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Archives Family on a mission: Sharing faith in Alaska

Aug. 11, 2021

By Darcy Fargo

COPENHAGEN – “It’s important to give others salvation,” said Anastasia Mangan, 18, of Copenhagen. “It’s a gift that’s given to us, why not give it to others? That’s our mission in life as Christians – getting everyone around us to heaven.”

With that missionary spirit, Mangan, along with her mother, Nicole, and sister Marie, age 16, recently traveled to Alaska with GraceWorks, a Christian not-for-profit organization that hosts mission trips around Alaska.

“We went in July of this year, and we went in 2019 also,” said Nicole Mangan. “We originally planned to go to Nicaragua with Sister Debbie Blow (and North Country Mission of Hope). That trip was cancelled because of the unrest where we were going to land. We still wanted to do something. We started looking around on the internet for short-term missions. We didn’t want a vacation. A lot of the trips out there have you do maybe one little project and the rest is mostly sightseeing. We didn’t want that.”

With GraceWorks, they found an organization that provides direct services predominately to youth in public parks and trailer parks.

“These kids have rough lives,” said Nicole Mangan. “From what we were told, all of them have experienced abuse in some form by the age of 12. They’re left alone all day at these parks. They’re dropped off by parents and hopefully the parents are there to pick up the kids at the end of the day. Some of the kids are kicked out for the day, and the doors of their homes are locked. Some of the kids are dropped off, and the parents never come back. These parks are hubs for human trafficking, since it’s daylight all the time, and the kids are left unsupervised.”

“It’s sad,” added Anastasia Mangan. “You don’t realize how much you’re blessed and how important family is until you go see a child younger than you that has nothing. If you show these kids care and that you want to help them, they cling to you.”

The Mangans noted that services for the homeless youth are lacking in Alaska.

“There’s a women’s shelter, men’s shelter and teen shelter, but there’s nowhere for kids to go,” Nicole Mangan said. “Only the most severe cases end up in care. Most of these kids are just left on their own all day. Some are homeless.”

When the kids are in the public park, GraceWorks provides food, some supervision and lessons about Christianity and the Bible.

“(Volunteers participating in the missions) are hosted at a church,” said Anastasia Mangan. “We go to the parks and play games and spend time with (the kids) to let them get to know you. Our name tags let them know we’re safe. We get to know their names and where they’re from and some information about their circumstances. Then, we have ‘tarp time.’ We put a tarp on the ground or set up on a picnic table, everyone gathers around for snacks and to discuss the Bible and maybe do songs and crafts.”

“In 2019, we were in a park with smaller kids,” said Nicole Mangan. “This year, it was older kids. They were tough. These kids were at the point where they needed to know the truth and decide. Either they can go the worse way, or they can let God change them and have better lives. We told them about salvation. We told them about God. We handed out Bibles and did Bible studies with them.”

“We also share our own testimonies with them,” added Anastasia Mangan.

“We didn’t want them to think we had never done anything wrong,” said Nicole Mangan. “We do things wrong, too. The kids could relate to that.”

To participate in the mission trip, the Mangans raised funds by selling goods they produced or crafted on their homestead and by performing jobs for others in their community.

“Anyone can go to this, and they always need volunteers,” said Nicole Mangan. “They don’t have an age limit or minimum. Kids are able to participate and play with the kids there. Sometimes, kids the same age as the ones in the park are able to be better witnesses than adults can be.”

The Mangans said they plan to return to Alaska for future mission trips. Anastasia and Marie said they hope to help create “drop-in housing,” where youth could have a safe place to stay with structure and expectations.
To learn more about GraceWorks, visit graceworksak.com.


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