Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Following our Alaskan Missionaries

Fr. Andrew of St Luke Church at St Herman's Seminary, Alaska

Dear Students and Friends,

Here at St Luke Church, our mission team has departed for week of service on Spruce Island, Alaska, USA, the ancient home of St Herman of Alaska. Here they will minister to the Island dwellers (about 200 in number, with a majority 25 years old and under), teaching a Bible school and being available for ministry and friendship.

In order to follow along with their mission, I've been reading Orthodox Alaska: A theology of mission, by Fr. Michael Oleksa. In this volume is the history of Orthodoxy in Alaska--the birthplace of Orthodoxy in America! From here, all our American Orthodox churches originated through the ministry of three Russian priests: Herman, Juvenaly and Macarias. The book begins with a succint but very nice summary of the Orthodox faith, and follows with the story of the first Alaskan mission.

A second book, Alaskan Missionary Spirituality, also by Fr. Oleksa, contains a collection of writings by the Alaskan saints and missionaries of that age, where you can read their own words.

What is so wonderful about Orthodox missionary spirituality is the great love reflected by the missionaries for the native American peoples. Orthodox missionary movements are the only ones that, instead of forcing native peoples to be assimilated into western culture, come to the people where they live, reaching through their own beliefs to show them the reality of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Paul said in First Corinthians, Chapter 9: " 19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

It is so inspiring to read about the origins of Orthodoxy in our country and the particulars behind the Alaskan missionaries. I encourage you to read these volumes--they will encourage you so much.

To learn more about blessed St Herman, here are some wonderful videos to watch (there are only 2, not 3):
May your learning be blessed this summer!

St Luke Church missionary team in front of
Ouzinkie, Alaska church where the mission will be held.