Moving to Alaska-June Chron
During the 1950’s, two of Virgil’s brothers, E.C. and Bob, had moved up to Alaska and put in a car dealership. E.C., in particular, had gotten so involved at First Baptist, that it’s pastor, Felton Griffin, felt safe to ask Virgil to come up for a revival. I think it was in 58 when he came. They had a tremendous revival — many were saved, and lots of men surrendered to preach. Griff made a statement that Virgil never forgot, which was that Alaska needed men who would move to Alaska and sow their lives here. That was more important than any other factor, like money, buildings, etc. When Virgil came back to Texas, he told me that when he finished school we were going to move to Alaska. Course, I felt that by the time that happened, he would have looked in some other direction, and so I had little to say…… probably, no more than, “I would never go!”
Shortly after the revival, E.C. surrendered to preach and was called to pastor the church in Eagle River — then a little settlement 10 miles out of Anchorage. (It’s now quite a city.) Virgil came up in the spring of 60 to hold a revival for him. Toward the end of it, he called me back in Texas and said that I was to begin packing, that as soon as he got home, and we could make all the arrangements, we’d be moving to Alaska. 45 plus years ago, our ideas of Alaska weren’t a lot different to making a trip to the moon. Virgil had brought home pictures of his first time up here — snow, dark, etc. There was nothing that looked enticing to me.
Mama and Daddy were crushed at the thoughts of us bringing up our 4 daughters whom they adored….. There was no job awaiting us, nothing that a husband/father had nailed down that would assure we’d be fed and housed. They begged the kids and me to stay in their guest housing, assuring me that Virgil would be back in a year, tail between his legs and ready to again settle down in God’s country. At that time West Texas was known as the Bread Basket of the World. Irrigation had meant that unless a hail came, a crop would be bountiful. We owned land, and all our needs were easily met there. I was so torn, because I felt I’d die to leave the security of family, friends and money. I felt sure that Virgil would definitely come whether or not I did. In those years, a divorced man could pastor in only a few places. My feeling was that God would someway let me get killed or die, and then He could find the wife that Virgil was due. It wasn’t long before I became sick. It was so that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other because of fatigue, and so I sought out a clinic in Lubbock. I did tell them that I needed tests, etc. done quickly, because we were to leave for Alaska. After everything was said and done, the doctor (who, I found out later, was also a Psychologist) told me my health problems were due to stress, and I should come to Alaska. After 2 years, if it were unbearable, I could come back home — free of guilt — knowing that I had given things a try.
We bought a little 16 ft. trailer, & a van truck. Virgil drove the truck containing our household goods & pulled the trailer in which we’d sleep at night, & we could cook. When it rained & the kids couldn’t get out to play while I cooked, they’d have to get into the bunks while I did supper. I drove a Chevy car and pulled a little Volkswagen. I had never before pulled anything, and especially, not over 1600 miles of gravel road. Our trip was of 2 wks duration. I’ll not mention mosquitoes, pot holes, permafrost heaves, dust that was unbelievable, mud when it rained that was miserable, etc. Just take it from me that I swore if I ever made it to Alaska, I’d never again go back over that road in such rigs. We arrived in Eagle River at E.C. and Jo’s home on the evening of June 21st. Everything, the rigs and us all but collapsed.
After 2 years of services in barracks that we bought, painted up and made somewhat presentable, the girls and I went back to Texas. Daddy paid our way home, and we took 17 suit-cases. This was because my intention was to possibly stay. I was so tired of substitute teaching, (both Virgil and me), living in temps that I had never imagined, spending $30.00 a week for food (Thankfully, Virgil was able to kill moose and caribou for meat), and a myriad of other hardships that had made me long for my Texas home. Now (according to the doctor), I could go back, carrying no guilt, and stay HOME. After 3 or 4 weeks, I realized that I no longer fit there. Alaska had a pull that I had never imagined, and I began to get restless to come back. After a bit, Virgil came out to hold a revival, and when he was ready to come back, I almost beat him to the plane. Every since, this is where I have been satisfied and KNOW it’s where the Lord wants me. June Bug and Jana used to say that as soon as they were old enough, they were going to get out of this horrible place. Now, all four girls are here, as are their hubbies. The grandkids, except for Jimmy & his little family are here. Several of them went Outside to colleges, and have come back here to live.
I’ve said all this in order to say that when a man feels strongly that God wants him in a particular place, I don’t feel that a woman should have much of a say in that. The Lord may speak to both man and woman at the same time, but some of us may not have the Spiritual acumen to understand. Had I stayed in Texas, Virgil said that he might not have made it long up here. AND, had he come back to Texas to be with his family, he very possibly would have given up the ministry. (Imagine what kind of marriage we would have had with his resentment, etc.)
I think of all the people whose lives have been changed by our having allowed God to have His way in us. What an adventure it’s been, and we wouldn’t take the world for it. Our kids were such a big part of a ministry that has legs all over the world as our military people have been scattered throughout. Possibly we could have been as well used in Texas, but it wouldn’t have been where we were Called, and therefore, we couldn’t have such peace and joy in our waning years. If nothing else, we learned that God is our source — it’s not in material security, nor money in the bank. There were many times when He all but fed us manna, because there would be very little food in the larder. Not only did we feed our family of 6, but there was almost always at least one or two people staying with us.
When I was teaching full time and making $500 a month year round, the church was paying Virgil $500…..(if it were a good month). Of course, the first $100 was our tithe, and the other $900 didn’t always stretch as far as we would have liked, but we never really went hungry. Our girls learned to work hard for every penny they had — and they are tremendous business women today. We learned that when we’re really choosing the will of God in our lives, He shows us the way…… A family can’t have it any better than that, can they?