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Adventist Mission

A Guiding Star

“We grew up fast,” remembers Roland. “We had a mother and little sister to help.”

Life was hard in the western Washington town of Humptulips during the 1930s. Located on the Humptulips River on the Olympic peninsula, the town had seen better days for the commercial fishermen trying to earn a living.

One family, the Moodys, found life so difficult in Humptulips that they decided to follow Mrs. Moody’s brother to Alaska, where, according to the brother, the fishing was good and there was money to be made. The family of six packed up and traveled the 2,500 miles (4,023 km.) from Humptulips, to the Canadian border, then on through British Columbia and the Yukon before heading west to the frontier town of Dillingham, Alaska. From Dillingham they headed up the Wood River, finally arriving on the remote shores of Lake Aleknagik.

Although Aleknagik is a Yupik word meaning “wrong way home,” the Moody family found a good place to settle beside the lake, where they built a small log cabin. Mr. Moody and the eldest son took their large fishing boat down into Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest source of red salmon, while Mrs. Moody cared for the three younger children at home.

Sadly, just a few months after settling into their new home, tragedy struck the Moody family. As father and eldest son headed up the river from Dillingham, somehow both men ended up in the fast current and drowned, leaving the mother to raise the two younger sons and a daughter.

A Family of Faith

Being a family of faith, the mother continued to gather the children for worship and on Sabbath they met with Mrs. Moody’s brother and his family. During the week, Mrs. Moody carried out the family fishing business, with the help of her two sons, Lloyd, 14, and Roland, 13.

“We grew up fast,” remembers Roland. “We had a mother and little sister to help.”

To help their family survive, Lloyd and Roland had little time for school as they worked as commercial fisherman near their home. By the time they were no longer teens, the young men had not yet finished at the rural public school. Early each morning Roland, who was now 20, built a fire in the school’s wood stove so that the place would be warm. During those early mornings, Roland not only warmed up the classroom—he also took the opportunity to get to know the school’s beautiful young teacher, Miss Jackie. By the end of the year, they were married and set up a home beside Lake Aleknagik.

Camp Polaris—a Guiding Star

After they married, Roland and Jackie started talking about ways to reach out to the native Alaskan community around them, and decided to build a Seventh-day Adventist school on their property by the lake. They called it the “Mission School” and offered grades 1 through 8. Students and parents were delighted, and kids came from as far away as Nome just to attend the mission school. In order to accommodate the students, two dormitories were built. Additionally, the Moodys started an Adventist congregation and built the first Aleknagik Seventh-day Adventist Church.

As the school grew, Roland and Jackie wanted to provide more for their students, so they started a camp. “We just didn’t ,have any place to take the young kids for activities and stuff,” recalled Roland, “and kids like to go someplace.” They named the new place “Camp Polaris”—after the guiding light of the North Star.

Roland Moody purchased several old buildings from Crick Cannery, which had gone out of business. He barged these buildings across Bristol Bay to Aleknagik, and then 12 miles up the lake to Camp Polaris. More than 60 years later these old cannery buildings are still in use each summer by the children of western Alaska.

Continuing the Camp Ministry

For decades Roland and Jackie Moody enjoyed hosting the children and ferrying them up the lake by barge to the camp. Each year on the last Sabbath of camp, the entire Aleknagik Adventist Church prepared a feast for the kids and made the 90-minute boat trip up the lake to Camp Polaris, where they enjoyed a special Sabbath by the lake with the campers. After Jackie passed away, Roland married Beverly, who helped continue the Camp Polaris traditions.

Over the years the camp has been a vital ministry to the young people of western Alaska. Many of the children who attend camp come from less-than-ideal homes where poverty, alcoholism, and abuse are too often the norm. They often exclaim that coming to the camp is the highlight of their year, because it is a place where they feel loved, accepted, and cared for. ⎭

Note about picture on p. 4: Mr. Moody owned a fuel station. He is in the center of the picture, wearing whitish overalls. To the left is the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and his son, Patrick, who stopped by to refuel while visiting Alaska many years ago.