Church, local connections unbroken by 3,000 miles
Ryan Regier lives nearly 3,000 miles from his hometown, but the former county resident gets a reminder of home when members of Hillsboro’s Mennonite Brethren Church visit Alaska.
“It shows we have a church family from my home-church that cares about what we’re doing,” he said. “They care about me and my family, but also the first time they came up here they saw the vision of Echo Ranch, what that ministry is and what it means.”
Regier and his wife have lived and worked the past five years at Echo Ranch Bible Camp on a bay near Lynn Canal in southeast Alaska.
The couple spent two years traveling to Echo Ranch to work while still living in Hillsboro, as well, Regier said.
The ranch only is accessible by plane or by taking a ferry to Juneau, then riding 35 miles to the camp in either boats or ATVs.
“It is a different lifestyle,” Ryan said. “You have limited communication and kind of feel like you’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the world news-wise. There is some isolation, but we also have our own community.”
Members of Hillsboro MB began visiting a week out of the year in 2017, also making trips in 2019 and 2020.
The scenery is a big change, and takes some getting used to, Hillsboro MB member Kim Kaufman said.
“There are mountains all around and the ocean,” he said. “It’s not anything like Kansas. We’re building houses on the sand of the beach. It’s totally different.”
The team worked on building a new staff house this year. When finished, the house will serve as the new residence for Regier.
Kaufman and other church members returned from their most recent trip Sept. 7.
It is a welcome change, not just in terms of scenery but access to technology as well, he said.
“It’s refreshing to get away from social media and get away from all that,” said. “You go out there where there are mountains, and they’re right on the ocean.”
The camp has limited cell phone and Internet service. Even with those capabilities, it can be difficult to communicate the camp’s full message, Regier said.
“It’s not just the beauty of Alaska, but also what God is doing up here,” he said. “That’s something the kids want to get on board with.”
Church member Daniel Moss has seen greater interest in the camp from both adults and children.
“When I left both my kids were like, ‘I want to go, send me to camp there,’ ” he said. “It’s definitely something on the list of stuff to do, especially as they get a little older.”
This year’s trip was coordinated by camp staff and Moss.
“It’s really hard to put into words once you’re up there,” Moss said. “Everybody on staff at camp is like a big family, and we’re welcomed in as part of a family.”
While having 11 people might not seem like a lot, the maximum group size that can travel up to work is limited to 16, Regier said.
“Being able to manage a smaller group is nice, but a big part also is just being able to spend quality time with them,” he said.
It also was a refreshing trip because the group had an opportunity to help others, Kaufman said. While it’s a fulfilling experience, that is one aspect that doesn’t require a trip across the U.S.
“One of the best things you can do is to go help someone else,” he said. “It gives you perspective on your life and makes you feel better about yourself to go out and do something like that. We don’t have to go to Alaska to do that.”
Last modified Sept. 16, 2020