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Traveling to Kako, Alaska, to research for Living Gold: The Story of Dave and Verz Penz at Kako, Alaska took us on an adventure we’d never imagined we’d experience. It gave us insight into God’s love for people in remote and unknown places, and into the hearts of those who serve God in such places.

We flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Anchorage, caught a smaller plane to the village of Aniak in Western Alaska, then met pilot John Rodkey who flew us in a 4-passenger bush plane to Kako Retreat Center on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

(Click to enlarge photos)

Within a 160 mile radius of Kako live scarcely enough people to fill one of Washington’s small towns. They’re found in over 50 mostly Yupik Eskimo settlements, reachable only by small plane.

Kako’s volunteer pilots bring children and adults from these villages to summer camps and retreats on the site of the old Kako gold mine. We had come for the annual Ladies’ Berry Picking Retreat in August. Tundra surrounds many of the villages. There are neither trees nor berries. The women are thrilled with the natural beauty of Kako and also the chance to pick wild berries for their families’ winter use.

Life in the villages is hard. There are no roads, so people are isolated. Alcoholism and drugs lead to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Hopelessness gives rise to one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S.A. But time at Kako gives young people a taste of normal childhood. Adults and children alike find Jesus can fortify them against the hardships of poverty and abuse, and give them hope for the future.

You can read more about Kako in Living Gold: The Story of Dave and Vera at Kako, Alaska. It’s available now in both paperback and Kindle ebook on books.