InterACTION - January 2019 One Missionary's Journey... Was it worth it?

By Erin Bruzda

“The school teacher’s home becomes also the home of his students and his burden is that each student be saved and as the Lord leads, be equipped to take the message of salvation back to his people in a way (that outsiders) will never be able to do...the school becomes more than just a mission station in some village, it becomes the training center for the indigenous church..."

~ (Marvin Webber, in a letter to John Gillespie, January 7, 1962) ~

The air was cool, but skies sunny on that Alaskan June day of 1959, when Wally and Alice Bays arrived at Victory Bible Camp with their three-week-old baby girl Cheri. Their mission was to start a boarding high school in Alaska for Native young people.

Soon after arriving, they were introduced to the rough, unfinished house that was to be their home and a vacant old house to be the school classroom. This was the beginning of Victory High School and the Bay’s journey with Arctic Missions (now InterAct Ministries).

The first two years were humbling and demanding, living in one house with all the students, serving as their teachers, dorm parents, friends, and encouragers. Alice taught home economics in the kitchen, and Wally taught all other subjects in the adjacent one-classroom old house.

Wally & Alice (school play)

Initially, they had no running water and a small diesel engine to power the generator, which provided electricity only when necessary some evenings and laundry days. Wally was told it would be a waste of time to fix the one potential bathroom, as “it would never be used.” But, his determination was underestimated, and before long they had running water and a functioning bathroom in the house. Hot water however, had to come from a large kettle on top of the wood-fired heating stove.

Only four students came that first year, 1959-1960. One of them was Clara Shangin from Perryville, on the Alaska Peninsula (an Aleut village). In the November 12, 1960 edition of the Victory Torch (VHS school newsletter), Clara wrote an editorial which showed her devotion to growing in Jesus.

Clara Shangin
…This is my second year at Victory High School. I came here because I wanted to learn more about Christ. I have found real peace. You can have it, too…To know Christ is my goal, and it is wonderful to know that I am a child of God. If your goal is Christ, you can find real happiness and security.”

Clara spent two school years at Victory High and became good friends with the Bays. Wally still stays in touch with her – 57 years later. She has a good testimony for the Lord and has often written about how good He is to her and her family. Clara continues to share her faith in Jesus and pray for others in her community.

The other night in prayer meeting, Clara prayed that students from our school would go back to their own villages and tell others of Christ. Then she prayed that she might go back to her own village.” (Wally and Alice Bays, VCTC, from Artic Mission News, April 1960)

As fitting with the mission of InterAct Ministries, discipleship was at the core of Victory High School. One of the requirements for students to be accepted at VHS was their commitment to Jesus Christ. This level of commitment was different for every student, so Wally and Alice encouraged each individually – teaching them about Jesus.

In a letter to John Gillespie on January 7, 1962, Marvin Webber wrote: “We have felt that Wally and Alice have been doing a great work with those kids…. I have never seen either one of them anything else but gracious no matter what the circumstance. … the kids see reflected in them the things they are being taught day after day and its effect is being reflected in some of them in dedicating their lives to service for the Lord….”

While the school grew with a classroom building, more staff, and up to forty-five students, so did the Bays family with the arrival of two more daughters, Terri and Mary. No longer dorm parents, Wally was still serving full time as director and teacher, with Alice working as the school nurse and teaching home economics. Life was busy, challenging, and exhausting, but Wally and Alice felt God’s leading as they continually remembered what He’d called them to do and committed everything to Him.

Wally remembers another student from Victory High School…“Don came from the village of Old Harbor on the Alaska Peninsula, sent by the missionary in that village. He really did not want to be at Victory High, and showed it much of the time by his unruly attitude. But he did stick it out for four years and graduated. The Lord must have made some difference in his life as he returned for three years of Arctic Bible Institute. This is where he met Edna from a village in the Lake Iliamna area. Their marriage is still going strong as they serve the Lord together in the Anchorage area.”

ABI Class with Don Shugak (far right)

In 1974, Wally and Alice were asked by Mission Director, John Gillespie, to consider a move to the Native Institute of Canada (a boarding high school and Bible school for Native young people). Their first response was “No way!” Yet after prayer and a visit to the Canadian school, they sensed the Lord’s leading, made the move, and served at the school until 1979.

For the next sixteen years, the Bays worked in church planting and other areas of missions education and training until the Lord took Alice home in 1995. Wally continued his work in Canada for three more years until Mission leadership proposed a change.

Since then, Wally has ministered to former students of the Bible and training schools he’s served in. He’s stayed connected through alumni newsletters, phone calls, emails, and personal visits where possible. Like the apostle Paul’s love for those he’d shared Christ with, Wally’s encouragement for these Native believers to stay strong in their faith has been a lifeline to many.

Wally recently wrote about his ministry, “I haven’t been able to personally visit former students during the last couple of years due to my age and loss of energy. I have looked for former staff and students to take my place in this ministry, but no success as yet. So, I will keep on as long as I can, and, oh yes, as long as my computer still works.”

2019 marks sixty years of service with InterAct Ministries for Wally.

Through stresses and challenges in the early years, with changes and losses since, Wally has persevered to shine the light of Jesus.

When asked, “Was it worth it all?" Wally responded with a resounding, "Yes!”

Please Join us in praise and prayer....

Praise God for His mercy and grace keeping long-term workers in the harvest, who ever cease in sharing the gospel, leading those in darkness into the light, and encouraging believers to live their faith.

Pray for God to draw more workers into the fields of need in Alaska, WesternCanada, and Siberia.

Ask our Lord to appoint a servant to receive the baton from Wally and carry on his role in caring for and encouraging alumni of Bible schools, and Christian training centers in Alaska and Canada.

InterACTION is a monthly publication of InterAct Ministries

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