Wow! It has been so long since we made an update on the Erickson family!
These two months have been far busier than we anticipated. Although I know that
summer in Alaska can be the busiest time, I did not know it would be like this!
In March we were thankful to our friends in Fairbanks for letting us spend the winter in their house. We started renting a cute little cabin on the west
side of Fairbanks. There was still lots of snow on the ground as we moved.
A log cabin experience! 20' x 16' space. We were excited for the cute little loft it had, where we could sleep. The kitchen is small, but fun.
No running water in the cabin, but there is a laundry building on site, with showers and water we can haul over dishes in our kitchen. We have been
pretty happy with the place.
We did not have much, but we soon found what we needed at the transfer site.
In Fairbanks, there are these city sites around the area, that people bring their trash to, and then the dumpsters are emptied by the city, and taken to
a landfill outside the city. Very convenient for people to drop their trash off, and also for people like us who need ‘slightly used’ or ‘gently used’
items. Or, in many cases, plan’ ol’ broken! And John, being the handyman that he is, loves to fix it, and make it useful again.
Just looking around our cabin, I can list the stuff that was free, that we brought home from the transfer site.
Two couches, computer desk, TV table, and 37" flatscreen TV. Mirrors, cubby hole pieces, a nice oak display cabinet/shelf, toaster oven, table, chairs,
lights, rugs, trunks, nice queen mattress set, coffee maker, pots, pans, crock pot, toasters, computer, flat screens, electronics, tires, food smoker, and
many more items. And the best thing about this place? They have a great return policy. No questions asked. If you don’t like it, take it back! After
all, it is trash.
John has been continuing to work and enjoy his construction job. And Rebecca has been doing some nanny work after her seasonal work with Fred Meyer was
In April, we were planning our first trip back to the ‘lower 48' (America). John would head to Big Sandy, TX, for the ATI Regional conference at ALERT,
and then also help with the ALERT Cadet Leadership Training Corps the next week.
That went well, and John flew to CA to see his folks, where Rebecca also flew down from Alaska. We spent a week there, as John needed to get back to
The plan was to return to Alaska and work during the summer.
In CA, we picked up two Siberian Husky sled dogs that needed to be transported back up to Fairbanks for someone, and drove our Blue Chevy Silverado, which
had been sitting at my folks place.
News came that Dave Penz, the owner, leader and camp director of the Kako Retreat Center
died. He had been struggling with some health problems, so it
was not really surprising, but it was a shock. We are so grateful that he is now with Jesus, whom he loved so much.
As we traveled through Oregon, and stopped in Washington for the night, we decided that we would try to make it to his funeral in Anchorage, which was
just a couple days away.
Last year, when we drove up to Fairbanks, we camped 4 or 5 times in Canada. As we started our truck to head out, across the Washington/Canada border,
we had a problem.
I like story times!
So we spent the night at our friends place in Washington, and were all packed up, and got into our truck, and started it up, and, and, the engine had no
oil pressure. (Will lead to a seized engine very fast!) In hindsight, I had noticed the oil pressure did not seem quite as high as it typically was, but
was not sure, but there was oil pressure. But this morning, there was zero.
I thought, ok, what is the problem. Probably the oil pump went out, seeing the engine has almost 300,000 miles
on it. (It has more than that now) That
would be a big project to fix, and time was somewhat important to us.
So I asked our friends if they knew of a good mechanic that could fix it.
I was kind of surprised when they said no. Huh? You know what that means. I was thinking it was too big of a job for me, away from home. But I said I
guess I would see what was up. We are grateful for the little garage our friends let us use, and some tools. We got the truck in, and I went to work.
Dropped the cross member brace, dropped the steering arm assembly, and then went to work draining the oil and dropping the oil pan.
After all that, and getting very dirty. And the dogs being patient, I got it out. Rebecca was able to do some tasks that needed to be done on the
computer, so we thankfully trust God for these ‘interventions’ in our life.
Anyways, as soon as the pan was off, I saw our problem. And I was very happy about the problem, because I saw a very clogged oil pan pick up screen.
The tube for sucking the oil from the bottom of the oil pan into the oil filter/pump had a big screen on it, and it was completely clogged with junk, and
sludge. I doubt the oil pan has ever been cleaned. It had been some time since I changed the oil, and was going to do it when I got to AK, since it had
not been that many miles since the last change.
I was able to clean the oil pan, and the mesh filter, and bought a new oil pan gasket, and put it all back together. Oil filter change and new oil
Started it and it was good to go! That project took half a day though. But I am thankful that God let me fix it myself, as it was an easy fix, and
that it was an easy fix.
Back to writing......
After losing half a day, we made it across the border, and spent the night that evening in British Columbia, Canada. That was the last time we stopped
until we got to Anchorage.
You read right.
We drove for 3 days straight, driving through two nights. We made it to the funeral a couple hours before it started. We were a part of
that, I was asked to be the official photographer,and that was my role for a couple hours. We then attended grave side service in Palmer. And then we decided to press on, and we drove into the night, and made it home, back in Fairbanks
the next morning, got a few hours of sleep, got up,
delivered the dogs, and then went to church, and then started work on Monday!
It would be worth noting that the sled dogs had been living in a snowless area of CA for a while, but they had not forgotten, because, when we found
some snow in the Yukon Territory, the dogs went, and jumped in it, ate mouthfuls of it, and were obviously very excited.
We always enjoy seeing wildlife as we travel North. On this trip the following were spotted:
2 squirrels, not counting 2 that were, or became
dead because of us
7 black bears
1 brown bear, also known as grizzly bear
1 red fox
1 grey fox
3 pair of white swans
uncounted ducks and geese
And 3,741 miles total on this trip.
Did things return to normal? Nope. Just days after we arrived home, we felt that Rebecca was being called to go to Kako and help Vera Penz at Kako, after
her husband, Dave was now in heaven. So we said our good byes, and I took Rebecca to the airport, and watched her leave.
We had no idea when we would see each other again, because we were already doing more than we thought, by letting Rebecca go to Kako. We were under the
impression that Camp was not going to happen this year, and were not financially able to go anyways and take off work.
It would not be right to mention here, that Rebecca had been trying to get a job for months in Fairbanks, but was not able to find more than some Nanny
work. And we realized that God was shutting those doors, so it was possible for Rebecca to go help Vera and serve at Kako this summer. Yea! Thank you
Lord for showing us things! You are wise, oh God.
So here I was, working in Fairbanks, and doing all the things
like cooking and washing too. Separation is not easy, but it was not the first time we have
been separated, and would not be the last. It was kind of like old times for us too, as it was similar to our courtship, when Rebecca was at Kako, and I
was a long ways away, and we would write letters by pen.
We were back to doing that again!
Half a week went by, and I was content to be working, supporting the family. I get a phone call from leadership at Kako, telling me that they were
praying that I would come help get the camp ready, and get the camp rolling for the summer. If I could not come for the whole summer, at least come for
the first week to get things going, as staff was critically short this year.
This threw a curve ball at me! I knew that we did not have finances for me to do this. Impossible for us to do. (I was in no way saying that it was
impossible for God to do, in fact, I know that God seems to enjoy amazing us, and showing us how big He is!)
God laid it on my heart to contact a church body in CA, and lay the matter before them. I made it clear that if God was opening the door for me to go,
He would have to provide the funds.
Friday came, and I understood that God was opening the door. So I got ready, and asked my manager if I could take off work. I had just started work, and
now I am asking to leave again? He asked if I was getting paid to work at camp. He seemed very surprised when I said no. He knew it was for a good cause,
and was not sure why I wanted to go do that, and not work and get paid, but he said, if I wanted to, go do it!
I am so grateful for a flexible boss and job.
I left work a little early so I could run around town and do some stuff, and was busier than a bee until I got on the road around midnight on Saturday
morning, to drive down to Anchorage.
I got to the airport in time for my 8am flight out to Kako.
It was a pretty fast two flights, and I like the fact there is no security.
I got picked up from Aniak, and got to Kako. Was assigned a Honda Quad for the week, and got my stuff to my house, and found everyone eating lunch. Said
hi to my wife :)
I did a quick walk through of camp, making a list. Got a nice list going, and started doing tasks and getting ready for summer Bible camp. It was
Saturday afternoon, and kids were coming on Monday.
The Rappelling tower was in good shape. Matt, one of the pilots did a little work on the rock wall. I had brought all my rappelling gear with me, to
run the tower the week I was there. I discovered that Matt had some experience with rope work, and so for the rest of the week, I got him trained to run
the tower. Otherwise, the tower would not have been in operation without trained personnel. I am very thankful he was willing to step up, and run the
tower after I went back.
I was only expecting the climbing wall to be operational, with Rebecca trained and running it. So it was great to have the whole tower going, thank you
Matt and crew! I am sure Lydia was also a big part of it.
Sharon and Ian also were a big help.
I was blessed to be able to go out to Kako for a week.
I got to see Rebecca, which I was not expecting to do for another 2 or 3 months. I was able to
help in the usual ways.
Dishes, camp nurse, activities director, luggage person, logistics, tech support, answered the phones a little, did some maintenance on equipment and the
Bill and Brenda were a big help, in all they do at camp, and with kids camp. Brenda was doing most of the cooking, allowing Rebecca to do registration and
phones. And then also helping Jimmy with camps, and being camp nurse after I left.
Rebecca is still at Kako, and will probably be there until August, after the last camp/retreat is over.
As I said, I was only their a week. I needed to return to work in Fairbanks, and felt Jimmy and Rebecca had things mostly under control, with the short
staff. Would have been great to stay, but I fulfilled my main purpose, which was to help get camp rolling for the summer. Praise the Lord!
I was planning to leave on Monday, but ended up leaving Sunday morning, because I learned the salmon were running, and Joshua was willing to go fishing
So the crazy week at Kako came to a close for me, and I was a bit tired as I began the next part of the journey back home. I got into Anchorage, and got
my car, and drove 6 hours into the night to the southeast part of Alaska to the Copper River. In Chitina, the salmon were running, and Joshua and I and a
couple other friends went on a charter, and got our limits. We then got loaded up, and headed out around 5pm on Monday evening after starting around 3am
We drove and got into Fairbanks in the morning, and I got a couple hours of rest before heading to work. Worked for the rest of the week, and cleaned
and stored fish in the freezer for the next 3 nights, staying up after midnight.
I felt normal for the first time in weeks, on Sunday.
Super crazy summer! Kako was not in our plans this summer.
But God did!
We are thankful to be part of the ministry.
We are renting a cute little cabin right now, and a possible plan right now is in August, for my Dad to fly up to Kako, and I would join him, and Lord
willing, do some big projects, like put the trusses and roof up, over the sawmill.
There are a couple weddings downstates this fall it would sure be nice to go to, but I don’t know if we will be able to, with the costs of travel right
One more note about Kako. One of the things I tried to get going was the water park day on Wednesday. Each year, we do something different on
Wednesdays. This year, we had a day at the pond. Rafts, canoes, swimming, tubes, AND a water slide!
It was all a big success the first week. I know it was raining the next week, so that kind of puts a limit on how much we can use.
That was a pretty brief update on our summer so far!
Following is a thank you letter written to one of our churches in CA, for helping make my trip possible to Kako this summer.
John & Rebecca Erickson June 2014
Greetings Church friends!
My wife, Rebecca and I would like to express our thanksgiving to God, and to you for your generous support of our endeavors in Alaska. Thank you for
making it possible for us to travel out to the Alaskan Bush this summer and work at camp.
Kako Retreat center is where we have served for many years, and we were expecting this year to be different, because the owner/camp director recently
passed into glory. (We drove up to Anchorage just in time for the funeral in May) We were very surprised when we heard that kids summer Bible camp was
going to happen, and that we were strongly prayed for that we would come.
This was not in our expected plans, and we prayed that God would make it possible, because we were not able to afford the trip. God answered our prayer
through this church, and the next day I was flying out to Kako to help get ready for camp.
Rebecca was already there, and she will be there probably until August. I was not able to stay the summer, because of work constraints. However, I
believe that it was a big blessing to be there and get things rolling for the summer.
Rebecca is serving in many capacities. Typically she is in the kitchen, but she has been needed in other areas even more, so she has not spent that much
time there. Instead she has been heading up camp registration, telephone operator, airplane flight director, office person, camp nurse and being there in
support of Vera Penz, the wife of Dave Penz, who has passed on.
My role was to prepare the camp for kids camp. Pull out all the equipment and gear for all the activities and make sure they were functional, preparing
the cabins and housing after the winter. Working on some of the Honda Quads needed for general use during camp. Installing a water slide cut into the
side of a bank going into a pond for water park day.
And then as the first week of camp got underway, I think we had 32 elementary age kids from the surrounding villages that we flew in. I assisted in
running the activities, was camp nurse, and trained the staff in operation of the rappelling tower and climbing wall I built a couple years ago. It was
a very busy time, and in the week following as I headed back home to Fairbanks to return to work after stopping and getting a bunch of salmon for the
I am thankful for:
Being able to serve at camp this year, even for the short time it was, but know it was important to be there to setup and get things rolling.
For God allowing 32 youth to come!
I am thankful for my work/construction company that let me take time off to do this.
Getting to see Rebecca again, as she traveled out to Kako sometime before me.
For the friends, like you church, that we are so grateful for!
For Rebecca who remains on the forefront of this spiritual war in Alaska, perhaps until August.
For many to come to Christ and/or be discipled at camp this year.
For the leadership of Kako, as they have big decisions and big obstacles facing them.
For John as he works in Fairbanks without Rebecca.
Thank you Bethel Church!
In Christ, John and Rebecca Erickson