Samaritan's Purse constructs a new church in the Alaska town that will allow ministry opportunities for local believers determined to reach their neighbors with the Gospel
Nome Covenant Church’s 150-member congregation is one of remote Alaska’s most vibrant evangelical communities. And their sanctuary’s location—on main street—is perfect for Christian outreach, situated as it is among the town’s bars, including a 113-year-old saloon that proclaims itself “Headquarters for the Sin City of Nome.”
But sadly, by early 2013 the church’s 70-year-old building had become dilapidated and inadequate, held together by cables and insulated with grass and cardboard. Financing proper improvements on their own was simply beyond the congregation’s ability. Occasionally downcast but always persistent, lead pastor Harvey Fiskeaux had been making the situation a matter of prayer for 10 years.
His supplications finally turned to thanksgiving this summer when Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers began a major construction and expansion project, which finished up last weekend.
“All of this plays into being a tool that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be proclaimed into this region,” Pastor Fiskeaux said.
The spiritual possibilities of a new and expanded physical space for the congregation are what drew the attention of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham.
“That’s what this is all about—bringing the Gospel to Alaska,” he said earlier this year.
A Labor of Love
Nome is most famous for its gold rush past and its present status as the finish line for the 1,000-mile Iditarod sled-dog race. Former glories and canine competitors do not, however, help address the deepest needs of the more than 3,700 people who currently call the still rough-and-tumble town home.
It’s only the Good News of Jesus Christ that can bring lasting joy, peace, and reconciliation with our Creator.
“We’ve been asking God to change Nome from being the headquarters for sin city to being the haven of rest, a place of righteousness,” said Nathaniel Hobbs, associate pastor of Nome Covenant Church.The church’s rejuvenated physical presence will allow for a step in that direction. Work began with the demolition of the previous structure. Samaritan’s Purse then started construction on the project’s centerpiece, a major new worship facility. The space includes a sanctuary, fellowship hall, and Sunday school rooms. The completed first floor spans 8,000 square feet, and an attic offers 4,600 square feet more for a potential second floor, if growth demands. Nome Covenant is the largest church building Samaritan’s Purse has ever built in Alaska.
In addition, Samaritan’s Purse purchased adjacent lots for the expansion. On one of them, we remodeled an existing building to become a youth center, opening up fresh avenues of ministry.
It was hardly a simple project, considering that Nome is accessible only by plane or barge. The speed and quality with which the task was completed are a testament to the dedication of more than 100 volunteers who came from across the United States.
“We bring volunteers that are skilled. They are plumbers, they’re electricians, they’re carpenters,” said Luther Harrison, Samaritan’s Purse vice president of North American Ministries. “God just orchestrates and sends the right person at the right time with the right skill level. And bringing them together we build a beautiful building.”
Not only did the volunteers produce a wonderful physical structure, they left behind a spiritual legacy for the church and community.
“I got to know a few of them,” said church member Peter Hansen fighting back tears. “It’s such a blessing to have experienced somebody else wanting to spend time to better this community and this region.”
Committed to Bringing God’s Light to Alaska
Earlier this year Samaritan’s Purse completed a new church in Kipnuk, about 330 miles south of Nome.“The community is in deep appreciation to see a new church being built and in seeing the cross in the tundra,” said Timothy Samson, associate pastor of Kipnuk Moravian Church. “The Gospel will be preached here in this building.”
The potential of churches like Nome Covenant and Kipnuk Moravian to reach the lost is exactly why Franklin Graham remains committed to his organization’s involvement in Alaska.
“The hope for these villages is the church. I don’t see any other hope outside of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Samaritan’s Purse has been engaged with various relief and evangelism projects across Alaska for the past 20 years. Since 2006, more than 1,000 volunteers have served on over 14 construction projects.