5 Things We Learned From Alaska

You know how stories and stereotypes go — you hear something about a person or a place and immediately develop a preconceived notion about it.

For the last six months we’ve had many conversations with neighbors, church people, passerby’s at Petco (where we fundraised) and family about Alaska. When July 10 rolled around, we had pretty solid knowledge about The Last Frontier.

Fresh off a week of traveling through Alaska and encountering many people, we’ve learned quite a bit. Certainly, one week is definitely not enough time to identify a culture or mindset, but these five things really stood out and were different to what we’ve encountered in other states.

1. People will actually refuse prayer

Living and ministering in the ‘Bible Belt’ –  that is Louisiana –  the good ole’, “Can I pray for you?” or “Do you have anything I can pray for you about” works. It works so well that I’ve never seen someone  in Louisiana refuse prayer during my time with them.

When we were out canvasing parts of Seward, Alaska, the majority of people refused prayer. I grew up a Catholic turned atheist and I never refused prayer. Sure, I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t care, but even when I didn’t believe it still felt like the right thing to do.

With 30 students across Louisiana — many born and raised in Bible believing towns — hearing someone actually say “no” after those above questions was a bit of a shocker.

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When Being No. 1 Isn’t For You

Photo Credit: Boaz Crawford (creationswap.com)

Photo Credit: Boaz Crawford (creationswap.com)

At 4-years-old my deck-hockey coach gave me two simple instructions I still remember 20 years later.

  1. Block any shots from going in the goal.
  2. WIN.

Deck-hockey, for those who aren’t familiar, is a common recreational sport on the East Coast. It’s essentially hockey, but you trade in the skates for shoes, the ice for gravel and the puck for a small round ball.

I have absolutely no idea if we won that game. I do remember swatting shots away from our goal as if I was playing tea ball.

Four years later I started playing organized football (Pop Warner). The instructions were similar to my deck-hockey days:

  1. Stop the team from scoring.
  2. WIN.

After 14 years of organized athletics and four years of striving in a competitive field of study (journalism), I subconsciously adopted a certain mentality —  if I wasn’t No. 1 or winning, something was wrong.

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Four Principles for Christians Heading to Secular Universities

LSU football game in 2010. Photo Credit: mattandkayla.us

by: Kayla Marcantonio

Choosing to attend a secular university over a Bible college was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

While choosing a secular university before a Bible school isn’t the popular route for those going into ministry or simply living out their Christian faith, below are four principles I learned which will make your public education after high school a success.

(Please do not assume I’m implying bible colleges are obsolete or unneeded. My husband and myself are currently enrolled in a theological seminary for graduate school, and we’re eager to begin! This post is to serve solely as encouragement for those entering secular universities and colleges, who made the same decision as I once did.)

1. Force yourself to grow.

As a youth pastor, the following statistic keeps me up at night. According to one Barna Group study, only 30 percent of Christian teens continue to live out their faith after high school.

Out of ten students, one will leave the faith completely, four will call themselves Christians but not be active in church, and two will become so confused about their personal convictions they disconnect from Christian beliefs.

The only way to not become a statistic is to go into college with a growth mindset. Many times, students find the college/new church ministry isn’t what their used to; it confuses them and they leave, feeling left out and lonely.

The students in the Chi Alpha ministry or BCM group will not be like the teens from youth group.

Forget about being allowed straight into leadership, which you’ll probably miss from your senior Bible club. Stereotypes aside, the church or ministry you join (yes, you should ensure you join one) WILL look different. Whether it’s bigger or smaller, has louder worship or institutes small groups — it won’t be the same as what you want or expect … and that OK.

College is a time to grow, a time to find yourself as a person. How can you know what you need in a ministry if you’ve only seen it one way? How will you ever know what talents you can provide without growing and seeing ministry differently? Remember, church really isn’t about you to begin with — see the next point for an explanation.

…Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45

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