Christine Crawford, a vet student from North Carolina, was given the opportunity to serve on her first short-term mission trip with CVM to Alaska.
Christine was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
Q: What did you learn about missions during your time of short-term service? What did you learn about your hosts’ ministry in particular?
Christine: I learned that it can be easy to connect with many people, even in the short period of time we were there. I have seen how we are able to help provide a hope in Jesus to the people we were able to work with and meet. I understand how our missions can help to make a long-term impact on the communities we reached. Not only that, but short term missions have had a huge impact on my own heart as well and I have learned a lot about myself and my relationship with Jesus during this time. The ministry in each village we visited was slightly different. Most villages had multiple types of churches. Some churches were open to all, but had few members. Other churches were more like a private society and you could only get in if you knew someone else in the church. It is for this reason that although we may see the positive impact our short-term missions may have, it will also require many years of missions to eventually achieve our goal of having every person hear and see the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Q: What was encouraging and/or surprising to you about short-term missions service?
Christine: I was most surprised and also extremely encouraged by how open some people were to us. Many people said they did not attend church regularly, and yet if we asked if we could pray for them at all they would open their lives to us. They talked about family concerns, drug and alcohol abuse, and many other things they felt strongly needed help or change.
Q: What was particularly challenging to you during this time of service?
Christine: The culture and ways of life for the tribes we visited, specifically in regard to their animal care, was most challenging to get used to. We don’t normally see dogs tied on short chains in a backyard or have children tell us how their parent or older sibling beat a dog for biting them or shot a dog because they just didn’t want it. It’s challenging to not have a reaction in these situations the first time you hear it, especially because you do not want to offend them. To them – it’s normal and it’s part of their culture. But I have also seen how the teachers in the villages, who are not part of this culture, look down on the children and their families because of it. It’s hard to face that gap and not make them feel as if we are judging them and instead are here to help, when all they are used to is the teachers looking poorly upon them for the same reasons.
Q: What did you learn about the particular challenges facing the local community in which you served?
Christine: As mentioned above, the Yup’ik people feel very judged and un-liked by the teachers who come to Alaska for the higher paid jobs to teach them. It’s hard to have consistent education when some teachers only come for a few years for the money then leave again. Students don’t feel like the teachers are truly invested in them. Drugs and alcohol are also a huge challenge in the local communities. Our first village, Chevak, was extremely close to the Bering Sea, and so large amounts of drugs can be brought in to these areas coming over from Russia. The other two villages, Akiachak and Akiak, are very close to the main hub of Bethel. Bethel just opened a liquor store, and many of the people in these villages expressed concerns over the alcohol use become more easily accessed in their villages. People in the villages also receive government money for every child they have. In some places, many people will continuously have children to get more money from the government each year, but then spend this money on drugs and alcohol instead, rather than taking care of the children. Thankfully, the villages we visited seemed to have a more family-centered aspect compared to many of the other villages in the area. Seeing parents actually walking/driving their children to school was a fantastic sign to see, since many other locations that would not be the norm.
Q: How was the local community impacted as a result of CVM’s service in this area?
Christine: I think each village we went to really enjoyed having our service available to them. It is extremely hard to have any veterinary care in any of the villages, so us visiting was a blessing to these families. Dog overpopulation is so common that they have dog shooting weeks where every dog head without a collar pays $20. Families were thankful for us to come and spay/neuter their dogs and provide them with a collar to protect their pet. Many dog mushers were thankful for our help in providing rabies shots to their dogs so they could enter mushing races this winter and hopefully provide winnings for their families. The children had an opportunity to learn more about medicine, college, and opportunities available to them after school. And most importantly, most everyone felt they had someone to listen to them and care about the issues facing their families and daily lives. I think a lot of people realized we weer not only there for the dogs, but also for them as well and they found comfort in knowing we were thinking about them and praying for them.
Q: How was your faith impacted as a result of your short-term missions service?
Christine: My faith has exploded since returning from missions. During our time in Alaska I saw how everyone would turn their fears and worries over to God. Even in the middle of a hectic afternoon we could take a minute to step away from the crowd and pray with others and help be their light toward Jesus in that moment. Since then, I’ve really taken that practice to heart. We live in a world that makes us feel constantly going-going-going, and when things get hard we should just push on through. Instead, I find myself taking the time to stop, step away for a minute, and just pray to God about whatever is on my mind at the time – for both praise and need. By looking to Him more, I have grown even closer in just the last few weeks. I feel better emotionally and mentally and it gives me a constant reminder that he is always here for us, whatever we need.
Q: How will you continue to debrief this experience once you are home? Who will you discuss these discoveries with?
Christine: I have come back to reading the debriefing questions a few times since the end of my trip. I hope to continue to answer the questions within the packet by sharing the story of our journey with everyone around me, including family, friends, people at church, etc. Sharing stories of the people we met and places we visited has helped to solidify in me the purpose of our trip and why it is so important for not only us to be there, but for others to know why we are doing what
we are doing and how they can begin to support us as well.
Q: What next steps of faith is God calling you to as a result of this trip? How can CVM support, encourage, and equip you for these next steps?
Christine: I feel called to continue with missions as long as I am physically, emotionally, and financially able to do so. CVM has been amazing at providing me the opportunity to use my veterinary skills as a way to reach others so they may know Christ. I feel that God is calling me to put more financial trust in Him and to invest more into my missions. This past year, I relied mostly on donations to fund my mission trips because of the “poor vet student” mentality, but I realize it’s not only important to participate in missions in person, but also to donate to causes that can help reach so many people around the world. Finally, I feel called to join a small group at my church. I had delayed joining a group over the last year due to my physical limitations and then due to “not having enough time” from school. However, not having enough time is a poor excuse. I want to surround myself with people who also know Christ and can help me grow in a deeper relationship with Him as well as speak to them about my own personal missions as well.
A special thank you to Christine Crawford for allowing us to share in a little piece of her journey to Alaska! May the Lord continue to use this experience to touch the lives of others.
Not able to participate in a short-term trip but have a heart for what God is doing through them? Support CVM’s short-term missions by giving to our short-term missions program!