My new Alaska series has debuted with book #1 DAWN'S PRELUDE. Over the next few blogs, I hope to share with you some of the inspiration for this series set in Sitka, Alaska.
There will be three books total in the series, and it will be what I call a generational series. Book 1 is set in 1870, book 2 in 1889, and book 3 in 1906. Sitka is a fascinating location, and I hope you'll come to enjoy it as much as we have.
First, understanding where Sitka is located is of the utmost importance. Located on the Baranoff Island in the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska, Sitka has been settled for hundreds of years. The Tlingit people were there first. Their culture has definitely left it's impression on the island. Even now you can view the totems they carved, and watch the native dances. The people there are friendly and very informative.
Dawn's Prelude will deal in part with the questions that revolve around missions work in foreign lands. As we often see in history there were two major trains of thought. One was to go in and strip the people of their culture and westernize them. Often this entailed forcing them to give up their native language, their manner of dress, their rituals and their lifestyles. In the situation in Sitka this was evident in the school created by Sheldon Jackson. Jackson was an incredible man who had a heart for God, and for educating native children. His school in Sitka originally took children from their homes to live at the school where they could be completely immersed in western culture and education. The thought behind this was that in the future they would need to be able to blend in with white society, and could not do this if they were practicing their Tlingit culture. I believe their heart was in the right place, but I don't think the manner in doing this was necessarily right or best.
On the other hand, there were Russian missionaries who felt that incorporating the natives in their everyday living with the new religious beliefs was the best way to minister. Often this meant allowing all beliefs to merge and interact. This too caused problems.
So what was the right answer? What is the right answer for missionaries today? Difficult to say. I go to the Bible for examples of Jesus, however. He was never pushy or imposing with His ministry. He shared the truth and lived it in front of the masses. And because of this, hearts were changed. Lifestyles changed of their own accord and traditions and cultures were greatly effected.
I think we have to look to Jesus for our example of right living. Sometimes in our human enthusiasm we tend to try our own methods instead of His. My prayer is that we will reflect Jesus.