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Start Something New: An Alaskan Way of Life
September 6, 2013
“My family’s motto for life has always been ‘find a way, make it happen,’” said Annie, a senior at the University of Alaska—Anchorage. “We really do live the Alaskan way: we build many things ourselves, we hunt, we fish—we see what needs to be done and go for it.” Stephanie, a junior, also comes from an adventurous family. They enjoy skiing at night (under a full moon), hunting and skinning moose under the Northern Lights, hiking historic trails, and battling class three rapids in canoes.
After serving with InterVarsity as student leaders for a couple years at University of Alaska—Fairbanks, Stephanie and Annie were told that the classes they needed to graduate were only offered at the University of Anchorage (350 miles away). So they went to visit Anchorage, and when they arrived, they were surprised by two things: first, Anchorage had 900 students living in the dorms, and second, there were no Christian organizations on campus available for students.
Could They Start Something New?
“We began to talk about what it would be like to give all 900 students in those dorms the chance to follow Jesus,” said Stephanie. The day of their visit, they were asking, Could we start an InterVarsity chapter here?
With the help of their campus staff member at Fairbanks, they gathered chapter planting resources, such as InterVarsity’s Start Something New handbook. They also continued to pray and started making plans—they were really going to do this. But then, they received news that might change everything.
The classes they needed were going to be offered at their Fairbanks campus after all.
What should we do? Should we stay? Should we go? they both wondered. “Eventually, we looked at each other and said, ‘But didn’t God speak to us in Anchorage?’” recalled Annie.
So Annie and Stephanie decided to go through with their transfer to Anchorage—not because it was needed for graduation, but because they sensed God calling them to go. They packed their bags and said goodbye to the Fairbanks InterVarsity chapter and their friends and set out for Anchorage—their new frontier.
“Being on the physical frontier is very similar to being on a spiritual frontier—and often just as dangerous and exciting,” said Annie. “But growing up in Alaska with my family and starting something new is just our way of life.”
As the beginning of the school year approached, Stephanie and Annie started reading through InterVarsity’s Start Something New handbook, praying for the campus, and asking God to connect them with other like-minded people.
“We both felt God lead us to do ministry in the dorms,” said Stephanie. “The Start Something New handbook helped us see really where we should be on campus, although we didn’t know anyone in our dorm.”
Stephanie and Annie found a Christian faculty advisor on campus who agreed to advise their new InterVarsity chapter. They also met with the Residential Advisors (RAs) in their dorm and found out that many of them were Christian and supported Annie and Stephanie’s desire to have a Bible study in the dorm.
“These things really made it easier, and it was so encouraging to know that God was going ahead of us through the whole process,” said Stephanie.
In the first semester, as they met other Christian students in the dorms, at the dorm cafeteria, or through other friends, they gathered a group to hear about the vision of InterVarsity. About a dozen students showed up, and after hearing the vision of InterVarsity, seven students (mostly freshmen) joined them to launch Bible studies in three of the Anchorage dorms.
Annie and Stephanie began training students how to share their faith with others. “It was a huge step for most of them,” said Annie. “At first they were really timid about talking to people about Jesus, but they saw that people were open to talking, and they sensed God was working. Now they all want to do more. They want to start next year by engaging the campus with the gospel.”
Sacrifice Is Worth It
Annie and Stephanie will be the first to tell you they have sacrificed a lot to follow God’s invitation to plant a chapter.
“Planting a chapter is very time consuming, since Annie and I are both enrolled as students,” said Stephanie. “Through this process, God has taught me to trust and have faith in him so much more than ever before. I don’t have to know what’s going on or really what I’m doing—in some ways I still don’t—but trusting and having faith in God is the most important thing.”
To share Stephanie and Annie’s story, click here!