Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God Provides

During our ten years in Juneau, our church outgrew its building and built a new one on the edge of town. All the men of the church spent evenings and Saturdays donating labor to complete the structure. During that time, my dad served as an usher in the church. One Sunday, he and another usher, Harry Bates, were talking when Harry said, "A Christian has to be ready to pray, preach, or die." Those words stuck in our minds, because they were Harry's last words to my father. That week, the oil tanker he was driving was involved in an accident, which resulted in an explosion, and Harry Bates was killed.

It wasn't long before my father was preaching full time. My grandparents, who had built and had been pastoring the church in Pelican for ten years, retired. My dad was appointed as the new missionary to Pelican. Most new missionaries in Alaska itinerated from church to church in the States to raise support before coming to the Territory of Alaska. Since he was already there, he did not get that opportunity. So my family moved to Pelican by faith. The Juneau church pledged $30.00 a month toward our support, but that was no where near what was needed to support a family of six.

The family moved to Pelican in February 1958. There, my dad renewed acquaintance with a man he had known while stationed in Ketchikan in the Coast Guard during World War II. Pros Ganty owned a float plane, and my father had flown with him a few times. Now, Pros Ganty owned the Pelican Cold Storage Company, Pelican's primary employer. He hired my dad to do the inventory for the general store that winter.

Pelican is built on piling along a boardwalk that stretches a mile along the rugged coastline of Lizianski Inlet, on Chicagof Island. Winter storms off the Pacific hit the mountains of the Alexander Archipelago and dump heavy amounts of snow all winter long on Pelican. For ten years, the "city" had hired my grandfather to shoveled that long boardwalk. After he left, Pros Ganty hired my father to do it.

During the first summer in Pelican, my dad bought an old skiff with a small outboard motor and trolled the inlet for salmon. That year, my parents froze, smoked, and canned a lot of salmon, which supplied us with protein all that winter. My mother became quite creative in coming up with new ways to serve salmon!

The next summer, a Christian fisherman who visited us whenever he was in port, hurt his back and had to go to Sitka for a spinal fusion. His 18-year-old son could not operate the boat alone, so my father fished with him for the rest of the summer.  Most times, though, when they would haul in a fish, seals would steal it right off the line, leaving only the fish head before they had a chance to get it into the boat. (In spite of that, one of my favorite memories of our years in Pelican is of the week I spent on the Alitak as "chief cook and bottle washer" out on Cross Sound where Icy Strait meets the open Pacific.)

With his part-time jobs, plus fishing and hunting for deer, and the fish given to us by fishermen, my dad was able to keep food on the table. During the summer months, we picked blueberries for cobblers and pies. The cannery cookhouse, the only restaurant in town, hired my mother, an excellent baker, to make pies and sheet cakes. My foster sister and I did a lot of babysitting at fifty cents an hour to buy our own clothes. Even though the budget didn't balance on paper, God supplied our needs. We never felt deprived, and I have many fond memories of those years in Pelican, which often inform my writing.

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