Report on Alaska

Acts

Report on Alaska

June 1st, 1969 @ 7:30 PM

Acts 14:24f

And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:
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REPORT ON ALASKA

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 14:24-28

6-1-69    7:30 p.m.

 

On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message.  It is a report from the preaching mission that I have just completed in Alaska.  And what I do tonight is apostolic.  It is good New Testament custom and practice.  When the first missionary journey was completed, the fourteenth chapter of Acts closes it [Acts 13:1-14:28].  Now would you like to read the close with me?  Acts chapter 14, beginning at verse 24 and reading to the end of the chapter; those words are “Pisidia,” and “Pamphylia,” and “Perga,” and “Attalia.”  So when you get to them, now do not stumble around—and I can barely hear you squeak, or you could kind of grunt when you come—now you say Pisidia!  And Pamphylia, and Attalia, you say it like you were intelligent!  Now you ready to read?  All right, Acts 14, verse 24 to the end, now together:

And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:

And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

And there they abode long time with the disciples.

[Acts 14:24-28]

Now that’s it.  After they came back they rehearsed all God had done for them, and how He had blessed them [Acts 14:27].  And then they tarried a long time [Acts 14:28]—oh, another twenty years, let’s say—so that’s what we are going to do tonight.

Well, when I went up there, some of God’s saints are in Alaska.  And one of those laymen in Fairbanks named Howard Alexander––I was with him again and again––he has a fine business, an affluent one, and has a beautiful Mercedes Benz automobile.  And every time I was with him he was singing a song.  Never but that he was singing this song, over and over again he would sing this song.  And when I was at Juneau, I opened the door of my room and right across the hallway was E.C. Krohn who heads the mission work in Alaska.  He was seated at the desk in his hotel room and the door was open.  And while he was working, writing and working with papers and whatever, he was singing that same song.  So I just decided we’ll learn it together tonight.  All right, let’s go.

How great is our God, how great is His name

He’s the greatest One, forever the same.

He rolled back the waters of the mighty Red Sea

And He said, “I will lead you, put your trust in Me.”

All right, Lee Roy, come up here, come up here.

Lee Roy: “What’s the key?”

Now you repeat it after me.  I’m going to line it out and you say it after me.  You ready?  How great is our God––(congregation echos)––no, no, just Lee Roy.  I want him to learn it.  You ready?

How great is our God––How great is our God

How great is His name––How great is His name

He’s the greatest One––He’s the greatest One

For ever the same––For ever the same

He rolls back the waters––He rolls back the waters

He rolls back the waters––He rolls back the waters

Of the mighty Red Sea––Of the mighty Red Sea

And He said––And He said

I will lead you––I will lead you

Put your trust in Me––Put your trust in Me

All right choir, now let’s do it.  Ready?  All right.

How great is our God

How great is His name

He’s the greatest One

la la la, all right, let’s start again.

How great is our God, how great is His name

He’s the greatest One, forever the same

He rolls back the waters of the mighty Red Sea

And He said, “I will lead you, put your trust in Me.”

Ms. Forrester, have you learned that?  Come on up here to the organ.  Come on.  We’re all going to sing this tonight.  We’re all going to sing this tonight.  Now don’t put it too high, because I can’t sing high.  I can’t sing low either, but I do better low.  All right, that’s good, that’s good!  Now all the choir and everybody sing with the organ, would you like?

How great is our God, how great is His name

He’s the greatest One, for ever the same

He rolls back the waters of the mighty Red Sea

And He said, “I will lead you, put your trust in Me.”

That’s coming to life.  That’s a sweet little old diddiest thing; all right everybody, now sing it once more.

How great is our God, How great is His name

He’s the greatest One, For ever the same

He rolls back the waters of the mighty Red Sea

And He said, “I will lead you, put your trust in Me.

[author and work unknown]

That’s great.  You sound like Alaskans!

How in the world could you do all of that and nobody particularly even know I’d be gone?  Do it between Sundays.  Well, of course it is possible today because of the jet.  There is nothing that mankind has ever contrived that has the miracle in it of jet propulsion, flying with a jet.  They say that now you can eat breakfast in New York City, you can eat lunch in Los Angeles, you can eat supper in Hong Kong, and your luggage is in Old Mexico City.  It’s a new day.

A preacher, God bless him, went up to the airport in Anchorage, and they were trying to get him to fly to Fairbanks.  And all the rest of them were going by plane, but he said, “I’m not a’going.  I’m going by train.”  They have a railroad that runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks—unlike Dallas, we’ve lost all of our passenger service—so the man there at the counter said, trying to coax that preacher into going by the plane, he said, “You are a minister.  You are a man of the cloth.  You are a fellow who believes in God, and the Lord promised you, ‘I’ll go with you all the way.’”  And the preacher said, “That’s not the way it says it in the Bible.  It says, ‘Lo, I will go with you all the way!’” [Matthew 28:20].

I have been, as you know, around the world and half a dozen times up and down it this way.  Have flown over Switzerland half a dozen time, and without exception, the most fiercely beautiful of all of the places I’ve seen in this world is Alaska, none excepted.  When I went up, to my great disappointment there was a cloud covering over all the northwestern American continent.  But when we came down out of the clouds, preparing to land in Anchorage, I got my first sight of the Kusilvak Range.  Oh, that is a fearsome, jagged infinity!  And coming down we passed over the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet and then before us, Anchorage.

The highest tide in the world is in the Bay of Fundy, and the second highest tide in the world is in that Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, thirty feet high.  Sometimes that tide comes in in a flood ten feet high.  Then beyond Anchorage and up the way is the famous fertile Matanuska Valley where they raise cabbages that weigh seventy pounds.  And right across the Cook Inlet, Susitna, the Sleeping Lady, all of those mountains snow-covered.  Then beyond Anchorage the trip up to Fairbanks and flying by, both going and coming, Mt. McKinley.

That’s one of the most awesome mountain peaks in the earth; one of the most impressive.  It’s one hundred sixty miles from Fairbanks, and you can see it in all of its white glory from Fairbanks.  It is twenty thousand three hundred feet high and is a solid white monument to God’s creative love and grace.  Fairbanks is right below the Arctic Circle.  It has been seventy-five degrees below zero at Fairbanks.  It is located where the Chena runs in the Tanana River.  And in the wintertime, it stays dark all the time.  And in the summertime, it stays light all the time.  You go up there on that range of mountains just beyond and see the sun all summer long, every day, all day long, and every night all night long.  This is the great hub for the activity that is centering now in Alaska in those gigantic oil discoveries on the North Slope that goes down to the Arctic Sea.

Then coming back I came to Juneau and to Sitka.  And E.C. Krohn, the head of our mission work in Alaska, sat by me and went with me on the plane.  And to my infinite delight, whereas going up the whole earth, the northwestern side of the American continent was covered with heavy clouds, when I came back, it was clear.  And E.C. Krohn said to me, “I have been flying over this route for thirteen years, and this is the first time in thirteen years I have ever seen it clear and beautiful like this.”  Oh, it is beyond description!

I have been up to Washington several times.  And I used to stand in awe at Mt. Rainier, and then St. Helens, and Mt. Adams, and then Mt. Hood, then Mt. Jefferson, and then the Mount of the Three Sisters.  But when I came back by those same mountains, returning home, they looked like pimples, they looked like molehills.  The gigantic expanse of those towering ranges in northwestern Canada and southeastern Alaska defy imagination.  Those gigantic glaciers, thousands of them; this is the Columbia Glacier, this is the Bering Glacier, this is the Malaspina Glacier, bigger than the state of Rhode Island, that one glacier.

We were flying at an elevation of thirty-seven thousand feet, and yet it seemed to me that those towering peaks, as we approached them, would scrape the bottom of the airplane.  Tremendous, and as far as the eye could see at thirty-seven thousand feet, all covered in solid white, and the valleys filled with those gigantic glaciers.  For example, the Fairweather Range, and Mt. Fairweather rising eighteen thousand feet out of the Pacific Ocean, right there at the coastline; beyond anything, so jagged and so gigantic and so awesome.  And Sitka and Juneau are like gems.

If there’s ever a preacher in the world who has a place to live that is beyond anything that mind could imagine, it is Hollis Bryant, who has just gone to be pastor of the First Baptist Church at Juneau, Alaska.  His house is built where that inlet comes up and where the tide comes in and out.  And his living room has five beautiful, big spacious plate glass windows around it, five of them.  And you sit there in that living room and look out over that tide, and those high snow-covered mountains on either side, against one of which Juneau is built.  And then just beyond are the Chilkat Mountains, the Chilkat Range all white and snow-covered, and everywhere those giant towering spruce trees.  It is something from the hand of God.

And as fortune would have it, I sat by an atheist on the plane going up.  He was from Brussels, Belgium.  It was an unusual thing how I got to talking to him.  The girl comes by, and all these airplanes are nowadays up there in the first class section, they’re saloons.  They are flying bars.  You just drink, and drink, and drink, and drink, and drink, and drink, and then you start all over again.  That’s what they are today.  And if you like to drink, you will love flying first class.  So the stewardess comes by, the barmaid comes by, and she says, “Will you have something to drink?”

“No,” he says, “no.”

Will I?  “No, I, goodness no.”  So everybody lights up a cigarette, and he doesn’t light up a cigarette.  So after a while I just took the nerve, and I said, “You don’t drink, do you?”

“No,” he said, “no, I don’t drink.”

“You don’t smoke do you?”

“No,” he says, “I don’t smoke.”  Well, I thought he must be some kind of a fine religionist.  So a little later on I said, “Are you a churchman?  Do you go to church?”

“No,” he said, “I’m an atheist,” and he said his father was an atheist, and his grandpap was an atheist.  And I want you to know, the girl came serving the dinner.  And she said, “Would you like to have a drink with your meal?”

“Oh, yes.”  And he drank, and drank, and drank, and drank with that meal.  Well, I was amazed because he told me he didn’t drink!  Then after the meal was over and they’d taken the plate away, why, she came back again with hard liquor, you know those bottles that––mmm!  What’s written on those skull and cross bones?  I don’t know what all that stuff is on those bottles; and he started drinking hard liquor.  Then when he got all through with that, why, there were a couple of bottles on the floor there.  We were seated next to the front, and he had the girl bring him both of those bottles.  And he drank all of that!  Well, I was just dumbfounded, so I said to him, “I thought you didn’t drink?  You told me you didn’t drink.”

“Oh,” he said, “I don’t call that drinking when I drink with my meal.”  He says, “That’s just drinking when you drink on an empty stomach, like you Americans do.  But this isn’t drinking.”  But it had a marvelous effect on him.  When he got through drinking, I never saw a guy turn loose talking in my life.  He just talked a blue streak.  Oh, boy!  And all the things that he didn’t believe in; it was amazing to me just to listen to him.  How inconsistent and irrational, there’s nobody that is as inconsistent and irrational as an atheist.  There’s just not.  There’s just none.  There’s no rationale in anything that he says.  Well, that was a funny thing.

Then right after that, landing at Anchorage, Felton Griffin, who is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Anchorage, took me to a museum.  And had all of the stuffed animals and animal life that is found in Alaska; it’s fantastic and impressive.  A Kodiak bear there, that thing looked to be ten feet tall.  Oh, I never saw such a thing in my life, an enormous bear!  And everything else up there in Alaska, the world’s largest walrus is up there in that museum.  Well, I got to looking at those things.

The national bird of Alaska is a ptarmigan, a ptarmigan.  And they have those ptarmigans in there.  And in the wintertime they are solid white, just as white as snow.  In the wintertime they are white, and then in the summertime––and they had them all mounted there where you could see them––they’re speckled.  They’re brownish like the color of the land when the snow melts away.  And so Felton Griffin said, “Now I want you to look at this.  You see those white ptarmigans there, just as white as they can be.  And see this colored one here?”  Well, he says, “You know how that came to pass?”  He said, “A long time ago, many, many, many millions of years ago, why, a ptarmigan said, ‘You know if I could change the colors of my feathers in the wintertime, and if I could be white, then they couldn’t find me so easily and bite my head off and eat me up.  I could protect my life if I could turn white.’”

So he said, “That original first great grand-daddy ptarmigan, he thought and he thought, and he grunted and grunted, and he tried and he tried, and he strained and he strained, and he came out with two white feathers.  Oh, it was wonderful.”

Then he said, “That great, great grandpa ptarmigan said to his son, ‘Now I have produced two white feathers.  Now I want you to grunt and grunt, and strain and strain, and try and try.  And he did that and produced two more and there were four white feathers.  And it went right on down the line of grunting and a’straining and a’trying, until finally they were able to turn white in the wintertime.  And then they started all over again a’grunting, and a’straining, and after fifty million years they were able to turn back speckled in the summertime.  And that’s why the ptarmigan is white in the winter and speckled in the summer.”

That’s what that atheist would have to say.  Why bless your heart, I think God did that, the Lord did that!  He made that ptarmigan just able to do that.  God did it.  Why, that ptarmigan in five hundred million billion years couldn’t turn himself white in the wintertime and speckled in the summertime.

And I went all around and look at those caribous.  There are those caribous with those great antlers out.  And right down his forehead he has a couple of antlers that are turned, like, they’re turned on edge.  Now I look at those things, and I said, “Well what in the world is that for?”

“Well, that’s a snow shovel; because he grazes in the wintertime, and in order to brush away the snow he’s got a snow shovel right there in the middle of his forehead where he can just brush the snow away.”  And then over there was that walrus, an enormous––I didn’t know they grew that large––biggest thing, weighed tons, a walrus.  And he had two enormous tusks down, those enormous ivory tusks; a walrus.  And I said, “What in the world are those tusks for?”  And the answer was, “He eats clams.  That’s his mainstay.  He eats shellfish, clams.  And he takes those two tusks and he digs down with them in the sand, and he digs up the clams.”  And that’s what those big tusks are for.  Why, it’s amazing what God has done!

And those bears, oh, oh, those bears; all kinds of bears.  And to my amazement, you can hardly tell a brown bear from a black bear.  But they are very different.  A Kodiak bear, a brown bear, is one of the most vicious animals in the world.  He’ll hunt a man down.  And a black bear is afraid of a man.  But there are a lot of times you can’t tell which one is black and which one is brown.  So I said, “What do you do to tell them apart?”  And the answer was: “If you see a bear and you don’t know whether he’s a black bear or a brown bear, you go up and kick him.  And when you kick him, if he climbs the tree, that’s a black bear.  But if you climb the tree, it’s a brown bear.”  It is a part of the display, the exhibit of God’s creative genius.  Ah, what the Lord has done!

Now the riches of that great expanding state of Alaska, originally it was gold.  But we have a monetary policy in the United States that fixes the price of gold at thirty-five dollars an ounce.  Well, as you know, everything has gone up, and up, and up, and up, but we keep the price of gold at thirty-five dollars an ounce.  So it is hardly worthwhile anymore to mine gold, and gold mining has practically ceased in Alaska.  Isn’t that a strange thing?  Everything else goes up and up and up.  We expect everything to go up and up and up, but the price of gold stays the same.  Well, they call that deflation.  You deflate the dollar; devalue the dollar if you pay more than thirty-five dollars an ounce for gold.  So the gold mining has practically ceased.

But in Alaska, as I mentioned this morning, there are uncounted billions, and billions and billions of dollars in black gold, in liquid gold.  One of the tremendous finds of this earth, on this planet, has been the discovery of oil on that great northern slope that runs down from the Brooks Range into the Arctic Sea.  And in Fairbanks, where the center of activity now is, the head of the railroad in Fairbanks, they have those giant Lockheed Hercules.  They will carry forty-seven thousand pounds a trip.  They will cruise at three hundred sixty miles an hour, and they’re flying that rigging equipment and all of that other material over the Brooks Range into the slope.  And there they are drilling oil.  And now while I was there last week, the announcement was made that the great four foot diameter pipeline will pour into Valdez.  And they’ll have a capability of delivering one million, two hundred thousand barrels of oil a day over that pipeline.  It is a fantastic thing what they’re doing, discovering oil in Alaska.

Now I must conclude.  The time passes so quickly.  God and God’s men in Alaska: when you go into the airport in Anchorage, you’ll find an impressive picture, great mural, great wall picture of Mt. McKinley.  And underneath are written the words “Bring me men to match my mountains.”  And that’s exactly what God is doing in Alaska: men to match My mountains.  Up there in Nome there was a prospector who, as he panned and as he worked, he saw a substance, a metal, that was as heavy as gold.  It sank down just like gold.  It panned out just like gold, only a little heavier than gold, and he didn’t know what it was.  And he was surprised to find it.  So he sent it to the federal assay office.  And the assay office sent back to the prospector and said, “It is platinum, platinum which is heavier than gold and more expensive than gold.”

And so he called his camp, his mining camp, the Good News Mining Camp.  And he formed a company and he called it the Good News Mining Company.  And they built a town there and he called it the Good News Community; something better than gold, Good News Company.

And when Felton Griffin told me about that discovery and the name of that community, and camp, and company, oh! that’s what the gospel is; the good news, something better than gold!  And to us something better than platinum; the good news from heaven, the good news in Christ Jesus [Romans 1:16].  And the men that I met there, oh, dear! how representative they are of the finest of our people, the best in theology and missionary dedication.  The pastor of the First Church in Anchorage, Felton Griffin, has been there for twenty-five years.

The property they own, they sold to the J.C. Penney Company, and they have built one of the most magnificent churches you could ever worship in, the First Baptist Church in Anchorage, Alaska.  And in Fairbanks, oh! some of the finest men—like Howard Alexander, God’s deacon—and God’s great layman and then those two brothers, Virgil Krohn and E.C. Krohn.  Eating dinner with them I turned to them and I said, “How come you boys to be preachers and how come you to be here in Alaska?”  They were raised out there on the high plains, near Plainview in the panhandle of Texas.

Well, the first one to be a preacher was Virgil.  And he had a brother who had gone up to Alaska and to Anchorage and was a businessman in Anchorage.  So when Virgil came to see his brother E.C.––why, when he left, the visit was over and Virgil had come back to Texas, to his pastorate in Texas––he left something in the heart of his brother E.C.  And after wrestling with God half the night, he answered God’s call and gave himself to be a preacher.  Then he woke up his wife and told her about it.  And then she stayed up the rest of the night wondering how in the world they was going to get by.  When he came back, [he] finished his college work and his degree at Plainview.

And E.C. Krohn who is telling me about it said, “You know what?  In my heart I came up here to Alaska to get away from God.  I thought I’d go as far away as I could and escape the Lord.  But,” he said, “you know, I found God waiting for me here in Alaska.”  And you are going to find it that way.  I have found it that way.  Wherever I go and I’ve gone to the ends of the earth, I take myself with me, and there I find the Lord.

Whither shall I flee from Thy Spirit? And whither shall I go from Thy presence? … If I rise on the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there the hand of God awaits me.

[Psalm 139:7, 9-10]

We don’t escape God.  He is everywhere.

I must close.  And I haven’t time to tell you of some of those pioneer, frontiersmen preachers who take trailers and they haul them over those inaccessible roads out in the wilderness.  And there they set them and announce services and gather up those rough frontiersmen and preach to them the gospel of the grace of the Son of God.  They teach the children.  They gather the families together.  Then when God prospers them, they’ll build a little house of worship.  Then as God continues to bless them, they’ll add a lean-to for a Sunday school and another lean-to on the other side.  Some of them, they’ve so made that they can jack them up, put wheels under them, and start in another place.  And the man lives there in that trailer with his family and with his children.  The sacrifice they make to bring the gospel is beyond what I have ever known in my life or that I rarely have seen on the face of the globe.

But God is blessing them.  And they are building, while the great state is growing, they are building an empire for Christ.  They have some fine churches, some magnificent preachers, and they have the spirit of dedication and consecration as I have rarely seen in the earth.  The last thing they asked of me was this, “Now when you go back, and you tell your people about us, will you make a tape of your message, and will you send it to us?  And we’ll play it all over our churches in Alaska.”  So I said, “Every service is taped, and this one will be sent to you in Alaska.”

And my brethren in the ministry, and my brethren who are deacons and leaders and teachers, and my sisters who are helping to build a witness for Christ in that giant land, from the First Baptist Church in Dallas, this is the pastor sending you the love, and remembrance, and gratitude to God for all you’re doing, and for all you mean to the people in that great and gigantic and growing state.  God bless you, my brethren in Alaska.

Now our time is far spent.  To give your heart to Jesus tonight, to put your life in the fellowship of the church tonight, a family, a couple, or one somebody you; in the balcony round, on this lower floor, if God bid you come tonight, do it now.  On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairwells on either side, into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I come, pastor.”  Make the decision now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming.  The dear Lord bless you in the way, while we stand and while you come.