Dear Friends and Family,
“There’s no place like HOME!” We had a wonderful vacation for two months in the Lower 48, visiting friends, family, churches, supporters and relaxing in the midst of those opportunities. It was restful, busy, boring, refreshing, exciting, fun, fulfilling, memorable, hectic, full, and a bit of everything. We are sooooo grateful that we got to vacation. Ross and I spoke at 8 different churches and God met us at our point of need----whether that was emotionally, physically, mentally, financially or spiritually. I love how God knew exactly what we needed to be refreshed and exactly the order that we needed it. Oh, how intimately He knows and loves us! Thank you to each of you who played a part in our refreshing. We needed to just "be" and you allowed us that opportunity and blessing.
We have heard good reports of what God did over the summer while we were gone. The Lord sent different teams to come and minister as each group planted seeds, prayed and blessed the people in the village. It has been so encouraging as it was a confirmation that “God brings the increase” and it doesn’t all rest on our shoulders. God is building a team of ministers here and we are in awe of how He has answered prayers.
In quiet ways, people’s lives are changing. Another couple just got married this summer. That makes a total of four weddings in three years. The concept of truly being loved by God is slowly permeating hearts. The seeds that have been planted years ago in prayer are beginning to bud and blossom to bring forth fruit. How thrilling for us to be a part of what God is doing here in this part of the world!
Samuel graduated in May and went on to earn his Certified Nurses’ Assistant certificate. He joined us for the rest of the vacation in mid-June. He is sorting through his clothes, books and possessions to decide what goes with him to college and will be leaving on Thursday to head down to Juneau.
Rachel Joy won another photography contest and took 2nd place in her division! We are continually excited to see her gift and talents being acknowledged. She and Ross had the thrill of going on a 9 hour boat trip in the Kenai Fjords. The pictures of the glaciers, the river otters and the sea lions are amazing. They got the last two seats available. The guide said that she had never seen so many different animals as they did that day. God made it a spectacular day of a lifetime.
Isaac has become an avid artist, spending several hours a day drawing. He gets up early, even though it’s summer. He also continues to learn more songs on his guitar. Recently, he started teaching Samuel to play. He just started running and he enjoys that, too.
Leah was glad that she sold a lot of her beaded earrings. She loved being outside, playing in the green grass and looking at all the beautiful flowers on our trip. Ross bought her a flute and she has been practicing. She loves baking cookies and treats with Samuel. She got out her quilt last night and started working on it again.
Ross had a full summer of traveling, relaxing, speaking at churches, driving, and being with friends and family. He took us to Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC. It’s a hands-on museum where he lectured on bees and beekeeping back when he was in junior high. He took us to Sliding Rock, NC. It’s a natural 60 foot rock slide in a mountain river that runs down into a blue pool at the bottom. The boys, Leah and Ross went down about 30 times while Rachel Joy and I went down 3 times. It really was lots of fun! Ross has always wanted to take the family to those two places and after all these years, it was finally able to happen.
We returned to Alaska spiritually refreshed. On our last stop, we picked up a sore throat, flu-like bug so by the time we got home, 5 out of 6 of us were in various stages of sickness. That hadn’t happened the whole time that we were gone on vacation. In Nome, our flight was cancelled due to the weather. So all of us were so glad to get home the next morning to our own beds. The first Sunday back I gave the evening service since Ross was sick.
We have a strong desire to build onto our home. We hope to add on a large room, about 20 x 20 that could be set up with some exercise equipment and a ping pong table to serve as a place where teens can come work out, and "hang out." Our home is currently only about 1200 square feet, including the church "office." There is no sort of "teen center" in our village.
The church needs major repair. With this being a missionary pastorate position and the church being non-self-supported, we feel somewhat responsible for the church building. We are excited that we have just finished scraping and getting a new coat of paint onto it as much of the old paint was gone and the wood had begun to dry-rot in places. We only had enough paint for one coat as it took 15 gallons each of primer and paint. It is still in great need of a new roof -- the metal roof is original -- it has begun to rust out and has already been painted several times. There is still some trim-work on the exterior needed as well. The roof won't be cheap, especially having to fly the materials in, and we will need some experienced help because of the steepness of the pitch of the roof.
We realize that these financial needs are beyond our ability and our strength but they are not beyond God’s. We often do not talk about money, lest we offend, but in our desire not to offend, perhaps we haven’t given opportunity for God to bless White Mountain, in the way that He would like to.
You serve a great role in what happens here. We cannot do this ministry effectively without you. Your prayers have sustained us, your love has comforted us, your financial giving has provided for us, and your friendship has carried us on the wings of perseverance. “Thank you” seems so little to say for so much that you have done. You are the unsung heroes in this cause. It is your hours of intercession on our behalf, the army of prayer warriors that have enabled us to fulfill the call of God on our lives. You are so significant. You are known by God Who sees all and knows all. So, once again, “THANK YOU!!!”.
Ross & Ruth McElwee
Samuel, Rachel Joy, Isaac, Leah
PS. Rachel Joy and I took over 5000 pictures between us!!! We have been steadily culling through them and are down to 3000 -- still a bit more work to go. Here are a few – Ross