I moved to Kako Retreat Center in March of 2007. I had worked there the previous two summers and was interested in helping however I could.
I spent much time in prayer wondering if this was something God was doing or if I just got it in my head to go. I sought counsel and was hesitant to go because I was single. Was it a good idea for me to be out there alone (there was a team of staff that I would be working with and responsible to)? I had given thought to missions work, but always thought of doing it as a married woman.
God had not allowed that in my life and there were no prospects either.
I was reading a book, Safer Than a Know Way, by Pamela Moore – the personal attendant to Corrie Ten Boom in her later years of ministry – when I began to really consider the option of going as God’s leading in my life. God called Pamela into ministry as a single woman and put it in her to relinquish her right to marriage. That thought really stirred my heart.
My greatest desire in life was to be married and to serve through our family and home. But at that point in my life, that was not God’s best for me. So, I made the decision to go and spend time there to see what God would do. I stayed until August when I moved into Anchorage to work.
I knew before the summer was over that God would bring me back to Kako to help full-time, but I didn’t even give thought to the idea that he would eventually bring a man to me!
It was that summer when I first met John.
Honestly, I hardly remember him being here! The only reasons I do, is because I have pictures of him and because he lead us out of the wilderness when a group wandered off the beaten path to go fishing…
The next summer, I had been accepted as full-time staff when I moved back to Kako from Anchorage. I was excited for camp and the changes that were taking place in my life. John came back that summer too, but I still didn’t work very closely with him or pay too much attention to him.
I was very much wrapped up in the bigger picture of life: my personal tasks, making connections with the kids, and enjoying those the Lord sent to help us. John was quiet and I was busy and adventurous, hardly setting still. My parents and some folks from my home church in Iowa can attest to this as they didn’t get to spend much time with me during their visit to Kako. But after my family and friends went home, John and I got ourselves (as well as some others) into a very interesting predicament…we now refer to this as the Yukon Adventure. Trust me, it was an adventure!
I was envisioning death by the river or death by our camp director when he found out what we had done!
I wondered how we were going to get out of the mess we found ourselves in…I probably argued with John about what we should do because he didn’t heed my concern after noticing a current in the water, but I soon resigned my opinion and let him take charge. It was an interesting experience to say the least, and no, I didn’t want to fall madly in love with this ‘hero’ of sorts when we were returned to safety.
I spent the next seven months raising support. But returning to Kako for summer camps this year was hard (2009). There were staff changes that I was surprised by and not ready for, that left me wondering what I should do…I just spent all winter trying to get here. Then I was informed that a very dear pilot friend (from our 2007 summer) had been killed in an airplane crash.
I was hurting! I had just talked with him on the phone and tried to get him to come for the summer to fly because we were in need of a pilot. It was difficult to manage what was going on inside of me and be fully attentive to camp, the kids and staff. But John seemed to be there…everywhere! He had returned and had gained greater status as we saw his gifts and abilities.
He was now our activities director and all around handyman.
He had built a repelling tower, and asked me to help work with him and the kids in the afternoon between meals. I worked hard to make it possible because I enjoyed being with the campers. During one of my long afternoons of looking up at the back sides of campers trying to convince themselves to come down the wall, a thought crossed my mind…I wonder if John would be a good match for me? But it was quickly dismissed as I looked at myself and thought that I wasn’t sweet enough for John…I felt rough around the edges.
I was becoming a typical ‘bush woman’, who had to be tough in order to get along and survive. I didn’t feel like the quiet and meek woman that I thought would suit John. He was homeschooled and I attached all stigmas of that to him (but so was I..?).
He was quiet and seemed naive about life. He was serious, and didn’t joke or play around with us.
He seemed to live by a higher standard and made me feel a need to step up to it in his presence. He was extremely helpful to me though and I didn’t have to ask him to do things.
He just took notice of it and did it… I loved that! I found people were telling me all the time that John was a nice guy, or a good guy and I happened to agree, thinking he would make someone an excellent husband, but still not thinking of him for myself.
At the end of John’s stay, I wanted to express how thankful I was for his help to me during my very hard summer, so I wrote a note on a piece of birch bark taken from our repelling site and gave it to him as he sat down in the airplane to leave.
I knew John was gone after that because dishes would pile up and I would have to ask people to help with them.
The laundry would pile up as well, and I actually had to take it to be washed myself…
But, that wasn’t the end of that summer.
John came back.
We needed him in order to have a satellite camp on the Kuskokwim for kids who were not able to come to Kako during regular camp weeks. I was glad to see him again, but I didn’t equate any of this with feelings of ‘liking’ John! I knew that he would be able to make our idea a reality, obviously with the Lords leading. The short of this very long story is that we experienced some very tough circumstances together that made me want to be of
help and support to him. After returning from the Kuskokwim, I noticed a change in John’s behavior. I felt like he was avoiding me at all cost.
I thought I must have offended him, but didn’t know how I would have…Another guy that was new to Kako shared with me how he felt the same way and even asked me if John liked me…What!...?... He then explained that he felt he had offended John by spending too much time with me and that he was going to keep his distance from then on. This made me confused and upset, I assured him that he was mistaken and that there was no need for him to keep his distance (he was our new pilot and was going to be my ministry partner for the next year).
John had never given me the slightest indication that he was interested in me!
It was after my birthday when I saw him out in the rain cleaning up an unorganized lean-to, beating wood rather aggressively against itself in order to break it up. I couldn’t take it anymore…I put on my coat and went to see what was eating him. He didn’t stop working; he hardly acknowledged that I was even there (that was strange in itself). I tried to ask him if I had offended him, but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I just stood there watching him, dumbfounded at his behavior. I knew something was wrong I had never seen him act this way, but I got the feeling I wasn’t welcome there and left him to himself. He finally came around and was talking to me again, but left a few days later for California.
I had gotten up early to see John off, just like any other person who might come through Kako, and ended up filling the empty seat in the plane to Bethel (I had never been to Bethel in all the years of flying in and out, so the pilot told me to hop in).
At the tiny airport we made sure John got checked in before we drove the three miles into town for business.
This time before leaving, John handed me a little birch bark note, which I quickly tucked away in my coat pocket to read later at home. I was confused by this short note that ended…
“Burdens are lifted at Calvary.”
Burdens? What burdens?
My burdens, his burdens?
I put the note aside and tended to the current tasks of housekeeping and feeding people. I was going to be leaving for home soon myself and needed to finish up what was before me.
I wasn’t bothered further with confusion until John emailed and asked for my Mom and Dad’s home phone number. This actually didn’t confuse me because he had met my folks and had an open invitation to visit.
But, Sharon had seen something in John that told her he was coming for more than just a visit. I left Kako wondering just what John was up to because he really gave me absolutely no indication that he was even remotely interested in me.
John did visit the farm while I was home.
Those ten days were probably more stressful and confusing than my whole summer had been. I couldn’t understand why he was there. Did he want to spend time with my Dad or me? What did he want or expect from me?
Did he want to go site seeing…there is nothing to see in Iowa except corn fields and pig barns. So, I distracted myself with the events we were having and when I couldn’t be distracted by them, I would run away to my friend’s house two miles down the road, while he went to work with my Dad.
I guess John’s trip was successful in that he came to IA to see my home, meet family and friends, and to ask permission to court me. But he did not go home with the answer I’m sure he was hoping for. This was all so new and strange to me that I couldn’t possibly know how I felt about the whole situation. Unfortunately, I didn’t tell John much either. I asked if he was expecting me to give him an answer then; he was not, so I asked him how I should let him know when I figured out my answer. One of the last things I asked before he flew back to CA was what would it mean to him if I said no? I wanted to know if that answer would shut a potentially wonderful open door. John assured me that he would still treat me with respect like any other woman and that he would still return to Kako as the Lord led him to work with us and the campers. After John left, I still didn’t have a peace about entering into a relationship with him. Yes, I had noticed him and yes, I did appreciate what I knew of his character and reputation. But, I was moving at full speed into a full-time ministry that I felt needed my full attention and energy.
I went on my way visiting friends as I returned back to Kako, thinking of how to tell John my quandary. I wrote several letters trying to explain myself, but none of them got mailed because I wasn’t satisfied. It was probably almost two months before he did receive my answer. I’m sure it was confusing, but I was essentially trying to tell him that I wasn’t ready to commit to a relationship because of my ministry goals and because I didn’t feel like I’d had the opportunity to get to know him well enough to commit myself to him. But, I also wanted him to understand that I was not telling him to get lost.
I don’t know how well I made that clear.
I went on with life and ministry and didn’t make any effort to keep in touch with John. Life was full and complete as it was; it was what I had expected it to be for that year. We had a great winter traveling and ministering with others, but summer was drawing nearer and John was going to be a part of my life again.
I had thought about him and his desire for a relationship, but I was struggling to get my head around how different I was and how I didn’t feel like he really knew me. I didn’t hardly know him and honestly some of what I thought I knew concerned me. There really were a lot of questions that needed answering, but I didn’t know how to go about asking them.
I guess that’s part of the whole process of courtship, but in my mind these were things that I wanted to know before I ever committed to a relationship. I wasn’t about to be committed to someone that I didn’t agree with. I was getting more and more overwhelmed with the thought of John coming back on top of the other responsibility pressures facing me that summer (2010).
I purposefully avoided John as long as I possibly could the day he arrived…I guess that sounds hash and typical, but having him there was going to be hard because he was a huge element of confusion in my life. We were a little uncomfortable until we had to speak to each other and get things organized for kids camp, I needed him to be a huge supporting team member…I needed him to be my co-camp director.
Like I said, I had a lot of responsibility pressures bearing down on me. I was not only the camp cook, but I was also the one in charge of all communications with summer staff, keeping track of their comings and goings, I was the camp hostess when they arrived, their housekeeper tutor, and camp director!!! I NEEDED HELP! I was leading orientation and cooking at the same time and couldn’t manage the rest of the camps programming as well.
I was extremely grateful for John’s attitude and willingness to make the best of our situation. That is one of the qualities that I’ve most admired in him…he does the best he can with what he has. After our first two weeks of camp ‘life’ was more normal as we went about our usual tasks.
I still helped John with activities and very much enjoyed being around him, but never made any effort to bring understanding to any of the things that were still unknown about him. I often thought he was still very much interested in me, but he was not making any effort either. We were surviving camp.
At the end of our resident camps, we were scheduled to return to the satellite camp, but plans changed and we ended up doing a five-day club in the village. John felt the need to take on the responsibility of getting us organized and making things happen, but this started to cause friction between us because I felt he was not communicating with those of us who had had experience doing this sort of thing in the villages.
I was not supportive of him and regrettably wanted him to learn a lesson from it all. The week was very hard! It seemed like everything was against us, including the weather and by the end, I wasn’t really on speaking terms with John.
After returning to Kako, I kind of went my way and did my own thing and let John go his own way and do his own thing. I wasn’t sure where we were at or what he expected of me. I didn’t know how I was feeling and I still had a lot of questions, if given the chance, I wanted to address. I hadn’t spoken to him at all when, one day he asked to take me berry picking.
I agreed, knowing that he was really wanting to talk; maybe some of the confusion could start to be addressed. We did eventually talk.
He shared how hard the summer had been and how he didn’t know what to expect between us either. But, he was still interested and wanted to know where we stood…should he get lost and stop thinking about me?...should he still be my friend and wait?...or could he be more than a friend and be a bigger part of my life? My head just spun in circles! All the things I had wanted to talk with him about whirled around in my head and all I could say was, “I don’t know…I don’t know…I don’t know!” He still didn’t know if I was interested in him at all…he didn’t know what he should do either.
We left the mountain as friends and agreed that he would come to IA for a second visit in September.
A day or two went by and all I could think of was all the questions I wanted to ask John. I erupted and wrote a letter explaining myself. John had been so guarded and protective of both our hearts; I didn’t feel like I really knew who he was and I wasn’t going to commit myself to a stranger.
After receiving that information he made an effort to allow me to know him more. We agreed that the best way for me to learn more about him would be to visit his home and see him interact with his family. So I agreed to join him in CA on my way back to AK in October.
John’s time in IA was a lot different from his first visit, but there was still a huge element of confusion and frustration. I felt like we were going to be hopeless communicators and didn’t give a relationship between us much of a chance. Some of my questions were answered surprisingly different than I anticipated, and much to my relief!
Things were falling into place in order for me to be convinced that a relationship with John would be a good thing, but I was still looking for the one convincing argument that would tell me we would be able to live happily together.
I almost didn’t get on the plane going to CA. I wasn’t sure I was making the right choice, but my time there was very profitable; it was good for me to meet John’s family and see him relaxed in his element. We had a lot of fun and my apprehensions were put to rest as I watched John interact with his family.
The first full day I was there, I knew I would say yes to a courtship relationship. I finally saw what I had been waiting to see…John laughing and having fun! I realized that he wasn’t a stranger anymore. As I watched and examined what I knew of his life, I was convinced he was the right guy.
It was a good thing God allowed me to come to this conclusion because, the very next day John decided to ask me for the third time if he could court me.
He took his very unsuspecting sister and me hiking at a lovely park. We had a great day stretching our muscles in God’s creation and then enjoyed some actual rock repelling (I had only ever repelled off of manmade walls). It was here John decided he was going to ask me for a yes or no answer.
We successfully descended the first time after John convinced me to try tying off. He coached me through as Stacy made sure I was safe from the ground. She was there taking pictures as we played. The second time down John thought it would be fun for me to do a practice rescue. I had seen them done, but had never experienced it for myself. He sent me down with instructions to tie off in the same spot we did only moments earlier (where my feet could no longer touch due to the concave contour of the rocks, which meant I was hanging free in mid air). I was to call for help once I got tied off so he could come ‘rescue’ me.
It seemed like I was there forever…but John finally heard my not so dramatic cries for help and came to my rescue. It was a funny situation as groups of people were walking by on the trails watching our pretend rescue. John went to work (and it was work!
Remember our feet are not able to reach anything for leverage) getting me secured and transferred to his hardware. Once this was done we were enjoying the view, which I already had plenty of time to do…but I was completely unsuspecting of what was to happen next! “Miss Becky, you are not going to get down from here until you answer a question either YES, or NO! ... (There was enough of a pause here for shock to set in)… May I court you or not?” I knew what my answer would be, but I played with the confusion of not knowing a little longer by asking how long the park was open.
I thought that might allow me enough time to formulate a conclusion.
But feeling how numb my legs were getting I went ahead and answered him, YES! He let out the biggest WHOOP I’d ever heard come from him and we descended the remaining rock face. At the bottom he grabbed my hand and prayed a rejoicing and humble prayer for wisdom in our new relationship. His Sister Stacy, even more unsuspecting then I, was in shock at what had just happened, but with peace shared her joy for us.
There were a few more days in California after that delightful event, and then I was back to Alaska for the winter. John and I put our hands to work where we were and communicated back and forth often. The postal service and telephone companies profited from our long distance relationship.
But it was a blessing to spend time in the Word with John as we discussed more controversial issues and shared from our hearts our joys and struggles.
In December we were reunited after traveling to Texas for our friends’ wedding. After the wedding, we traveled to Mom and Dad’s in Iowa for Christmas and would travel on to California, where I would return to Alaska. But there was another milestone adventure that took place in Iowa in December of 2010.
I was confident the Lord was leading John and me into a marriage relationship. We had talked about it some, so I thought when we got to California we would look for a ring. Needless to say, I was completely shocked to discover John already had one!
I was so glad it snowed Christmas Eve, it’s just not Christmas without snow! Even with the little snow we got, much to my regret, our Christmas Eve service was canceled, but this did not stop John and me from driving to my Pastors house for our first pre-marriage counseling session.
No, we were not engaged, which made it hard for Pastor to know how to talk to us. It was funny to me, because I already had a wedding dress hanging in my room at home and John knew what he intended to do, but Pastor Mark knew none of this.
Christmas day, we were waiting for my nocturnal sister to wake up before celebrating together, so we were taking our time getting around, but Mom and Dad seemed especially eager to get me out of the house, which is very uncharacteristic. My frustration from these subtle hints was rising when I noticed John decided we should go for a walk.
Good! I thought as I got ready, but I was only frustrated further as Mom and Dad went through everything in the house to make sure John was going to stay warm(it was 12 degrees, compared to the -20 degrees that I drove in to get to Russian Mission a week earlier.
It was warm!). Finally, all decked out in my Dad’s Carrharts, John was ready to go…I was especially eager to be in the woods, away from people! As we walked, he tried to make conversation, which I was reluctant to participate in as I tried to calm down. I kept thinking how I shouldn’t be upset and needed to cheer up.
When we got into the woods, I just stopped and stood there…I love the sound and feel of the woods!
It was quiet. There was a slight breeze rustling the trees. The birds were fluttering around and cheeping as they went enjoying the woods as much as I was. I don’t know how long I stood there, but John was ready to move on, so we did. The next stop was the same…I just stood there looking up into the trees listening to and watching the birds.
But then I noticed that John had put his back pack down. John doesn’t take off his back pack unless we’re going to stay for a while. I thought that was strange, but was choosing not to pay attention. He was challenging me though as he took off his sun glasses and put them in his pack. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw something fall into the snow. I looked at him and then down at the snow, but couldn’t see anything.
He bent over and picked it up as he asked me if I knew what it was…”No, No, Not here, not now…I’m frustrated…I didn’t want it to be like this!!!” As he brushed the snow off, I could see a birch bark box appear. In my head I thought, YES! I KNOW what that is, but out of my mouth came, No, I don’t KNOW what that is…it could have been a pair of earrings, or a necklace, or a bracelet, or something completely different.
But then he got down on his knee and proceeded to tell me how he felt God leading us together and how he loved me and wished to spend the rest of his life with me. I appreciated his comments of how this was real life and how he didn’t want it to be pomp and circumstance. So, of course, I said yes and we left our tracks behind us in the snow as we walked back home.
John and I’s story is unique, but it’s just beginning. There are many adventures yet to be had and I’m excited to see where the Lord takes us!