Warm Faith

Tags: Alaska, SEND North, Missionary Life, Story

January in Nulato, Alaska on the Yukon River and far away from other roads; a village of about 200 people...

    We are in that season now where almost every conversation ends with some variation of "keep warm." Our record low so far this winter has been two days of -65F. We have had a solid week of -40 temps lately. Today a warm wind arrived and we are up to -8! Winter out here sometimes feels like a battle against the cold: keeping houses warm, keeping vehicles warm, keeping pipes from freezing. So when we say “keep warm” we are probably on our way to haul firewood, haul fuel, plug in a heater for a car, check on a wood stove, or another of the many tasks a cold winter requires. Yet, every time I hear the words come out of my mouth “keep warm,” I hear the echo of James 2 in my mind: 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  -James 2:14-17

     I love that James reminds us to not say things that are not accompanied with action. Both our relationship with God and our relationship with others needs to be expressed in words and actions. This gets extremely practical for us in the village. We cannot wish someone to stay warm and then see someone walking in -40 weather and drive by in our warm vehicle. When our neighbors had to make an unexpected trip to Fairbanks, we offered to keep their wood stove going while they are gone; two or three times a day we were adding wood and checking that pipes didn’t freeze. Dog sitting, babysitting, house sitting, shoveling, rides, tire repairs, loaning gas, etc. All of these can be expressions of our faith in action.

     We have to guard our hearts though. Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and to let our light shine before men that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5). Yet He also warns us not to do our good deeds in front of others to be seen by them (Matt. 6). The difference I see is the motivation of the heart.

     In the midst of taking care of my neighbor’s house, someone texted me and said, "I see a love for people in you." A great compliment that I appreciate but I want to move that thought to the deeper Truth. My reply was, "Thank you. That love you see is a reflection of God's love for people." My hope is that in the midst of the physical helps, we are always pointing people to Christ. We are motivated by God’s love and help that He has shown to us and long for all people to know the depth of God’s love. Perhaps their first glimpse of God’s love is a reflection bouncing off of us. Then hopefully as we redirect their focus, they turn and see Jesus and experience the fullness of God’s love in their lives.

 -Jon Casey