Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Christmas I Learned About My Heavenly Father

Instead of writing a new post this week, I'm sharing the guest blog post I wrote that went live Tuesday. Here is the link:

https://allbettsareoff.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/the-christmas-i-learned-about-my-heavenly-father-annalee-conti/ 

Hope you enjoy it!

Looking for Christmas presents? For inspirational reads, take a look at my books at www.annaleeconti.com/books.html




Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Costliest Christmas Gift Is Free



Recently, I came across this photo of my son opening a gift on his second Christmas. I love how this snapshot captures how much  he enjoyed the unwrapping perhaps even more than the gift itself.

The next year, his Christmas gift came in a big box. After opening it, he ignored the gift and  played contentedly for hours crawling through that box, pushing it around, and sitting in it until he exhausted himself and fell asleep in it. In those early years, an empty box would have been gift enough.

Now, he has five children of his own. His two youngest will graduate from high in the spring. I don't think any of them would appreciate an empty box this year! They've grown up.

As we approach Christmas, we often get so caught up with decorating the tree, baking goodies for our Christmas celebrations, and the difficult task of finding just the right gifts for friends and family that we forget the real reason for  the season--God's Gift to us of His Son, Jesus. Emmanuel, God with us!

God's Gift didn't come in any fancy wrapping paper. No, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger where spotless, newborn lambs were prepared for the Temple sacrifices.

God couldn't go to a mall to find just the right gift. He gave Himself that we might have everlasting life.  

God's Gift didn't come in any fancy wrapping paper. No, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger where spotless, newborn lambs were prepared for the Temple sacrifices.

God couldn't go to a mall to find just the right gift. He gave Himself that we might have everlasting life. All the money in the world couldn't pay for such a costly Gift as the one God freely gives to us.

The only caroling that Christmas was the angels singing to the shepherds out on a cold hillside watching sheep at night under the stars, inviting them to come and worship.

And the only traveling that Christmas was not in jetliners or cars, but on camels' backs as the Wise Men followed a star  to come and worship the Christ Child.

There was no gaily decorated tree--only a shadow of a rugged cross, for He came to die to save His people from their sins.

No bells rang out the joyful news, but in the streets of Bethlehem, the shepherds proclaimed His birth to all who would listen.

The only baby shower was Herod's slaughter of all the innocent babies in Bethlehem, but God warned Joseph to  take the young child and his mother and flee before the soldiers arrived.

Courtesy Google.com

How sad God's heart must feel to see His children more enthralled with the wrappings and traditions of the season than with His most precious Gift itself! This Christmas, let's not be like toddlers who are more interested in the wrappings of a gift. Instead, let's keep our focus on the Gift--Jesus. Let's  give ourselves to Him in worship and be His hands and His feet in this sorrowful world.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Winter Snows

As a child I lived near Lena Point in Juneau, Alaska, 1949-1954.

Instead of the 4-8 inches forecast, we had a 14.5-inch snowfall on November 15, 2018; others places had more. We had a scary ride home that day.. When we left home at 3:45 p.m. for a 4:15 appointment with my podiatrist, a few tiny scattered flakes were falling, but Bob had experience driving in snow. We thought we would be home before it grew too deep. Our trip there took the expected 20 minutes. 

When we left the doctor's at 5:00 p.m., though, the snow was coming down fast and furiously, with 2-3 inches already on the ground. In nearly whiteout conditions on Route 9, it took a nerve-wracking 45 minutes to get within a mile of our house. A long line of traffic ahead of us on Business Route 52 to go up and over the hill to our mobile home park was blocked--both lanes, and snow was building up on our windshield. The wipers could scarcely keep up. We were able negotiate a turn and pulled in to the 84 Diner. Snow was well above our ankles. We ate a nice dinner in a warm, dry place and decided to try to get home. It took 15 minutes to clean off the car. Bob couldn't keep ahead of the falling snow. Police still blocked the road! 

We tried Old Glenham Road, but the snow was so deep people were getting stuck there too. Again we turned around. We thought we'd have to try to get a room at the Quality Inn. Lo and behold, we discovered that Route 52 was now open, so we headed up the hill toward home. In our park our road had been plowed, but a huge berm we knew we couldn't navigate filled our driveway. It was too much for Bob to shovel out.

Just then, the plow came by and cleared the berm away. The snow was at least 8 inches in our driveway, but we were able to get the car out of the street but that was all. We waded through the snow to our steps. Bob grabbed the shovel he'd left on the porch and cleared a narrow path up the steps. By then our hair, clothes, and shoes were caked with snow, but we'd made it into our house! 

Bob was so grateful to be home that he raised his hands and thanked the Lord over and over for preparing each step of the way. Bob had an appointment early the next morning too, but after our experience the night before, he decided it wasn't worth trying to dig out--he'd reschedule.
Thompson Pass on the way to Valdez, Alaska, gets the second highest snowfall in the world
Do you enjoy snow or dread it? Many people in New York are snowbirds. They go south for the winter to avoid the snow. The Arctic tern, though, is the migration champion of the world. Every winter they fly 11,000 miles to escape frigid temperatures. Or do they? The coldest weather               ever recorded on earth, -127 degrees, was noted at Antarctica's South Pole in August 1960.

As an Alaskan, I missed the snow so much the first year I went "outside" to Seattle for college that for Christmas my grandmother gave me a beautiful photo of snow to hang on my wall. 


Courtesy Google.com
Scientists tell us that every snowflake is unique in design, but each one has six sides.The Bible records the fact that God faithfully sends the rain and snow from heaven in the same way He sends His Word, and it will accomplish all He intends it to. 

Where my father lives, irrigation is essential for fruit and other crops to grow. And irrigation is dependent on winter's snowfall in the surrounding mountains. When you see the winter snow, be reminded of a greater truth as it falls from heaven: God will fulfill His promises. And that"s something to be grateful for.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Why Thanksgiving?

Courtesy Google.com
As Thanksgiving Day approaches this week, my thoughts have turned to a modern rendition of the old hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," I have heard on the Sound of Life Radio from time to time. The second verse always catches my attention:

Here I raise my Ebenezer;

Hither by Thy help I come.


It brings back a memory of a time years ago when an elderly Christian lady visited our new church planting in Gloversville, New York. She gave her testimony based on the word, Ebenezer, saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped me." 

I'd heard the word and knew the definition, but when I got home, I looked up Ebenezer in my concordance to find the story behind the word and found it in 1 Samuel 7:5-13. 

Samuel had just become judge over the Israelites and had gathered all the people at the town of Mizpah to confess their sins to the Lord and to worship Him. When their enemies, the Philistines, heard that all Israel had gathered in one place, they saw their opportunity to annihilate their enemy. They mobilized their army and advanced on the defenseless Israelites.

Fearfully, the Israelites begged Samuel to plead with the Lord to help them.

Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering when the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. The Lord spoke with such a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that the Philistines were thrown into great confusion. The Israelites soundly defeated them that day. From then on throughout Samuel's judgeship, the Philistines did not invade Israel again.

After their great victory, Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer (which means "the stone of help"), for he said, "Up to this point the Lord has  helped us!" (1 Samuel 7:12).

In the Psalms and in the New Testament Epistles, we are frequently admonished not to worry in the face of trouble but to make our requests known to God "with thanksgiving" (Philippians 4:6). 

Courtesy Google.com
Have you ever wondered why God tells us to pray with thanksgiving?  Thanksgiving is not only for God's benefit, but for ours too. As we give thanks, we are reminded of what God has done for us in the past, and our faith is strengthened to believe that He'll do it again in our present situation.

What impossible situation are you facing today? Remember the word Ebenezer! Up to this point the Lord has helped us. He's not going to quit helping us now.

This Thanksgiving Day let's thank God for all He has done for us. Not only on Thanksgiving Day, but let's continue to thank Him every day all year long.

Happy Thanksgiving!  



Thursday, November 15, 2018

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

4 Generations of Cousart-Contis at my parents'
60th wedding anniversary in 2004. Mother is gone
now. My dad will be 97 New Year's Day. Each
reunion is precious.
Family reunions can be a time of remembering old times and renewing relationships. During the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, families will gather everywhere to celebrate and reconnect. 

My husband and I have been driving or flying out to Washington State to visit my family nearly every summer since 2000. Since most of my family live there now, we always try to organize a family get-together while we are there,

The saying, "blood is thicker than water," refers to the closest of earthly relationships--the family. As wonderful as families can be, that relationship is fragile and temporary. We often get separated from our loved ones as family members move away (as we did). Families are often broken by misunderstandings or divorce. Ultimately and inevitably, death separates us.

But the Blood of Jesus is even thicker than family ties. God's family will last for eternity. Our spiritual family is a much stronger and a more permanent union than blood relationships.

Some of God's family are already in heaven. Some are still alive here on earth. But one glorious day when Jesus returns, the circle will be unbroken as all of God's family gather around the throne of God forever in one grand, never to broken reunion. As the gospel song says, "What a day of rejoicing that will be!"

Every time you gather together with other believers in a worship service is a spiritual family reunion. The fellowship of believers is a time of remembering God's help in times past, receiving spiritual renewal for the present, and preparing for that great Family Reunion in heaven.

Courtesy Google.com

The writer of the Book of Hebrews (10:25) commands us to "not give up meeting together...but encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." What day? The day of Christ's return. Every night as we listen to the news, we can see that that Day can't be far off.

When was the last time you attended your spiritual family reunion?


To read more about my missionary family, check out my book, Frontiers of Faith, the story of Charles C. and Florence L. Personeus, pioneer missionaries to Alaska, "The Last Frontier," 1917-1982, at http://annaleeconti.com/books.html


Also you can take a look at my historical Christian fiction stories, Alaskan Waters Trilogy, there too.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Cost of Discipleship

Jesus calls His disciples--Courtesy Google.com
Last week we learned that in America options are a way of life. But for the Christian discipleship is NOT optional. All Christians are called to be disciples of Christ. Today, I want to look at the cost and the compensation of discipleship.

The Cost of Discipleship

Whenever Jesus called people to become His disciples, He always spelled out the cost of discipleship.
The disciple must be willing to forsake all (Luke 14:26, 33. He must put Christ first. He must bear his cross (v. 27)--crucify himself (put his own desires to death), and follow Jesus (which speaks of obedience).

According to John 15:18-21, the disciple can expect to suffer for Christ. When we become like Jesus, the world that hates Him will hate us.

Part of counting the cost involves asking two pertinent questions: Can I afford to follow Jesus? Can I afford to refuse His demands? In other words, am I willing to pay the price of being a disciple of Christ? Am I willing to pay the price of not following His demands?

Courtesy Google.com
The price tag of not becoming a disciple is very high. First, the kingdom of God suffers. The Church suffers. The world suffers.

Second, not being a disciple of Christ cost you the abundant life Jesus came to bring--peace, joy, hope, power over sin, a life that counts for eternity.

Third, the nondisciple will be cast out.

In Luke 14:34, 35, Jesus referred to salt to illustrate His comments concerning discipleship: "If the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out."

If we claim to be Christians but do not serve the purpose for which we have been called, we will be cast out of the Kingdom.

The Compensation for Discipleship

Jesus, however, not only pointed out the cost of discipleship. He also described the rewards. The
rewards in this life are numerous--a sense of meaning and fulfillment, peace, joy, hope, power over sin, to name a few.

In Mark 10:29, 30, Jesus told His disciples, "There is no one who has left houses and brothers and sisters and father and mother and wife and children and lands, for My sake and the gospel's who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life."

Florence LeFevre Personeus at 21
My grandmother, Florence Personeus, was disowned and disinherited by her father when she left home at 21 to prepare to be a missionary. She was no longer allowed to visit her mother or other family members in her childhood home. Her father did not even recognize his then white-haired daughter when he saw her 25 years later. Yet, God blessed her with a husband who shared her calling and they joyfully ministered together in Alaska for 65 years.

Lillian Trasher--the Nile Mother
Lillian Trasher broke her engagement a week before the wedding to answer the Lord's call to go to Egypt as a missionary. In so doing, she felt she was giving up her dream of having a dozen children. But God made her "Mama" to more than 8,000 homeless orphans in the land of the Nile.

The disciple is also enlightened by Christ. In John 8:12, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

The disciple is guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, "When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). We can count on His guidance.

And in eternity the disciple will be acknowledged by Christ. In Matthew 12:50, Jesus promises, "Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." The disciple will be honored by the Father. John 12:26 promises, "If any man serves Me, him My Father will honor." In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, the apostle Paul described the crown of righteousness the Lord will give to all who have loved His appearing, who finish the race and keep "the faith."

Since the compensations are so great, why do so few become disciples of Christ?

Jesus described several reasons: "The cares of this life," "the deceitfulness of riches," the inordinate attraction of entertainment ("eat, drink, and be merry"). Family, jobs, relaxation are important, but we can become so busy doing good things we neglect our relationship with Jesus--the essence of discipleship.

People make many excuses for not serving the Lord, but they are only excuses. People do what they want to do.

Let's examine our true desires and intentions as reflected in the responses and choices we make each day. Are we truly disciples of Christ? Remember, for the Christian, discipleship is not optional.


You can read more about Florence Personeus in my book, Frontiers of Faith, available at http://annaleeconti.com/books.html.



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Discipleship Is Not Optional

When we bought a new car recently, we found many exciting new options: 4 or 6 cylinder engine, exterior and interior color, keyless entry and ignition, heated seats and mirrors, sunroof or not, push-button seat adjusters on front passenger seat, to name a few. Each option added to the cost, but the benefits of certain options outweighed that.

We chose this ruby flame 2018 Toyota Camry XLE now parked in our driveway.
When we purchased appliances for our home, we discovered another dazzling array of options. Health insurance and life insurance policies, investment plans, vacation packages all offer exciting options. Cable TV offers myriad channels to choose from.

Options are a way of life in America.


Options appear even in church. Many churches today have two or more Sunday worship times. Bible classes, home groups, and Christian service organizations offer a wide range from which to choose.
 
Some things, however, are NOT optional. With the belief that truth is relative that is so prevalent  today, Americans have a tendency to view discipleship as being only for super Christians. But that is not what the Bible says.
 

Discipleship is NOT Optional!


The word disciple occurs 269 times in the New Testament, while the term Christian only three times. The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus. Perhaps the invitation to become a Christian should be renamed the call to discipleship.
 
The goal of the Great Commission is to "make disciples," not just converts. All the New Testament benefits and promises presuppose the person is a disciple of Christ.

What is a disciple? According to Bible dictionary definitions, a disciple is a person who not only accepts what Christ taught but also practices it.

The Call to Discipleship

The call to discipleship is issued to all. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

In Jesus' day, "to take up one's cross" referred to the cruel Roman execution by crucifixion. It meant dying to one's own desires and leaving all to follow Christ. Jesus' disciples left jobs, homes, and families to travel with Him. 

No online courses, no how-to books, no 2-day seminars were available. They had to be with Jesus to learn how to do what He did. They learned by observing Him and then doing what He demonstrated.

Today, we do not have to leave home to follow Jesus around the countryside, yet our priorities and intentions must be the same. The goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus--to seek to rearrange our lives to that end.

What are the requirements for discipleship?

The primary requirement of a disciple is to "seek...first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33), just as Jesus did.

Courtesy Google.com
The Kingdom, which includes our relationship with the King and the King's kids, must become our first priority. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).

From other Scripture passages we know that Jesus did not intend for us to literally hate our family members. He used a figure of speech called hyperbole, an extreme exaggeration, to make a point. Our love for Jesus must be so high on the continuum that in comparison our love for our families is closer to hate.

Second, becoming like Jesus involves ministering to others as He did. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Mark 10:45). He came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). Jesus left His disciples the responsibility of telling the good news to everyone.

We are all essential to God's plan for the salvation of souls for His kingdom. God has given each of us a ministry of helping others become mature disciples. If someone is not doing his part, all of us suffer and are hindered in our work for Christ.

In my next  blog post I plan to explore the cost and the compensation of discipleship. I hope you'll join me.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Give Yourself Away

In May 1967, my husband, Bob, graduated from college and received a regular commission as a second lieutenant in the Untied States Army.

Bob (holding his commission) & AnnaLee graduated from University of Alaska, 1967
Bob in Vietnam, 1969
Bob intended to make the Army his career. He gave himself to the Army. We were separated at least half of our first three years of marriage, including a tour in Vietnam. The Army was his life. His emphasis was on his career--on his goals.

In 1973, God called Bob into full-time service in His army. Bob resigned his commission and went to Bible school and seminary to prepare for the ministry. Four years later, we began planting a new church in Gloversville, New York.

Later, Bob observed, "When I was in the Army with the intent of making it my career, my emphasis was on me. I gave myself to the Army. Now that I am serving in Christ's army, the emphasis is on Him. I gave myself to Christ. The important thing is not us giving, but rather to whom we have given ourselves."

We must ask ourselves, "To whom am I giving myself?"

The Apostle Paul said, "For me to live is Christ." Can we say that? Are we truly giving ourselves to Christ?

How do we give ourselves to Christ? Does it entail becoming a pastor or a missionary?

It may, but every Christian is called to give himself or herself  to Christ to do His will. As Christians, we are called to do everything as unto the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Martin Luther
Martin Luther, whom we celebrate this week for setting in motion the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his 95 theses on the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, pointed out that one did not need to be a monk or a nun to consecrate oneself to God's service. Even the milkmaid can serve God, he declared. Doing everything in obedience to God and to the glory of God is the key.

As we go to our jobs each day, as we care for our families, as we do our daily chores, we can do it all to the glory of God. Even in the mundane chores, we can focus on the truth that "for me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).


I remember as a child singing a chorus, "I'll Do It All for Jesus." Hear it on YouTube.
Here are the lyrics:

In the house and out of doors
Scrubbing pots and sweeping floors,
Washing, ironing, mending too;
These are things that I can do.

I’ll do it all for Jesus,
I’ll do it all for Jesus,
I’ll do it all for Jesus,
For He’s done so much for me.

In the house and out of doors
Chopping wood and doing chores,
Pounding nails or driving screws;
These are things that I can do.

In the schoolroom through the week
Keep me, Lord, both pure and meek;
Doing lessons neatly too;
Hard or easy, help me through.

Let's make that our motto!

Check out my books at www.annaleeconti.com



Thursday, October 18, 2018

God's Beauty Products

Have you noticed all the ads appearing on Facebook about celebrities who are quitting their careers to sell an anti-aging face cream? The before and after photos show a remarkable difference, but I wonder if the cream is really what it's cracked up to be.

My Grandma Personeus never wore makeup, but she had a such a beautiful complexion that many people asked her what products she used. In spite of a rugged missionary life in Alaska for 65 years, she had flawless skin well into her old age (she lived to be 96), but her beauty came from the inside out.
Grandma & Grandpa Personeus, missionaries to Alaska 1917-1982, in their seventies
I read about another elderly woman whose complexion belied her age. She was asked what brand of beauty aids she used. With a sparkle of youth in her eyes, she said it was probably God's own brand.

She went on to elaborate. "I use for my lips, truth; for my voice, kindness; for my eyes, compassion; for my hands, charity; for my figure, uprightness; for my heart, love; for any who do not like me, prayer."

We won't find these beauty aids advertised on television or the Internet, nor will we find them on the counters of our favorite stores. No one will provide them for us in colorful, expensive packaging.

No, we will have to look into God's Word to find the beauty of the Lord: "Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God" (1 Peter 3:3-4, NLT).

Courtesy Pinterest.com
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't do our best to look our best, but our emphasis needs to be on our inward beauty.

God's beauty comes from the inside out. We can put makeup on our faces, but only God's beauty can give us that inner glow. And it is only by having the beauty of Jesus shining out of our lives that the works of our hands will be established for us.

No matter how ugly our lives have become, it is never too late to go to God's beauty salon. Jesus came "to give [us] beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV).

He will give us a makeover from the inside out that will last for eternity. And the price is right. He will give us His makeover. It's free--but it's not cheep! It cost Him His precious blood on the cross of Calvary.

Let's go to Jesus for cleansing and allow His beauty to shine through us.

You can read the Personeuses' story in my book, Frontiers of Faith, available through my website, www.annaleeconti.com/books.html



Other books by AnnaLee Conti:


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Unknown Titanic of the West Coast

One hundred years ago, on October 25, 1918, the Canadian Pacific Steamship Princess Sophia wrecked on Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal near Juneau, Alaska, with no survivors. 

The sinking of the Princess Sophia is called the "Unknown Titanic of the West Coast." Why?

News of the worst maritime disaster ever in the Pacific Northwest was soon eclipsed by the worldwide Spanish influenza pandemic and the Armistice that concluded “the war to end all wars,” World War I on November 11, 1918. Few people even remember the disaster "that took down the North."

Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal north of Juneau
Courtesy Google.com
Lynn Canal is an 84-mile stretch of coastline that is never wider than 10 miles across. This narrow passage channels winds upwards of 70-80 knots and stirs the williwaw winds, violent gusts of cold wind blowing seaward off of the surrounding glacier-filled mountains. These winds, narrow passages, and intense weather conditions make this the most treacherous stretch of the 900-knot voyage from Vancouver to Skagway. 

Almost in the middle of the already narrow fjord, Vanderbilt Reef is a rocky outcrop of an underwater mountain. Hidden just below the surface at high tide, it is visible at low tide just above the surface. 

The balloon marks location of Vanderbilt Reef  Courtesy Google Maps


The Princess Sophia was built in 1911 and entered service in 1912 as one of several passenger, mail, and freight steamers built for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line that operated along the coast of British Columbia from Vancouver and Victoria up the Inside Passage to Skagway, Alaska. These coastal-class ships were known as “pocket liners,” not the luxurious ocean liners of the time, but smaller. Yet they offered a fair degree of comfort for passengers, especially in first class.

On October 23, the 245-foot ship, loaded with 353 passengers and crew, left Skagway, Alaska, at close to midnight, about 3 hours behind schedule. Soon after leaving, the ship ran into a blinding snowstorm in the narrow Lynn Canal.  

Princess Sophia stuck on Vanderbilt Reef Oct. 24, 1918
Courtesy Alaska State Library Historical Collection
Somehow, Sophia drifted off course in the snowstorm and rammed straight onto Vanderbilt Reef at full speed in the early hours of October 24. She sent a message by "wireless" to Juneau for help.

The enormity of the situation was not immediately obvious, and the passengers settled in to wait for refloating or rescue. First fishing boats, and then a U.S. Lighthouse Service tender arrived to help. With strong winds blowing down Lynn Canal, the captain of Sophia chose not to launch lifeboats into the rough seas thinking it more dangerous than remaining on board..
 
Another such grounding on another Lynn Canal reef a few years earlier had ended uneventfully when the passengers were transferred to a different vessel and the ship was refloated. Also likely on his mind was a recent sinking in Canadian waters in which lifeboats were launched prematurely, drowning all their occupants, while those who remained aboard were rescued.

Princess Sophia just hours after striking Vanderbilt Reef
Courtesy Alaska State Library Writer and Pond Collection

At high tide on the 24th, the Sophia was too stuck to float free. At the time, the Sophia's faulty barometer was rising, and it appeared that better weather may have been on the way. Instead, the weather deteriorated, and the rescue boats were unable to approach the jagged reef pounded by waves. Soon, they were forced to seek shelter behind a nearby island. 

It was blowing like crazy. The tide was rising. The bow of the Sophia was stuck on the reef, but the force of the wind and waves spun the vessel almost completely around and washed her off the reef. Dragging across the rock ripped out the ship's bottom, so when she reached deeper water near the navigation buoy, she sank sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. on October 25, 1918, taking all passengers and crew down with her. The only survivor was an oil-soaked dog.

Based on the evidence, this process seems to have taken about an hour. On board, Sophia's passengers knew they were in great danger. They donned life vests and wrote final letters to family. 

Sophia's wireless operator pleaded for help. "For God's sake, hurry, the water is in my room," was one of the last messages received by the Cedar, the lighthouse tender that lay sheltered behind a nearby island.

At that point, Cedar risked wrecking herself as she ventured out into the snowy night, but in the days before radar, it had no hope of getting near the Sophia. In those conditions, foghorns provided the only navigation method. The vessel crews listened for the echos of their own foghorns from the steep sides of Lynn Canal, while on board the Cedar they listened for the foghorn of a nearby lighthouse they could not see, despite its nearness.

The rising water in Sophia caused a boiler to explode, spilling thick bunker fuel into the water while those aboard attempted to launch lifeboats and reach shore. The pounding seas combined with congealing oil in the icy waters made that impossible. Everybody suffocated or drowned in the icy waters or died of exposure. 

With the Cedar unable to get near the Sophia due to the dangerous gale-force winds, there were no witnesses to the doomed vessel's final hours. In the morning, rescuers were able to finally make their way back to the Sophia. All that remained was 40 feet of her forward cargo mast. 

Princess Sophia's foremast was all that was visible on October 26, 1918.
This photo is taken from the reef. Cedar stands by near the reef.
Courtesy Winter & Pond Collection State of Alaska Digital Archives
A few letters survived in victims’ clothing. Here is one written by John R. “Jack” Maskell, found on his body and reprinted in papers of the day:

Shipwrecked off coast of Alaska

S.S. Princess Sophia

October 24, 1918

My own dear sweetheart,

I am writing this my dear girl while the boat is in grave danger. We struck a rock last night which threw many from their berths, women rushed out in their night attire, some were crying, some too weak to move, but the lifeboats were swung out in all readiness but owing to the storm would be madness to launch until there was no hope for the ship. Surrounding ships were notified by wireless and in three hours the first steamer came, but cannot get near owing to the storm raging and the reef which we are on. There are now seven ships near. When the tide went down, two-thirds of the boat was high and dry. We are expecting the lights to go out at any minute, also the fires. The boat might go to pieces, for the force of the waves are terrible, making awful noises on the side of the boat, which has quite a list to port. No one is allowed to sleep, but believe me dear Dorrie it might have been much worse. Just hear there is a big steamer coming. We struck the reef in a terrible snowstorm. There is a big buoy near marking the danger but the captain was to port instead [of] to starboard of [the] buoy. I made my will this morning, leaving everything to you, my own true love and I want you to give £100 to my dear Mother, £100 to my dear Dad, £100 to dear wee Jack, and the balance of my estate (about £300) to you, Dorrie dear. The Eagle Lodge will take care of my remains.

In danger at Sea.

Princess Sophia

24th October 1918

To whom it may concern:

Should anything happen [to] me notify, notify Eagle Lodge, Dawson. My insurance, finances, and property, I leave to my wife (who was to be) Miss Dorothy Burgess, 37 Smart St., Longsight, Manchester, England

The disaster has been referred to as the shipwreck that “took the North down with it.” Of the nearly 250 northerners on board, one-eighth of the non-Native population of the entire Yukon at that time, none survived. Entire families were obliterated. 

Government leaders and prominent businessmen from Alaska and the Yukon, colorful prospectors from the Klondike Gold Rush, and the crews of twelve Yukon River steamers, including three captains, went down with her. The city of Dawson, with a population of less than 8,000 in 1918, lost 175 citizens in a single stroke.

Beacon on Vanderbilt Reef Courtesy NOAA
Only after the sinking of the Princess Sophia did the US government finally put up a lighted beacon on Vanderbilt Reef. 





The historic sinking of the Princess Sophia plays a significant role in my recent book, Beside Still Waters, Book Three of my Alaskan Waters Trilogy.  My account of the infamous loss was drawn from newspaper headlines and is faithful to the historical data. It is available in paperback and eBook at my website: www.annaleeconti.com and on Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  iTunes, etc. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Down Memory Lane Conclusion

Arriving in Valdez, we drove around to find the church we had been married in 51 years before. As we pulled up in front of it on Eklutna Street, a young man exited the parsonage next door with a dog. 

"Are you the pastor?" I asked.

"No, I'm his son. My parents are away for a few weeks."

We chatted a few minutes. We asked if we could see inside, but he didn't have the keys, so he offered to take our photo standing at the curb in front of the church sign attached to a frame holding the bell from belfry of the original Assemblies of God church in the old town of Valdez. After the 1964 Earthquake, the entire town had had to be moved five miles away to a safer location, and the old town was demolished. (To read more about this, go to http://annaleeconti.blogspot.com/2017/03/when-foundations-tremble.html).

On our wedding day inside Valdez Assembly of God in 1967

Valdez Assembly of God c. 1967 when my father was pastor

Valdez Assembly of God summer of 2018. The entry has been remodeled and the building repainted.
We ate lunch (fish and chips) and drove around taking more photos of the mountains surrounding Valdez before checking in at our hotel.







Arch over the road into Valdez





The next morning we ate breakfast in the hotel. The dining room was decorated with trophies of moose, Dall sheep, and other Alaskan animals.

Clouds had rolled in overnight. We headed back to Anchorage via the Glenn Highway.

Nelchina Glacier from the Glenn Highway

Gunsight Mountain (named for the notch in the flat top where the cloud sits above it)

Lion's Head (in center of photo where roadway rises)

We ate lunch at Sheep Mountain Lodge where I petted a grizzly!
From Sheep Mountain, the road narrowed as we wound our way through the Chugach Mountains. Traffic became heavier too, making it difficult to stop to take more photos as we drove past Matanuska Glacier, which I hiked on in 1957 when I was 11 years old and attending Victory Bible Camp. We continued along the Matanuska River a few miles farther, where we past the entrance to the camp.

From the mountains, we entered the Matanuska Valley famous for its gigantic cabbages and pumpkins. Due to the long hours of sunlight just below the Arctic Circle, vegetables and flowers grow to an enormous size--if the moose don't eat them first!

We stayed in Anchorage over the weekend, making day excursion to Eagle River on Saturday, and Wasilla on Monday to visit several friends from high school.

On Tuesday, we reluctantly said goodbye to Alaska and flew to Seattle to rent a car and visit friends and family in Washington and Oregon.