I fear it's becoming a yearly "ritual" - as my cousin Chad would call it. Our second mission trip to Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska came to a successful conclusion earlier this month.
Chad didn't get to go again, but the rest of his family did. A total of 16 of us from several different churches took the three-hour ferry ride From Ketchikan to Hollis where we helped build a playground for Hollis Community Church and Camp.
And it wasn't just any playground. My uncle works for a lumber company helping to design the structural integrity of buildings. He designed the playground that consisted of a smaller version of Noah's ark plus a swing set and several other cool features.
I figured I would just get in the way of that effort, so I did whatever else I could do to help out. On the first day, I was in charge of burning the church and camp's enormous scrap pile.
There's no other way to get rid of trash on a remote island but to burn it. Seeing as I've built too many camp fires to count, that was the perfect job for me. At the end of a long day of repiling logs and branches, the entire heap was gone.
On day two, I went fishing for Halibut and salmon to feed us all. I caught two King Salmon, but even though they seemed huge to me, they were too small to keep. Alaska has some crazy rule about King's being 28 inches. (Can't keep a two-footer; I've never heard of such.)
The third day was the start of Vacation Bible School in Hydaburg, a town of native Haida Indians where there hasn't been a church in nearly a decade. The percentage of abused children there is astronomical, so we were up against a lot of evil.
I think they had a great time. I know they learned a lot because we asked questions, and they gave the right answers. I hope it sticks and that someone will continue to try and reach them.
At the end of our three-day VBS, we had around 20 kids participating in a town of 350 people. Not bad, seeing as they have such an aversion to spiritual matters there.
Jeff Jones - a former Lincoln County resident and current pastor in Hollis - is playing host to a camp for these same kids in August. Our team is praying that they all show up for that.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to see the people we became lifelong friends with during last year's trip to Coffman Cove - north of Hollis. The pastor there - and his family and friends - are such great people. I miss them already.
And if the "ritual" ends this year because of one reason or another, I know one thing is for sure. I'll certainly see my friends again some day in paradise.