Adventist Cruise to Alaska Inspires Revive! Campaign
Hundreds take Bible studies, attend meetings; many are baptized
Steve Vistaunet, North Pacific Union Gleaner editor, and Ephraim Palmero, Alaska Conference communication director
Many Americans take cruise vacations each year—more than 10 million according to an industry trade group. But some cruisers do more than relax with friends. In the case of a group of Seventh-day Adventists from the mainland United States, their vacation plans sparked a major evangelistic outreach in the nation’s northernmost state: Alaska.
WELCOME: Program hosts George Johnson and Connie Vandeman Jeffery made visitors—and viewers—feel welcome.For those unfamiliar, Alaska is the largest state of the United States by area—663,268 square miles (1,717,856 square kilometers) big—but also the least densely populated. The state has only 722,718 residents, and of that number about half live in and around Anchorage, the largest city.
Despite the concentration of people, Alaska is a challenging evangelistic area. A sense of independence and not needing God, along with other issues, appear to be among the reasons many Alaskans stay away from church. In planning a 2012 vacation trip for supporters and friends, leaders atVoice of Prophecy (VOP), a Seventh-day Adventist media outreach headquartered in Simi Valley, California, near Los Angeles, decided to do more than just have a vacation experience and enjoy Christian music.
Lance Liebelt, VOP’s manager, asked, “If we’re going to Alaska, what more can we do?” In previous cruises, the VOP group had discovered the joy of doing a special project at its destination. In fact, many participants had said the projects were an even greater adventure than the cruise itself.
So they decided to set a project goal for the cruise destination in Anchorage. The Discover Bible School (DBS) and its director, Kurt Johnson, got involved. “What would it be like to send Discover invitation cards to every person in every city and village in Alaska?” they wondered. When they called Ken Crawford, Alaska Conference president, he was ecstatic about the potential.
Thus was born the Reach Alaska project, designed to bring Bible studies to all Alaskans in every community, no matter how remote, through Discover, KidZone, or Native New Day Bible lessons.
“What if we held a special series of meetings at the end of the cruise?” creative minds wondered aloud. “And what if we asked the best and brightest Adventist speakers we can think of to each take one night?” The series would not only affect the greater Anchorage area, but would also be recorded for broadcast on the Hope Channel. “Let’s call it ‘Revive!’” they decided.
LESSON ALTAR CALL: At the end of the Sabbath morning service with Ron Halvorsen, Sr., those desiring to make a life-changing commitment to Christ crowd to the front near the stage.So plans were made to enhance the North American Division outreach strategy by mailing invitation cards to every Alaskan household. More than 280,000 cards were sent out across the vast Alaskan territory—twice. And the response? Bible studies soon outnumbered the total active membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Alaska—at least 200 studies were started in the Fairbanks/North Pole area alone, and more than 130 in the far-flung reaches of Nome!
Thus began a remarkable partnership between VOP and the Alaska Conference. Johnson established regular coordination with Tina Steenmeyer, conference DBS coordinator. Prayer teams were formed, meeting every week via phone. Some people modified their work schedules to accommodate this as a new priority.
By the time more than 500 guests embarked on the VOP cruise on June 1, more than 2,000 DBS students were in process or ready for graduation. Adventist Media Center/Adventist Media Productions (AMC/AMP) crews were en route to Anchorage to begin setting up for the meetings to follow.
A 40-foot container filled with 10 tons of lights, trusses, cameras, electronics, and broadcast equipment had been trucked to Seattle and shipped to Anchorage. It was waiting at the dock when team members arrived in Anchorage to begin the complex technical setup in the downtown William A. Egan Civic and Convention Center. Everything was ready and working in time for the VOP Family Reunion concert the first weekend following the cruise.
Then came the full week series of Revive!, June 9–16, 2012, with a virtual dream team of Adventist speakers—Dwight Nelson, Derek Morris, Jon Henderson, Karl Haffner, Randy Roberts, Elizabeth Talbot, Carlton Byrd, José Vicente Rojas, and Ron Halvorsen, Sr.
COORDINATION: Kurt Johnson, Discover Bible School (DBS) director, confers with Tina Steenmeyer, Alaska Conference DBS coordinator. Johnson made multiple trips to Alaska during the year preceding the Revive! series and stayed in daily phone contact with Steenmeyer.“When Lance Liebelt asked,
‘What more can we do?’” says Johnson, “who would have thought that all these gifted speakers would answer the call, willing to be part
of this special week?”
In fact, this is likely the first time that such a group has combined its efforts for such a week. Instead of a typical doctrinal approach to evangelism, the focus of each night’s topic was a relational appeal of “Experiencing God” in areas such as grace, peace, forgiveness, and hope. It was new, fresh, and well received. Each speaker went away saying, “What a wonderful experience. Let’s do it again.”
Throughout the series, the first fruits of the Bible students came to the forefront. More than 100 graduates received their diplomas on the first weekend. Several who had completed additional studies were baptized. And hundreds, if not thousands, of ongoing students are still working to complete the course.
Viewers across North America, from Hawaii to the East Coast, also capitalized on the nightly broadcast via the Hope Channel. Many invited their own Bible-study students to watch with them.
Those involved with ongoing Bible courses realized quickly it is not a one-way street. The inspiration flows both ways. Along with the interests, members have also been revived with a growing commitment to minister and a fresh passion to bring people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.