“Oh, great God of all life, please lead my grandson Sammy out of his path of destruction and into a solid relationship with You.”
With an open Bible in her lap, Jeanie welcomed the sunrise in conversation with God as she did every morning from her modest dwelling in the little Alaskan village of Gulkana. Each day she prayed for all her family members and pleaded with her Savior to change Sammy’s life and make him new in Christ. God was listening.
One crisp October 2018 morning, a small group of LEaD Alaska students and leaders seated themselves in a circle of chairs to begin a new session in the residential discipling ministry. With coffee in one hand and a Bible in the other, the newest student began to share, “My name is Sam George Jr. I am an Athabaskan Native from Gulkana, Alaska.”
LEaD Alaska is a formal partnership between organizations (see description below) focused on training Native followers of Jesus in principles of Christian leadership, spiritual formation and life skills. Students reside on InterAct Ministries’ Lazy Mountain Campus in Palmer, Alaska and learn together as a Bible-based discipleship community. God has brought participants from all over the state of Alaska to this ministry, representing many different Alaska Native cultures and communities. Sam was the first Athabaskan student to attend LEaD.
Fortunately, Sam grew up knowing about his heavenly Father. Many of his family members are believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his grandmother faithfully pointed him to God whenever she could. Yet while Sam knew about God, for many years of his life he did not know God. As a teenager, he turned to a lifestyle that pleased him for the moment but pulled him away from God, hurting those who cared about him. He soon spiraled downward into a life of sin, substance abuse, and crime. “I became an angry and hard individual,” Sam said. Some might have thought he was an unlikely candidate to attend LEaD Alaska. But God was at work and He delights to do the impossible!
Several years ago, Sam realized his need to get things right with God. Yet without a Christ-centered discipling relationship, he sought answers in misleading ministries which gave him no hope of true change. Trying to muster up the strength to live a Christian life on his own left him empty and confused. Eventually Sam confided in a pastor friend who recognized his need for intense and intentional discipling and connected him with the InterAct LEaD program. After applying, he was thrilled to receive a full scholarship to attend. Each LEaD ministry partner poured into his life through devotional times and modular classes.
Sam’s wife, Tammany, and his family developed a warm relationship with the missionaries serving with LEaD. The staff rejoiced as they watched God transform Sam’s heart, answer prayers and grow his hunger for the Word.
Choosing to be discipled in this way is not easy. As Sam shared, “It has not been a breeze in the last six months. It was hard to be away from my family that live three hours away in Cantwell. Yet it was a good decision to attend LEaD and sacrifice six months out of my life to learn more of God. I learned that my strength, joy, peace and love only comes from God. He has changed my way of thinking.”
God used this time to help set Sam’s feet solidly on the path to spiritual growth.
Since leaving LEaD, Sam has had challenges and opportunities. Staying grounded in his Christian walk is a daily challenge, as it is for all believers. God has given him opportunities to share his Word at Fairbanks Native Bible Church. There have been moments when he has faced temptations and cried out for prayer. Sam perhaps said it best, “I will not say I am done learning, but I’m on a good start on my journey with God. I thank God for InterAct Ministries—especially to my mentors; my Pauls and Paula!”
On the evening of May 6, 2019, the LEaD Alaska graduation celebration concluded with Grandma Jeanie framing the entire evening and year. She shared her heart in praise to God for His answer to all those years of prayer for her grandson. Her Sammy now knew the Lord and was growing in his understanding and relationship with her Savior. God did what only God could do… He changed a life.
As you pray, God opens doors.
Pray for God to call the students He would have attend LEaD. Three sessions are planned this year, the first starting in October.
Additional teaching staff and disciplers are needed to lighten the load on the Horsmans. Pray for God to raise up missionaries who love to share life as they build into the lives of participants.
Pray for Sam and his family as they grow in maturity, while facing challenges and experiencing joys of walking with the Lord.
Meet the Missionaries
God is at work, grooming and equipping his servants for ministry. Looking back on the journey Steve and Jill Horsman have traveled, it is clear God has used their history to prepare them for opportunities they never expected. From their assignment in 1989 at Victory Bible Camp in Alaska, to church planting ministry with First Nations people of Canada, then back to Alaska, they have served with energy and passion for unreached people.
When mature Alaska Native believers sounded the alert of concern for a lack of discipled Native believers—Steve and Jill answered the call. They were the obvious choice to cultivate a leadership development training program known as LEaD. Jill’s education background is an asset as the director and the couple’s extensive cross-cultural background is vital to the ministry. The program runs in cooperation with several ministries to address the need for whole-life discipleship with emerging leaders in the Native community. Though the numbers are small, the impact has been great.
Steve also serves as the Alaska field director overseeing staff, strategy and numerous mission properties. What a blessing to see God preparing his children to meet critical needs long before we are aware of them.
Many stories have been told of God’s gracious responses to the prayers of his children. James tells us, “You do not have because you do not ask.” Jesus teaches in both Luke 11 and 18 that persevering prayer will result in answers from our loving Father.
In Sam George’s story, God chose to honor the persistent prayers of a faithful grandmother as the means to move Sam’s heart. Prayer changed things! Wayne Grudem states:
If we were really convinced that prayer changes the way God acts, and that God does bring about remarkable changes in the world in response to prayer, as Scripture repeatedly teaches that he does, then we would pray much more than we do." *
Are you faithfully praying to the Lord of the harvest for workers for his harvest fields? Are you praying for the effectiveness of churches, mission organizations and harvest workers around the world? May this story be used by God to stir you to greater intentionality in praying for the needs of the North Pacific Crescent and beyond.
* Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1994) 377