By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SHELBYVILLE — This summer Tim Key found a new way to minister to the Eskimo or Inupiat people in Alaska he has grown to love.
He repairs their four-wheelers or ATVs.
Key, director of missions, New Duck River Baptist Association, used to be a motorcycle mechanic.
There are many needs in the four villages he and other Tennessee Baptists minister in, explained Key. He and others would see many four-wheelers sitting around unused and in non-running condition, but he never found the time to try to repair one. The association has ministered in Alaska for four years.
This summer he had more time so he did. He wasn’t surprised to learn that the family who owned the ATV or Honda as the Eskimos call them didn’t know anyone who could repair it.
The village of Shungnak in the Northwest Borough is very remote, located about 185 miles from Kotzebue, the nearest city, and only can be visited by dog sled, snowmobile, boat, ATV, or airplane depending on the season and conditions.
Key was surprised to find the repair was only going to cost $60 for a starter. The ATV cost the family about $14,000. Most families don’t own vehicles which aren’t really needed in these villages because they are so remote. A couple of people in each village own a truck to haul supplies from the airport.
As he helped the family, he was glad to learn that the mother and wife of the family wanted to learn how to repair the four-wheeler as well as the oldest son, who was 14. The husband and father of the family is often gone hunting and fishing.
So Key challenged that 14-year-old boy and some of his friends to drag four ATVs to the “Baptist cabin” and when he returns next summer he will teach them how to repair them.
The Baptist cabin in this village is where a Baptist pastor or missionary has lived and ministered, explained Key.
This year Key served in Alaska for four weeks leading 24 missions volunteers from seven New Duck River Association churches. The association became involved in the village of Shungnak when Brian and Debbie Love served there for three years. They were Mission Service Corps missionaries of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board until they had to return to Tennessee because of the illness of a family member. Currently Brian is pastor, Charity Baptist Church, Fayetteville.
This village and several others are helped by First Baptist Church of Kotzebue, he explained. Two of the villages desperately need Baptist missionaries/pastors to share the gospel, Key added.
He and the other Baptist volunteers have learned to focus on the teens, he added. In the past nine months, three teens in one village have committed suicide, he reported.
The village residents also need other kinds of help, explained Key. For instance, during the spring people need help to recover from floods.
The villages have satellite TV, internet, and electricity.
He will return in December to deliver Christmas gifts from Baptist churches in New Duck River Association to several villages.
For more information, contact Key at firstname.lastname@example.org.