For the past two years, Oak Hills has sent a group of people to a small subsistence living Tlingit village, Klukwan, in southeast Alaska. While one of the purposes of the trip was to provide assistance to this struggling village, most of us who went feel like we received much more than we gave. This year we helped strip a house so that it can be renovated so that growing and returning families can have new places to live, we helped fix up the church, we did some work in the community, and we helped serve a meal to visitors in the hospitality house. But we were gifted with such beautiful experiences.
This community is abounding with the gift of storytelling, the lack of distractions, the ability to listen, generous giving, prolific art and master craftsmanship, and interdependent community. This is a community where a person’s value is determined by the stories they have been gifted to share, and the amount of possessions they have given away. Education, financial success, professional status – these are only as valuable as what they provide their community. A person coming into the community with wealth who does not share it would not be held in high esteem, while someone without any income who works hard at the salmon harvest and generously shares her food would be highly respected.
This seems so intuitive! Does our community esteem the same values? Are we distracted by big homes, high ranking jobs, a bunch of letters after our names? Why do we long for more?
Both times I have gone to Klukwan I have wanted to stay. It was such a blessing to see Jami and Jason Cambell thriving there; they are a couple who went on the first trip and were asked to stay and pastor the community church. If you ever find yourself in Klukwan, I strongly recommend going to church on Sunday and experiencing God through Jami’s teaching. Something about this community brings out beauty in people. For me, the performance issues and busyness is stripped away and I just get to be me. I wish I had more places like that here in Folsom.
Even as I sit down to write this entry, my mind is wandering to all the things I have to do today, all the things I would like to do, all the discomforts I am trying to avoid.
All this is not to say that Folsom is terrible and Klukwan is perfect. They have significant struggles with substance abuse, mental illness, loneliness, and disunity. I believe those are struggles in all communities. But when people live so close together in small numbers, and when they truly depend on each other for survival, flaws are much more difficult to hide. Klukwan lives with one foot in American culture and one foot in native tradition. The division creates some internal (and external) turmoil that is going to take this community a lot of time to reconcile. Despite their struggles, I still think our lives would be enriched by bringing a little bit of Klukwan here.
What if we did things just a little bit differently? What if we lived a little more simply? What if we gave away a little more money without any strings attached (because we all know that if our employer paid us only if we would spend it on necessities we would all be in trouble)? What if when people were talking to us, we let them finish, and then waited for a few seconds, minutes even, before we started speaking? What if we told people our story a little more often – without the garnishes and thrills – the boring stuff, the simple stuff? What if we actually turned off our phones and our computers and our televisions most nights? What about even one night a week?
If you want to experience a little bit of Klukwan I have a couple of suggestions for you.
- Ask a friend/family member/loved one to tell a story about their childhood pet or childhood memory. It can be a short story, a long story, it doesn’t matter. Let them tell you the entire story with no interruptions (this means turn your phones on silent, TVs off, music off, etc). Then let them finish. Wait at least 30 seconds in silence. Afterward, don’t ask any questions, don’t try to clarify something you didn’t quite hear or understand. Trust that what they told you was everything and enough, and walk away with that.
- Have one night a week with the people you live with (or if you live alone, with close friends or family) where electronics get turned off at 5 PM. You eat together, play games, talk, read, and maybe even go to bed early.
- Give something away without any regard to whether the recipient is “deserving” or whether they will use it “wisely”
- Find a way to depend on someone – ask someone else to do your grocery shopping, ask for a ride when you would have normally used an Uber, ask someone else to make dinner, etc
- Go spend some time in nature – find a waterfall hike, head up to Tahoe or to the ocean, go kayaking
Please continue to pray for Klukwan.
- Pray for the upcoming Salmon harvest- that it will be bountiful and that they can store up food for the winter
- Pray for Jami and Jason as they shepherd the church in Klukwan
- Pray for the Kingdom of God to reign in Klukwan – that disunity and spite will disappear in the light of the Good News of Jesus Christ
- Pray for those struggling with substance abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses – that they will be given peace, healing, and be valued in the midst of their struggles
- Pray for the youth of Klukwan living abroad that want to return home that they may find a way.
- Pray for the Oak Hills trip next year – that we will have skilled laborers come as well as hopefully a trip co-leader