ByNAMB missionary Brenda Crim
It’s twenty below, the wind is blowing, and over 90 dog-sledding teams are
trekking across the unforgiving landscape of Alaska, enduring frostbite and
threats of hypothermia while balancing on two skids behind as many as 16 canine
marathoners. It’s the Iditarod—an 1,100-mile sled dog race across mountains,
glaciers, frozen lakes, rivers, and some of the roughest terrain known to man
and animal. It starts just north of Anchorage and ends on the Northwest shores
of the Bering Sea in the old west township of Nome.
Nome was a gold rush town, and still hosts saloons that are reminiscent of a
bygone era. Wyatt Earp’s establishment still stands in its original location,
but today houses the City Hall. If you want to see a view from the webcam, go
The camera shoots from a second story window of the Hall. And yes, that’s the
frozen Bering Sea in the background, unless you’re viewing in mid-May to
October when break-up reaches the shores.
The romance of the race lures the visceral adventurers into this rugged land
where mistakes are costly, perhaps even deadly, and where dialing 911 leaves a
vacant tone. It’s where you have to be able to get yourself out of any
predicament that you get yourself into. There are no safety nets for this act.
And these are the very challenges that while intimidating and repelling some,
they attract others—the gutsy maniacs drawn by the requisite of tenacity, grit,
and wit. It’s a race that is both exhilarating and
This race and its culture are much of the sinew that binds the people of
this land. That being so, it’s the perfect place for a multi-faceted outreach
project for mission-minded Christians to connect with the soul of Alaska.
Southern Baptists in Alaska call it Iditarod Outreach.
Imagine over 100 volunteers from SBC churches or Baptist Collegiate
Ministries in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada,
and Florida giving up their spring break, vacation time, and wages, and braving
the elements to serve selflessly and impact the people of Nome with goodness
and the gospel. These volunteers hold up our arms, so to speak, as we
missionaries work in this great land to make Christ known.
The Southerners come, decked out in layer after layer of their warmest gear
and willing to do whatever is asked of them. Gives me —and them—goose pimples
just thinking about it. They instantly multiply our witness and are a
formidable work force.
Iditarod Outreach’s task is to reach two relatively distinctive people
groups that emerge in Nome during this time: 1) The Alaskan Native community
from villages in and around Nome; and 2) Race personnel and tourists of the
Iditarod. It is the goal of the strategists of Iditarod Outreach to penetrate
every possible avenue in both realms. Here’s a glimpse into the varied
ministries and service projects that are saturated by believing volunteers:
Iditarod Race Headquarters Volunteers
Our teams provide the majority of the volunteer force needed to manage the
race at the official headquarters of the Iditarod. They permeate every facet of
the race with smiling faces and generous hearts. Their work ethic and kindness
melts away agnostic hostility. Below are some of the areas in which we
assisted race officials.
Christian Pilots and Baptist Missionaries
Another feature of our outreach was an Arctic village tour with evangelistic
sports events. We boarded a bush plane with performer Tanya Crevier, the
World’s Best Female Basketball Handler, and hosted half-time shows and
evangelistic rallies at several villages: in Noorvik’s Tournament, Kiana’s High
School Gym, and Kotzebue’s National Guard Armory gym. Tanya drew the hearts of
young and old to enjoy her amazing skills while hearing an inspiring message.
Fourteen accepted Christ in Kotzebue as a result. In addition,
relationships were strengthened in the villages on the behalf of the nearby
Can you imagine the experience had by Charlie Parnell, Curtis Goodion, and
Stacy Montgomery of Longview, Texas, as they flew across the Arctic with Wes
Price (Christian Pilots Association) to aid in the basketball shows? These men
packed into a small Cessna and hopped villages to aid us in our rallies. They
arrived grinning, having spotted musk ox, caribou, and moose along the
And bouncing along behind the entourage was Marvin Savoie, a true-blue Cajun
from the swamps of south Louisiana. He ventured more than 200 miles by snow
mobile to villages Noorvik, Kiana, and Kotzebue to aid in our basketball shows.
He tasted the Native lifestyle, full-throttle across the frozen tundra,
escorted by arctic missionary, John Forrester, and Kotzebue church member, Dan
Sheldon. The icing on the cake was getting to ice-fish with Dan and catching
several sheefish?? (I had never heard of these either, before moving to Alaska
three years ago.) The Cajun went home with plenty of stories to tell the folks
back in Lafayette.
To sum it up, we had a big wild ride in Alaska. More than 70 people
made decisions for Christ and hundreds were encouraged in the Lord. A strong
Christian presence permeated the Iditarod finish line, and several thousand
volunteer man-hours were given to the community of Nome, in the name of our
Lord. Jesus and basketball touched the hearts of ballers across the arctic. Our
visiting teams indulged in the wilds of the Arctic while sharing Christ,
etching their memories with unforgettable snapshots. And after they left, our
Alaskan missionaries were encouraged and strengthened to continue the task
Iditarod Outreach is an annual outreach event spurred by the Baptist
Collegiate Ministry and Chugach Baptist Association. It is a partnership effort
with the Alaska Baptist Convention and the Evangelism Division of the North
American Mission Board. Go to www.iditarodoutreach.com for more
Brenda Crim is a missionary serving at the University of
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC