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!

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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).

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,

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
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: 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

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.