Friday, June 22, 2012

How Many Lutheran's Does it Take to Fix a Mower?

The new DCE intern, Ryan has taken no time at all to jump in with both feet and dig in to all that Our Redeemer Lutheran Church can throw at him. Today Ryan helped out as we sorted out all the necessary supplies for each day of VBS.

We made piles labeled "Day 1", "Day 2" etc. and placed all the items in their corresponding places. Dice, rubber bands, buckets, and crayons all the necessities to preach, teach, and connect the kids who will walk through the doors to Jesus.

Each year a group from the Alaska Mission For Christ (AMC) comes to help lead our VBS. This year we have a crew coming up from Peoria Illinois. With VBS starting on Monday the first of the group arrived today. I received a phone call from Dave that he was hanging out at the hotel in Eagle River and asked if he could help with any VBS prep. Of course, I would not turn down the offer. He told me that he did not have a car and would need a ride. I told him that I would send Ryan.

I hung up the phone and Ryan asked "So who am I picking up and where am I going?" What a trooper! Ryan picked up Dave. Once back at church we all got to work. Dave painted our newly built puppet stage, and Ryan and I continued sorting the supplies.

Lunch time rolled around and Dave needed a ride to the Anchorage airport to meet another one of the Illinois group. Ryan willingly offered.

I stayed back at church, printing and editing the final VBS lesson plans. As things came up that were needed I texted Ryan "We need eyedroppers", " "Don't forget the curtain rod", "never mind I found eyedroppers you don't need to get them", "have you left the store? If not pick-up a poster board".

Meanwhile back at church Dave arrived back from the airport with reinforcements a guy named Del. With VBS prep done for the day and they willing to work I sent them out to mow.

We only had one riding lawn mower, and one working push mower. With the rocky, and steep terrain around the church I knew a weed whacker would be needed. I called Gaye, and she offered to borrow her electric and gas whacker.

My little car could not carry them so I called Ryan. He was on his way back from Anchorage and I asked him, yet again, to run another errand--get the weed whackers. I felt bad but he was open to getting them.
Meanwhile back at church, Dave fired up the mower only to find it was out of gas. We emptied the remaining drops of gas from the gas can into the mower. I grabbed the empty cans and piled in the car to fill them up. As I was leaving Dave took off on the mower only to be covered in clouds of black smoke and stench of burning rubber. The belt broke on the rider mower.

At this point Ryan arrived with the two weed whackers. I took the broken belt to run into town for a new one. I went to SBS, AiH, and Napa with no luck for a belt. Finally I found one at O'reilly's. Just then I recieved a text from Ryan that we needed 2 stroke mix for the weed whacker.

I arrived back at church and Dave attempted to put the belt on the mower but we needed tools. Ryan and I gathered what limited tools the church possessed (4 wrenches, a crescent wrench, and pliers). Unfortunately we needed some more extensive tools specifically a Torx (star) Screwdriver, in or der to remove the safety flap to get the belt on.

I called Terri and she passed the message to Chuck. Chuck has a few sizes of Torx and within a few minutes Terri and Chuck personally delivered them. With the belt successively on Dave and Ryan worked to get the hairpins back on and mower deck in place.
Yay Dave! What a blessing all the way from Illinois
With the mower back in one piece Dave fired up the mower again this time to find that rocks were being viciously thrown from under the deck. Upon further investigation Dave learned that the adjustable shoulder bolt needed, well, adjusting. Dave tried, Ryan tried, the WD-40 tried, but the nut on the shoulder bolt would not budge. Dave speculated that it had NEVER been adjusted since it was manufactured.

He's not been here a week and Ryan is fixin' the mower like a boss!
Dave removed the whole shoulder bolt but could not move the nut. So I called Len knowing that he would have a vice that would allow for more tork. I brought the whole piece to Len and after three attempts got the nut to move.
Len can do anything!
I returned to church with the shoulder bolt and it was adjusted to new length and put back on. Dave tried again but this time the mower was cutting EXTREMELY short on one side but normal on the other. Upon investigation Dave found the left mulching blade was badly bent probably due to one of the many rocks around church.
Here is a mowed strip. The left side blade is fine but the right side is...short!

With evening closing in (although daylight still in great supply) Ryan offered to take the old blades and run into town the next day. So the riding lawn mower is still not up and running, BUT the majority of the steep and rocky terrain has been weed whacked and mowed with the one working push mower. Pick your battles. Tomorrow is a new day.
Much improved. The VBS kids will certainly appreciate grass shorter than them
Cudos to Ryan for being an awesome new intern and taking everything in stride. Cudos to Dave and Del for weed whacking, and push mowing all the tough spots around church, and cudos to the Semmler's, Len, and Gaye for making the advances in ministry possible. Yes, I say ministry even if in this case it looks like mechanics, tools, weed whackers, and sweat. It's all for the greater good of the cause and you are all much appreciated and I cannot say thank you enough.

 You know what they say..."It takes a village to fix a law mower"...or something like that haha 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hiking Matanuska Glacier

When I arrived in Alaska a little over a year ago I jumped right into my role as an intern. With VBS just a week after I arrived I was quickly introduced to the people of the congregation and region of Chugiak, Alaska.

 Pastor so graciously took me to all the typical tourist places and one of the first places I went to was Matanuska Glacier. At 27 miles long by 4 miles wide, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. Its terminus (snout) is the source of the Matanuska River. Pastor and I did not walk on it but seeing it from afar was amazing.

Fast forward two months and my fiancé Adam arrived. I took him to Matanuska Glacier to share with him my fascination as we paid the park fee to go hiking on the glacier.

Now, more than a year later I wanted to see the glacier one last time before I leave Alaska. The new DCE intern Ryan arrived here Friday. When Monday rolled around I offered to take Ryan to see it because, well it’s the Alaska experience and it's quite something to see.
Mile 49.9 of the Glenn Highway

The drive there is half the beauty. North, past Palmer is several scenic overlooks with spectacular views. Once on the glacier we hiked our way past the dirty, silt covered ice onto the beautiful white and glacier blue ice mound. As we hiked further onto the glacier we crossed more and more little streams of melting ice.

We reached an impasse at a wide stream of glacial water. We couldn’t jump over it so we had to backtrack. We discovered that we could not take the easy trail as it lead to the stream. So we did what any explorer would have—we broke out the crampons (ice cleats) and Yaktrax to gain traction and hike not on the flat easy trail but up and over a steep peak upon the glacier.
Each of those peaks are upwards of 50-100 feet tall. It's deceptive in the photo.
Walking on the glacier
Look at the people for perspective and comparison.
One foot in front of the other and we made it. We saw a little ways in front of us an ice waterfall. It seemed like a great site so we decided to hike over to it. The waterfall on its own was beautiful but the pool of glacial water below was stunning. The color combination from the reflection of the sky above and the ice around blended a mix of blue, gray, and green. I joked that all we needed was a polar bear and it would be an “All-in-one Alaska photo”.

We took pictures and Ryan lost one of his Yaktrax in the process. He was going to retrieve it too, but doing so would have meant a sharp decent down 7 foot of ice toward the icy water below. Even if he would have gotten down i'm not sure he could have reached it as it sank to the bottom.

Ryan's Yaktrax at the bottom of the icy pool of water.
Waterfall (look closely to the left it blends in with the ice)
Love the color of the water.
My shoes are not untied-those are the straps from my crampons
With our destination complete we made our way back to the car. As we jumped over the streams of ice water, and crevasses of ice my water bottle fell out of my side pouch and landed in the water below. It was rapidly rushed down stream before Ryan or I could grab it. I feel terrible and it was not my intention to "trash Alaska" but like Ryan's Yaktrax there was no way to retrieve it...not to mention it continued down stream and is probably halfway to Palmer via the Matanuska River.

We eventually made it back to the car and back safely to Chugiak. It was a great day and a perfect bookend to my Alaska internship. With a week left and my days numbered I take comfort in the fact that I have gotten to spend a year in this great state. I am ready to be reunited with my husband-to-be, but will still miss this place and these people. I love this place!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Climbing the Butte

Today I decided to take a hike. The place was another unexplored area for me called the Butte. The Butte is located just south of Palmer. I took the dog Jorge with. We left min-afternoon and drove north to the trail head.

The beginning of the trail is considerably steep. It is also covered with very fine glacial silt. The silt is so fine and so light that simply walking one cannot help but kick up dust. The silt combined with the pitch provides and added challenge as traction becomes more difficult. Nonetheless,  Jorge and I made it past the first part.

The steep beginnings (click for larger image)
After 200 or so feet of the steep silt portion one walks from under the shaded region into hot beaming sun as the terrain becomes more rocky preventing tree growth. This portion of the hike is juxtaposed with the grazing area for a nearby farm. Within 10 feet there is giant rocks and grassland quite the contrast.

You can see the edge of the graze-land pasture to the right (outlined with barbed wire fence)
Pioneer Peak, steep contrast with the pastures below.
The next portion of the trail was very tame—Rolling hills and grassland. The silt once again became the prominent trail covering. I appreciated the break but the sun was rather hot (yes it gets hot in Alaska).

We've come so far, but have farther still to go...
We marched on right up to the face of a rocky ledge. This was the most challenging part of the hike because my hiking turned into rock climbing. I had brought Jorge along with me and although he has four legs it is not easy for a dog to climb almost 100% vertically.

I was thoroughly impressed with how Jorge handled the climb. I unhooked him from his leash so he was able to maneuver up as well.  

This is the vertical rock-climbing I'm talking about

Jorge is doing the mountain goat pose. He took it like a champ.
After the strenuous rock climb there was a long plateau. It was well received as Jorge and I took a break amongst  a patch of daises. The view here was stunning. Pioneer Peak was directly in front of me and off to the left was Knik Glacier and the town of Palmer. I watched the reindeer at the reindeer farm below graze freely and the farmer move a round bale of hay with his John Deere Tractor. It was surreal with Pioneer Peak so prominent and the reindeer, cars, and buildings below so small. It was like looking into a snow globe (minus the snow, of course). I wonder if that what it's like for God to look down upon us.

You know Dasher, and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen...
“For the LORD your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the LORD your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)

God keeps careful watch over His People even those in pursuit of freedom who are struggling to find it. His Compassion and Mercy provides for you as you work your way through the wilderness (or mountainous hike) of life searching for something more or someone to satisfy your heart and soul.

God watches every step we take just as I was watching fellow travelers on the trail below. As I gazed upon those marching up the steep trail below I couldn't help but feel compassion for them. I had been in that exact spot just moments before. Sweating, and climbing in pursuit of the same destination.

Now I am not suggesting that I am God, but I believe this does paint a good image for what Christ did. I understood where the people where coming from (in a physical sense). With that said God knows what you are going through. Financial struggle, health problems, depression, He knows and understands the pain. Regardless of your current struggle God provides what you need to be successful. Success with God is not defined in attaining physical prizes or earthly glory but instead by learning to walk in righteousness, holiness and love to the Destiny that He has prepared for you.

There is the goal! The top of the Butte
With Jorge and I rested and re-hydrated we made the final push to the top. The last part was another steep and sometimes rock-climbing adventure. There was no stopping now so we acceded to the top of the Butte for the final 150 feet.

Final push
 Once on top there was a flat and rocky plateau awaiting our arrival and a million dollar view. I was surrounded 360˚s by mountains. Pioneer Peak, Lazy Mountain, Matanuska Peak, Mt. Susitna they were all accounted for. Additionally there was a stunning view of the town of Palmer and in the distance the Knik Glacier.
On top of the Butte--with the Knik glacier in the background
Panorama-click for larger view
On top of the Butte looking towards the valley
I made it--Pioneer Peak in the background
Some random guys I saw at the top-the pic. puts things in perspective
Palmer and the Knik Glacier
Knik Glacier
 Of course the journey was only half done as Jorge and I still needed to make our way back down. This is not as easy especially since we would have to climb back down the rock wall. Once again I was impressed with Jorge's ability to jump, climb, crawl down the rock wall.

I'm happy to report that we made it back just fine. My socks were solid brown with silt. It reminded me of my socks after rock picking back home. Dust and sweat made for a great tan, that sadly washed away when I arrived home. Ah well, it was still worth it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Traffic Jam

Traffic jam in's a little different than in the lower 48. Taken near the Air Force Base.

Ironically after this photo was taken a black bear cub entered Bartlett High School which is just 1/2 mile away from where the above photo was taken. This is the year of the bear I guess. See the news story by clicking -->Here<--- or watch the bear wander the school halls as it was caught on the school security cameras.

**Please Note-I did not take the above photo

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day Creation

Father's Day is this coming Sunday. To recognize and celebrate the fathers of the congregation I had the kids make a gift for them this past Sunday. In Alaska if there is one thing that people share in common it's their love of fish. It's not just the matter of loving the sport of fishing but it's a staple in meals, and lifestyle.
Hard at work adding detail and the screws

What better thing to get for an Alaskan dad than something...fishy. When I think of my own dad I think about the times he loses wallet or his keys (not really they usually are right where he left them). To combat this problem for a craft the kids made a salmon key holder.

Drawing the details

Len, a gentlemen from the congregation who is incredibly gifted in woodwork volunteered to cut out wood fish. From there he drilled holes where the hooks would go. The students then painted the fish, added the detail (ie: tail, fins, etc), and glued on a googly eye, and then screed on the hooks for the keys.
Wrapping them in paper for the dads to open
The preparation a bit more than the normal craft but the outcome is something of great quality. It was easy enough for the children to make and they enjoyed making it too. Hopefully the fathers who receive these fish will save some time that would otherwise be spent looking for keys.
Completed key holder