Chapter 20 God Continues His Work
It was the year 1968 in mid-September when a small, two-engine plane descended to the airstrip at Savoonga, its wheels touching lightly down on the crushed lava surface. A new, young teacher climbed out and peered around at the Eskimos gathered for the plane’s arrival. He looked more like fourteen than his twenty-three years but in spite of this had been hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to teach in this village.
The pilot and some Eskimos unloaded the cargo, a good bit of which belonged to the new teacher, for he had been told to buy enough food for a year!
The principal, Jim, was there to meet him and arranged for his goods to be brought to the little house where he would be living.
“This is your new home,” Jim said, opening the door to the fifteen by twenty foot structure. “This little kerosene stove is both to heat and to cook on. Over here in the corner is your
‘honey bucket’ toilet.” He pointed to a five gallon can with Pine-
sol covering the bottom.
“That Pinesol keeps the smell to a minimum. When it’s full, you’ll have to take it to the sea and dump it in. Your bed is in the attic. We insulated it well, so it should be fine, even when it hits 50 below zero!
“You get settled in and tomorrow we’ll talk about your teaching assignment.”
It turned out that his work was teaching the sixth, seventh and eighth grades of the school, all in one classroom. He had no training in teaching, no experience and very little support, but was willing to plunge in.
He found out that the abilities of the his students ranged from first grade through eleventh grade! Some couldn’t speak English at all, while others were fluent. It was, to say the least, a challenge to teach such a wide range of abilities.
His classroom was an old Quonset hut, the local National Guard Armory. He had to prepare 18 lessons each night, covering every subject three times. School was from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., a grueling schedule.
One way the new teacher decompressed from all this pressure was to visit some of the older Eskimos to learn more about the culture and history. One evening he went to visit Ayit and his wife.
In the course of the visit, he asked Ayit how he had become a believer in Christ. Ayit told the teacher of his time in Siberia, his understanding that there had to be a good Creator God, and about meeting Kalowi and accepting Christ as his Savior.
He also told about the pressures he and his family had had when they decided to follow Jesus. Then he went on to tell the continued story of God’s work on the island.
“Mr. Campbell and his wife left the village of Sivukuk for good in 1912 and they were replaced by less experienced teachers who stayed only for a year.
“In the next years, the commitment of Christians dwindled, with some going back to the old ways.”
“That’s too bad,” said the teacher.
“But,” Ayit continued, “God was not done and began to work with power in the lives of men who were influential in their families.”
“A man named Nungwok, a leader in Sivukuk, had a son who at age eight went blind. he had attended some church services with his son and had learned some about Jesus.
“As Nungwok was considering whether to follow Jesus or the old way, he heard at church how Jesus had healed the sick and blind. Instead of calling the shaman, he decided to pray to Jesus for his son.
“He went up on the mountain behind the village and, following the tradition of his people, he prayed, ‘O Jesus, my great-great-grandfather, I ask you to give my son his sight back. I don’t know what else to pray.’ And he went home to find his son seeing!
“Experiencing the powerful loving hand of God in answering his prayers led Nungwok to whole-heartedly embrace the Way of Jesus.”
“My goodness,” said the teacher, “that is amazing!”
“Yes,” replied Ayit, “it is, and it was only the first of many such miraculous things the Lord did to draw people to himself.”
picture: The Quonset hut where the teacher had his classes.