Here I am, sitting in my cozy room a little over a month since I moved up to Wasilla, Alaska from my beloved state of Minnesota.
If you would have told me back in high school that I would be living in Alaska working as a youth director at a church, I would have likely scoffed and/or laughed at the idea. Come to think of it, if you would have told me that 3 months ago, I would have had the same reaction.
That being said, I am really glad I made the move. This is one of those opportunities that falls into a person’s life so rarely, and I would have most assuredly regretted not taking up the challenge.
The challenge I refer to isn’t just the physical act of moving here– it includes a certain element of “starting over” in some ways; establishing myself in a place where I knew nobody. The challenge includes working with young people who have a whole different set of issues, priorities and life views than I was previously aware of. The challenge includes building up trust with a whole new congregation- one which I didn’t grow up in. There’s the key difference between my previous job at my Minneapolis-based Westwood Lutheran Church and this one at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Wasilla.
It’s a challenge I am learning to love and embrace, even through the frustrations, hesitant push-backs and the sometimes difficult sets of discourse that have to happen when change comes rolling into your town.
And change has been rolling into this region in a big, big way.
Just to put things in perspective, I moved up to Wasilla almost exactly a year after the 2008 presidential election in which this town’s darling, Sarah Palin lost the Vice Presidential race. I moved up to Alaska during its 50th year of statehood. And I am working with a group of children and youth who are arguably the tail end of the first generation of born-and-bred Alaskan Americans. What I mean by that is most of their parents moved here from somewhere else– I have yet to meet any third-generation Alaskans who aren’t native in the American Indian sense. From a statehood culture standpoint, they are much like my great-grandparents who were a part of a young Minnesota, and it will be fascinating to see how that plays out in the next few decades as they grow into adulthood.
Minnesota celebrated its 50th birthday in 1908– 101 years ago. Long-distance radio messages were sent for the first time this year and Japanese immigration to the U.S. was forbidden. Frederick Cooke claims to have reached the North Pole in 1908. Ford’s Model T was first released, Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire, and the world welcomed baby Milton Berle while saying farewell to Butch Cassidy. All of this happened during Minnesota’s 50th year.
Alaska has been celebrating its 50-year anniversary while we have watched our first black president be inaugurated. We’re all participants in a fairly deregulated worldwide online community through social networking sites and cell phone technology. The Ottoman Empire is scantly taught in World War I history lessons, we are facing pressure to drive more innovative and efficient cars, and Milton Berle has been buried in Burbank for nearly a decade.
It’s fascinating to look at the world through the lens of 50 years of statehood.
I hesitate to continue writing in fear of being too windy. That being said, I’m really enjoying my job so far, I’ve met some really great people, and my living conditions are great– I have received a welcome that was much more benevolent than I could have imagined.
And, just to answer all the questions I’ve been getting daily from friends and family:
- No, I have not met or seen Sarah Palin yet.
- No, I cannot see Russia from my house, or anywhere in this city
- Yes, there are moose everywhere. And they’re monstrously huge.
Thanks for stopping by– check back often, as I intend on contributing thoughts from the Valley often.
Stay safe, and be good to each other.