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Gambell Presbyterian Church

Can a village on the edge of nowhere provide the spark for a new revival of the faith? Can a building project engage countless congregations in the work that God is doing there? Might your congregation be part of this movement of God’s Spirit – providing funding or sending a work team to help with this unique mission effort?


 

On a rocky island in the Bering Sea, just 30 miles from the coast of Siberia, the Eskimo village of Gambell Alaska is home to a Presbyterian congregation with a big vision. They want to see a new revival sweep the Church, and they hope it will start with them.

“I have a great big hope for the village of Gambell,” says Beulah Nowpakahok, a commissioned ruling elder who serves as the congregation’s lay pastor. “In fact I’ve been praying for it. Something new is going to happen, like the Lord said. There is going to be a revival.”

Life in Gambell is far from easy – the village relies for food on what they can gather from the sea and the rocky shore. Whale, walrus and seal are their primary food sources. And climate change is making hunting more difficult than ever.

Increasing water temperatures, and changes in the sea ice around the island have made hunting more difficult for this subsistence community, and the wildlife they rely on to feed the village is harder and harder to reach.

“Most of what we depend on – the seals, the sea birds, the walrus, the whales – we haven’t seen them yet [this year],“ explained Merle Apassingok, an elder of Gambell Church. Another elder, Mike, said three to four whales are needed each year to feed the village. Last year, their hunters only got one.

All the same, their village is growing, and their faith that God will use them to spread the Gospel far and wide has convinced the congregation and the Yukon Presbytery to undertake ministries that are bold and exciting.

The Presbytery is helping the congregation to build a new building at the center of the village, which has moved a mile inland from the site of the existing church. A mile may not seem far, but when winter temperatures can regularly reach 30 below zero, and snow drifts are ten feet high, villagers will not travel even a mile outside the confines of the village.

In addition to hosting weekly worship, the new building is planned to house a much needed food bank for the community, as well as ministries to meet other community needs.

For decades, the church has also hosted a Wycliffe Bible Translators team, which is translating the scriptures into the Yupik Eskimo language. The church and presbytery hope to dedicate the New Testament translation at the same time they open the new church in 2016. Church leaders expect that God will use the new translation to help them share the Gospel with relatives across the Bering Sea in Siberia, as well as on the Alaskan mainland.

Mission work teams are invited to come to Gambell to help build out the interior of the new church building, defraying costs of labor. Donations are also being sought to help cover the costs of building materials. Because everything must be shipped to the island by barge or small plane, costs to build the new structure are estimated at $500/square foot.


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The old Gambell church is a mile outside the new village.   The new, larger church at the center of village life.
     
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Eight children and two adults are baptized at the old church on July 5, 2015.   Gambell’s Presbyterians pray that God will use them to spark a revival that spreads across two continents.

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