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Methodists head north to Alaska

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By Susan Sharp

With not only backing but a blessing from their church, the LaFollette United Methodist Church (LUMC) Mission Team will travel to Alaska on Saturday.

During Sunday’s service, Dr. Kenneth Faught held a commissioning service for the eight members of the team.

“They are a part of us,” Faught said to the congregation of the church. “They will represent us.”

As the group stood in front of their fellow church members, Faught led the service where worshippers asked for the group to be richly blessed while in Willow, Alaska.

“Through our prayers we will be united with you in your work,” the congregation said in unison.

“Everybody is very excited,” said team member Marie Kile of the upcoming trip.

The eight-member team, along with John, Gayle and Allie Crabtree of the Jacksboro- Caryville United Methodist Church, will spend a week in Willow. While there the group will install doors and windows in the Willow United Methodist Church parsonage.

Twelve-hour days filled with labor await the group. However, given that Alaska is bathed in sunlight this time of year, Kile said there are hopes for a little sight seeing.

The mention of a church mission trip often evokes thoughts of faraway, exotic lands, But Kile said that is not always the case.

The LUMC team was looking for a 2009 mission project when this opportunity arose, she said.

Over three years ago the mission committee wanted to travel to Willow to work with Methodist missionary Fran Lynch. However, at that time, there was a waiting list of churches who wanted to assist Lynch.

Fast forward a few years and a late night phone call changed things.

Around 10 p.m. one night, Kile said her phone rang with the news another church was not going to be able to fulfill their commitment this summer.

Kile said she jumped at the chance for the LUMC team to fill the spot.

Beginning in November, the group began planning and raising funds for the trip.

While members pay their own travel expenses, the team is still responsible for the money to purchase the building supplies it will put into the parsonage.

“Those items (doors and windows) are so much more expensive in Alaska,” Kile said.

Mission trips are often centered on spreading Christianity. But according to Kile, they can also be about more.

“It is a special experience together,” she said.

The trips are a time for fellowship and making a connection with not only fellow team members but within the host community.

During the course of the seven-day stay, Willow church members will sponsor an Alaskan potluck meal for the team.

“It is not a large community,” Kile said of the area that will act as host for the LUMC team.

Along with the Crabtrees and Kile, Keith Kile, Phil and Diane Carr, Bill Grieve, Ray Penn and Gretchen Hakola will make the trip. Nancy Grieve, a member of the team, will stay in LaFollette, assisting with issues that may arise.

Visit this story at www.lafollettepress.com to wish the team farewell.