Youth on a Mission
By: Brad Cole

Sivuquq Mountain, rocky and steep, sat on the eastern edge of Gambell. It had become a pale ghost of itself, partially hidden behind a thin layer of wind-torn mist. I had watched it disappear and re-appear several times while walking a couple of miles on a nearby gravel road that day. Feeling tired, wet and cold I was looking forward to sitting down, relaxing and visiting with a couple of young people who had been working as missionaries in the village. Maybe they would give me a warm cup of tea.

After knocking on the door of the Presbyterian Church, a long one-story building with a blue roof and white walls, I walked inside and met Kevin Cooley and Natalie Legault. Kevin was a solid, heavyset man in his mid thirties. With curly brownish-red hair, a burly goatee and a fierce, determined look in his eye he had a commanding presence. Often he would finger his beard while talking. Natalie was a slim, attractive woman in her twenties with long hair and soft brown eyes. She had a soft, soulful air about her.

“Our organization is called “Youth on a Mission” and its been around since the mid sixties,” Kevin said after I asked him about it. We sat down at a long table with benches. He went on to describe the organization, “It has about 15,000 members mostly in their mid twenties serving in 140 countries.” He paused for a moment and then said, “Being a interdenominational group religion is not a big factor, but we do enjoy theological debates.” He then started stroking his beard and smiled.

Natalie leaned over the table and spoke, “Before we came we asked the Elders of Gambell for permission to come on the land and also for their guidance for what we could be doing once here. It was a way to honor and show respect. So we have been assisting with youth activities and holding community prayer meetings and Bible studies for the last couple of months.”

Thinking of the many hardships I asked why they were into missionary work.

Looking straight at me Kevin said, “I use to be a firefighter paramedic. It’s difficult to explain but I just had this deep passion to serve God in the missionary field. It’s exciting work.”

Natalie the jumped in and added, “I fell in love with missionary work. I’ve seen miracles happen.” She thought for a minute looking up and then said, “I could hear ‘God’s voice in my prayers and he was guiding me to this job.”

I was surprised by the amount of passion they had for their careers. They showed no strong interest in converting people but rather to help the community in anyway they could. So much of this assistance was in the form of prayer.

“Every Wednesday each person in our group makes a two hour commitment and we rotate in pray for 24 hours,” Natalie said toward the end of our talk. I did not feel a need to ask her what they were praying for; I could sense in them a love for prayer.

The image of people in prayer remained with me as I left about an hour later. I was struck by the depth of their beliefs, especially in the power of prayer. They firmly believed that all people and communities could be strengthened by it. This was at the heart of their mission, I felt.

I thought about prayer in my own life while walking home. The wind driven mist had covered Sivuquq Mountain with cloud and the darkness of dusk was descending on the land. It was nice to think that prayer could assist in ones struggle against the coming night and help communities to grow, I felt. It would be nice to stand like a rocky mountain against the swirling darkness while listening to a roaming wind that whistles with the sound of a thousand different prayers.


Photo caption: Kevin Cooley and Natalie Legault in the Presbyterian Church in Gambell.