sent to the Village Network where we worked on a cabin. This was part of the vision of Will & Yvonne Mayo to create a retreat for religious leaders around Alaska to come to for rest and renewal. The Next Step crew provided leadership during the week and broke us into work groups assigned to various projects. The Next Step crew explained how to do the work. We were told that Yvonne always gets the final say. Everyone pitched in. We developed and/or enhanced our skills at caulking, putting up insulation, applying finish, fastening vapor wrap, using a skill saw, putting in windows, sealing overhangs, and even insulating under the floors. We crawled in tight spaces. We climbed ladders and placed our trust in each other to make sure no one fell. Safety was number One. We worked hard. It was good work. It was meaningful. It did not go unnoticed.

If working on the cabin wasn’t enough each day we took turns splitting lumber. A member of the Next Step crew worked a chain saw three of the four days to keep us busy using a wood splitter. We learned how to gas, grease, and care for the wood splitter. The wood went from chain saw to splitter to wheel barrow to the wood pile. Eventually it would be burned by Will & Yvonne to heat their house through the winter. Additional wood gets donated to area villages to help them through the winter. This is one of the ways that the Village Network did outreach to the community. In the winter we were told it could get as low as 40-60 below. By the time we were done the pile had nearly doubled in size from where it started at the beginning of the week. So again, we worked hard. It was good work. It was meaningful. It did not go unnoticed.

Thursday was the last day at our worksite. As the day winded down and we started our final clean up. Gathering tools, putting away generators, covering the log splitter. We walked around the cabin to make sure no nails or screws were on the ground and picked up any garbage. With a cart we wheeled away saw dust and tree bark to a wood pile to be burned later. As we finished our clean up and were getting ready to leave Yvonne invited our group to the house.

As we entered Yvonne had us stand in a circle. She said, “I know you are in a hurry.” She said, “In our culture things are not done fast. So, bear with me.” She said that she had something to give each of us. She went to each person in the circle starting with the adults. We were told throughout the week that in their culture there is a strong respect for elders. Yvonne gave each of us two gifts. We were each given a necklace that Yvonne put on us personally. Then she gave each of us either a t-shirt with Village Network on it or a jar of homemade jam.

There was the sense that something special was happening. It is difficult to explain the feeling. It felt like we were being told that we are appreciated. It was an honor to receive these gifts. We could tell she had taken time to pick out each gift specifically for the person she gave them to. It felt like a Higher Power moment. Our presence during the week did not go unnoticed.

As we left the site that day the Next Step leader told us we were only the second group from the whole summer that Yvonne had honored in this way.

Reflecting on the mission trip to Fairbanks, Alaska this memory holds a special place.

It is a Blessing to be a Blessing!
Don Fulton and Luke Fulton

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