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September 29th, 2002 Newsletter From Old Crow

Dear Friends,

We got our family moved over to Old Crow, in the Yukon this week. This operation feels more like a military campaign than a family event. We certainly didn't plan on doing things this way, but sometimes events work out in a manner entirely different than what we plan. If we didn't know that we are in the Lord's will, and He is directing all this, it would be far too hard to face. To think of moving your family so far from the nearest road, into such an isolated location can seem scary when you are doing it. The onset of winter greatly complicates it all. Old Crow is nearly a hundred miles above the Arctic Circle and 150 miles from the nearest road.

A large, 5 bedroom, spacious house opened up for us to rent in Old Crow. Karen & I could see clearly the hand of the Lord in how this happened. It was a very special gift to our family at a very needy time. On Thursday, Sept. 26th I flew our family over and we began to settle in. Everyone picked out their own bedrooms and began to set things up. It will take a lot of trips in our Cessna 182 to move everything we need to bring, and this is a bad time of year for flying weather. I'd like to describe some of the special events that have been a blessing to us.

Since the loss of Spike last fall, we have all been waiting to get a puppy. Spike was a very special part of our family and the manner we lost him was traumatic. We spent a lot of time in August, while we were in Alberta looking for a pup, but couldn't find what we wanted. We all knew it was strange we couldn't find a dog! Well, as soon as we got in our new house, this tiny little puppy, as cute as there ever was, came running down the road as hard as she could, straight up on our porch and simply adopted us. We tried taking it back to it's home, but it kept coming back and when we inquired, the owner gave it to us!

The one downside to this house is that there is no phone service in this little neighborhood because it is on the 'other' side of the airstrip. They can't dig a trench across the airstrip because it is used by C-130's and it would make a soft spot. So for many years they simply have not had phone lines into these homes. This was a serious issue for a mission base. However, when we landed on Thursday there was a message for me to call the manager of all the airports in the Yukon on the airport phone. I got a hold of him the next day and he said the runway use would be restricted on Oct. 4th & 5th for the purpose of laying a phone line "under the runway", and could we operate off of 2000' of the end of the runway those 2 days!! Could anyone miss seeing the hand of the Lord in the timing of that? Not only was God giving us a special gift, but He was announcing it by the administrative chief of airport operations!

The real challenge of this move is the flying part. Between Ft. McPherson and Old Crow is about 150 miles of total wilderness without one emergency airstrip. Also we must cross the Continental Divide which is mountains about 6,000 feet high. No fuel is available at Ft. McPherson, and at Old Crow it cost's almost $2.00 a "liter"! The approach of winter weather is bad because the ground & water is not yet frozen, so with the cool air this causes lot's of cloud, fog, precip, etc. The best flying weather between days of being grounded is usually awful. Several times in the last week I've had to fight my way for every inch of ground searching for a valley I could get through, all the while in rain with the thermometer below freezing. But very little actually froze on the airplane. I guess the thermometer is off. Yes, the procedure is to avoid getting into situations like that, but in every case I had good weather reports, forecasts, etc. and it still happened. We allow good margins in all our planning so when things go wrong we still have room for error. Today we had an excellent forecast and actual conditions were very good at the weather stations on both ends when I departed Old Crow. So I was planning on making two trips while I had good weather. About 20 minutes before I arrived at Ft. McPherson a fog layer, which had been working it's way down all the way from the coast, rolled over the airport. The weather station operator said on the radio that she couldn't see the other side of the runway. So I landed on a wide spot of the Dempster Highway, about 15 miles from town, in the mud, and sat there for an hour and a half. I had radio contact, and finally she said the fog had lifted to about 600 feet over the airport. The problem was that along the leading edge, the fog went right down to the ground. So I flew down James creek, which has big high banks at that spot, and by staying below the creek banks I was able to get through to the higher ceilings. When the average temperature drops a few more degrees we could very easily have weeks of ice fog when we can't fly. So we are praying for this to come late this year. I've been getting my fuel at Inuvik where it is cheaper than Old Crow, and this makes for tight fuel management. It would be a lot different if we could simply put in all the fuel we needed at Old Crow, but it's just too expensive.

The only method of heating at Old Crow is wood. In the summer wood is floated down the river in rafts, and in the winter it is hauled by snowmobile. There are no local roads at all for hauling wood. If you can find any wood for sale, it sells for $250 a cord. About a cord of green wood was left at the house, so we had to buy it to start out on. I had hoped to take in a snowmobile by canoe, down the Eagle river, but time is fast running out on us to do that. It won't fit in the Cessna, and if I have to get it flown in from Inuvik, it will cost us about $400 for freight, plus I'll have to haul it up to Inuvik by truck. The overland Skidoo trail to Old Crow is about 200 miles, but it is mostly on rivers, and it will be late in November before it is marginally safe to travel. The local colloquialism for snowmobile is "Skidoo"...all snowmobiles are "Skidoo's".

I have to say how thrilled everyone is with the large amount of room we have in our house. The ceiling in the living room goes up two stories and the it's like a balcony where the hallway goes along the bedrooms. We can all play our violins together, bounce on the little trampoline (I got it in Alberta in August, in faith we'd have a place to use it), actually move around now! We even have a room to use for a school room. Most importantly, very special opportunities have opened up for us. Although we don't want to take on a grinding schedule like we had for years at Sunchild, the opportunities are there for us to do as much as we choose. Some of these opportunities are somewhat sensitive to discuss on a world wide public forum, but they do reflect some tremendous victories.

So we are 'exhilerated' with the thrill of all that has been opening up to us. However, for me the excitement is tempered by the challenge of moving everything and getting settled before the 40 below hits, just weeks away.

Please keep us in your prayers. In His Service, Rodger, Karen, & family.

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