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Remote Alaska Villages Work to Give Pastors Livable Homes

ELIM, AK (October 1, 2014) — Two village churches have begun raising $195,000 to build new parsonages because the homes where their pastors were living were in terrible disrepair. The rural communities of Elim and Scammon Bay needed the housing so pastors could continue to serve there.

Scammon Bay

“Housing in rural communities is extremely limited, so without adequate housing, pastors cannot serve in residence unless a parsonage is provided,” field director Curtis Ivanoff said. “We are praying to have funding in May for materials to be barged up from Seattle and work teams and project leaders in place to construct the parsonage in the summer of 2015.”

Given the unique challenges of securing supplies, laborers, and construction expertise in the small communities, the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska is supporting the effort by seeking partners from within Alaska as well as from the lower 48 states to collaborate in all phases of the project. That includes raising $390,000, identifying project coordinators, and scheduling construction teams.

In Elim, progress toward the new parsonage began in May when Pastor Bob Curtis and community members helped take down the previous structure which had extensive water damage, holes in the floor, and other significant maintenance issues.

Community government entities have supported the project. The city of Elim has granted permission for the church to build in an area designated for new development. The Native Village of Elim is also donating dirt and gravel for the local project. Nathan Nagaruk, originally from Elim, has designed the floor plan. He was heavily involved in the Nome Church project in 2013.

The 1,356 square foot, three-bedroom/two bathroom design is simple and efficient and will supply adequate space for a pastor’s needs. It will be similar to other homes in the communities, said Ivanoff. Included in the design is 130 square feet of arctic entry space, necessary for energy efficiency and managing harsh winter conditions.

Jason Stromstad has been serving in Scammon Bay, a village of 500, since 2010. He has been living in a home that many would consider un-livable due to significant water damage and other structural problems.

A team for the Pacific Northwest Conference and Arctic Barnabas Ministries worked on the parsonage in 2012 to repair the roof until the best course of action could be determined. It has been decided that a new construction is the best stewardship of funds and manpower.

“Given the importance of hospitality in Native culture, having a new parsonage will not only serve the personal needs of the pastor, but will also increase and enhance actual ministry within the village,” Ivanoff explained.

The plans drawn for the Elim church will serve as the basic design for the Scammon Bay parsonage. That home will likely be built in the current location just across from the church building.

“The scope of a project like this provides a great opportunity for the larger body of Christ to partner with a village church where resources are limited,” Ivanoff said. “The ECCAK staff will be praying for the needs and helping to connect the churches with resources and workers that God moves to assist in various ways.”

Donations to the parsonage project may be made online. If you or your church is interested in partnering in other ways, please contact Jen Steinbrecher at the ECCAK office or send an email.

About the Author

  • Marianne Peters is a freelance writer, master gardener, and environmental educator. She lives in Plymouth, Indiana with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two mischievous ginger cats called Fred and George (after the Weasley twins of Harry Potter fame). From 2008-2013 she wrote the Creation Care column for Covenant Companion magazine. In 2011, her family decided to downsize by half, a decision that led to the publication of her book Declutter for Good: Share Your Life and Reclaim Your Life. She blogs about green living and gardening at www.freshwordswriting.com.

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