No one wants to leave Alaska on a trip or vacation and leave their home untended. We house-sat for the first ten months we lived in Alaska. We arrived in late October 1993. The longest time we house-sat was five weeks, most occasions were for a week or two. We deep cleaned several of these homes. I had been asked what did we see ourselves doing when we got to Alaska? My image of cleaning toilets became prophetic. We had free lodging and no utility payments. When the temperatures are well below zero degrees, you don’t want a heating system going out. And there were three occasions when we had to get emergency service for the heating system where we were staying.
Our go-to guy for Arctic heating repair was Chris Paul, Paul’s Heating Construction Co., Fairbanks, Alaska. I asked him how he learned heating systems. He said, “God taught me.” He had a plane, a DC, something or other. He flew to the villages all across the North Slope of Alaska.
Chris would fly in, hire local natives, and teach them to maintain the systems. Chris was a heating specialist, Bible teacher, and a fine musician. He would gather the kids together and teach them Christian songs. He would find a budding musician and gift them with a guitar. The kids loved him. Their parents and grandparents loved him. The communities loved him. He was living his ministry.
My first visit to a village was through Chris. He called and told me of a revival he was going to in Wainwright, Alaska. We flew into Barrow, the largest village on the North Slope, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. We transferred to a much smaller plane. Across the aisle from me was a washer and dryer being shipped. They just took out seats and strapped in the machines.
Go to Barrow and turn left.
Where is Wainwright? Go to Barrow and turn left. There it is, sitting on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.
We were met by a local native wearing a cowboy hat and driving a crew cab pickup. The radio was playing Willie Nelson. I felt like I was back in Texas. The pickup had been barged in the previous summer. We stayed in a hotel. The revival took place in the Presbyterian Church. This was in January, the Sun never peaked above the horizon. At noon there was just a rosy glow, but no Sun during the Winter.
Someone told me to take gifts when going to the villages. I brought apples, summer sausage, cheese, and candy. The pastor of the church, when I gave him the sack of apples, looked at them and said, “You don’t know how often I would’ve killed for apples this winter.”
I became very popular with the kids when they found out I had candy in my pockets.
The Restoration of Abner Fox
This was a revival like no other I had ever attended. Each village, in turn, took the stage for its musical presentations. Some were solos. Some small groups. There were some choirs. No sermons, just music.
Over and over, there was one guitarist used by different villagers. A young man named Abner Pisukkaaq*. His last name in the Inupiat language means Fox. He had a guitar with a bowed necked. It sounded OK, just looked weird. I commented on this to Chris. He said, “Sin broke the guitar.” Abner had repaired it, albeit with a bow in the neck.
About the second evening, Chris called Abner forward and asked for his guitar, a gift from Chris. He announced that, “Sin has broken the guitar and God did not want him playing a broken guitar.” Abner had been a drunken fight and broke his guitar. You could tell this was a most prized possession. Abner started to weep. Chis asked the elders to gather around for prayer. I was asked to pray. I took oil and gave it to an elder next to me. He anointed the guitarist’s head. Abner was surrounded by the native elders. Tears and snot were flowing. His arms were around the neck of others. He couldn’t wipe his face. I took a bandana from my pocket and handed it to the elder who had anointed Abner’s head with oil. He started to wipe his hands of the oil, then the elder looked at the young man’s face, took the bandana, and carefully wiped away the tears and snot.
I prayed, and Abner Fox fell under the Power of the Holy Spirit.
He was helped up off the floor. Then Chris reached behind the railing in front of the choir loft and took out a new white Martin guitar. He said, “Abner, God doesn’t want you playing a broken guitar. He wants you to play with a new one.”
It was a most impressive display of Christian love and restoration.
* The real name is not Abner Pisukkaaq (Fox). I have changed it from the original. I did find a person by the real name now living in Anchorage, Alaska. But I do not have permission to use his name. Rest assured, the story and the people who appear in it are very real. I reconnected with Chris Paul this past week. The story took place in Wainwright, Alaska, 28 years ago.