Between Two Worlds

Tags: SEND North, Story, Youth Ministry

In a world of upgrades, by-mail meals, and instant answers, the modern culture around us seems to be fueled by innovation and individuality. This progress connects almost every part of our world but increases the challenge to build deep personal relationships. While most people are eager to embrace all that is cutting edge, the children of Alaskan villages are caught between this ever-growing world and the unchanging nature of their villages and ancestral culture.  Being caught in the middle of two cultures is stressful and creates a struggle to find validation and acceptance.

Living in bush Alaska, I saw this on a daily basis, and SEND North’s team sees it too. The native culture many village children come from is deeply rooted in humility, submission to nature, and community. They are tied to their ancestors through dances, foods, trades, and storytelling. As each generation passes, many of these culturally rich traditions are falling by the wayside, being replaced by many elements of the modern world.

However, what remains in these communities is the respect the children have for past generations. Inherently, they try to honor their traditions and way of life by participating in hunting rituals, community potlucks, dances, and engaging with their elders. Many now leave the villages to get an education, in hopes of supporting their villages and families. These children who understand and respect the slow-paced, honor-based culture are in a valuable position to promote community and hard work in today’s modern world and the coming generations. Their work ethic and reliance on the resources God provides is a precious lesson for those of us who rely on modern invention and efficiency.

Nonetheless, many native children are joining the modern world and struggle to straddle their way of life with the pace of the current culture. This imposed tension often can result in adverse consequences. Even more so then kids and teens in suburban settings, the expectations to grow up fast and represent your family well are heightened by the environment of the village. In my village, as with many others, this would manifest in dangerous ways with substance abuse, forced relationships, and greed for popular brands and products. The results, though, would never satisfy and my peers would often continue to seek new avenues for validation in both worlds.

At SEND North, our team strives to promote the good in the village kids and teens, learning their way of life to build trust and understanding.  We know that embracing God’s love and walking in the way of Jesus satisfies and validates as nothing else can. We long to bring everyone closer to Jesus one step at a time.  This is key in making northern disciple-makers. 

Pray that people’s eyes will be open to God’s loving embrace.  Pray that we will accurately display God to everyone.  Please also look here to find ways that you can Be A Part of God’s work in the Far North.    - Kelly Quist