By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
NOME, Alaska–Oak Grove members Mary Frances Tracy and Diane Weih heard about a ministry in Alaska ministering at the Iditarod and the women were interested, feeling perhaps God was calling them to help with this ministry. Twenty-two months after the initial intrigue, Tracy and Weih were among mission team volunteers serving at the 2011 Iditarod race.
“It was nice knowing that God could call you to something like this and make the way,” Tracy said.
Tracy teaches Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action groups about missions. In 2009, Brenda Crim, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary and missions strategist, was featured in NAMB’s annual missions study. Crim tirelessly works at the Iditarod each year, coordinating with mission teams, ministering to visitors, racers and staff in a variety of unique ways. “We have to do this!” Tracy told her friend, Diane Weih, who together teach adult Sunday school and are involved in various other ministries at the church.
The idea, however, went on the back burner until Tracy saw an article in BaptistLIFE about a Maryland woman who ministered at the Iditarod (https://bcmd.org/2010/06/battling-spiritual-darkness-in-alaska). Tracy felt this was God again laying this ministry on her heart. She and Diane immediately made plans and submitted their registration. Following a nineteen hour flight, the women arrived in Nome on March 17 and they hit the hard cold ground running.
“As soon as we landed, we were working the concessions at the basketball tournament,” Diane Weih said.
“It s a huge thing in Nome,” Tracy said. The highly popular games are well attended and many people participate each year on the teams. Businesses sponsor their employees. This year, Brenda Crim donated the more than $7,000 proceeds from the basketball concessions to the Bearing Sea Women’s Shelter.
The mission team also worked at the annual mushers’ banquet where they met Iditarod winner John Baker and other mushers. They served at the mushers’ breakfast, prayer walked around Nome, provided security in the dog lots and cleaned up the “sick dog tent” at the end of the race.
In addition, team members ministered at Bearing Sea Women’s Shelter, they sang at a senior citizen’s home and walked around town engaging people in conversations. Some team members also ministered at a local jail.
Tracy said they spent the week helping people. “It’s nothing that anyone couldn’t do,” she said. “It was a great week.”
The team slept in bunk cots at Nome Community Church – women on the second floor and men on the third floor.
Tracy said spiritually, people responded to the kindness. They would ask why the volunteers came and that was an open door to share that it was to show the love of Jesus.
Weih said she was encouraged and uplifted during the trip, meeting other volunteers from churches throughout the country and ministering to and with the natives. Weih said many of the Alaskan women she met had been through some very difficult struggles yet they praise God and are growing in their faith.
Above all, Weih said she was overwhelmed with the beauty.
“I could really see God’s glory in the frozen landscape. I’ve never seen it all white like that. There were no mountains. You didn’t see rivers or lakes. Everything was frozen. It looked so clean and fresh,” Weih said.
Tracy said, “It was nice knowing that God could call you to something like this and make the way. You just have to say yes. It took two years, but the desire was there and God was faithful to get us there. I think that’s true with any trip you may want to do. Nothing is out of the possibility with God.”