The Ark In My Front Yard by Tony Stites
Here’s the short version:
God is calling our family to move to Wasilla, Alaska. We will be helping to take care of teens at a homeless teen center that is not even in existence yet and I need financial, prayer, and other support in completing the mission. Please share our story.
The long and interesting version is below:
I started on a journey and never knew it. If it was not for my wife I don’t know if I would have opened my eyes to see it.
Growing up I wanted to live off the land. I saw a movie about a kid who moved out in to the wild and lived off the land with a hawk. As time went by and life wore me down, I forgot about that dream.
I was 21. I got myself in trouble for armed robbery and spent eight years in prison in Oklahoma. Toward the end of my time there I was at a work release job. That’s where I met a man who helped change my life. He started studying the bible with me and after a while he arranged it so I could go to church with him on Sundays. Right before I was getting out they were having a youth rally close by and he asked me if I would speak. I don’t know if the speech was any good, but it inspired me to want to keep speaking.
From that point on I knew I was to work with teens.
I made parole and part of my parole was to get out of Oklahoma. This is the part of my life where I met my old crush from Oklahoma and got married. Between then and now we went to church in McKinney, Texas, much of the time. Different things happened here and there that led us to different churches.
Looking back on all of it I can see God’s hand guiding us, and growing us for this specific thing.
When my oldest daughter got to the age of being in the church youth group I tried to get involved. But it seemed that my prison background and openness about struggling and overcoming pornography addiction kept me from being able to be involved.
At least that’s what I thought the problem was at the time.
There came a point I decided, “Well maybe God does not want me working with a youth group.” So I started asking God what He DOES want me to do.
Giving It All Over To God.
After praying and searching I talked to Kerri and we decided the first step was to find out if God wanted me still working where I’ve worked for over 16 years. So we prayed and then wrote a letter asking for a raise. If the raise was this amount or higher we knew to stay and if it was this or lower, we would take this as a sign that God has something else for us to do.
Guess what? No raise.
For a while I thought this is where the journey began but I can now see that the journey started the day I saw that movie and probably even before that.
Everything in my life has directed me to this point.
I don’t know if God removed my dreams from my mind so He could take me through other things, or if it was satan trying to destroy God’s plan for my life.
Working From Home.
The company I had been working with for over 16 years had just moved to another building. Up to this point they would never let me work from home. Well I could every now and then but for a regular thing is was out of the question. There was a mess up with the ethernet connection and the PRI. We still had everything connected at the old building but we had to be out, so the company asked us to work from home for the next week or two. Well three or four weeks went by and my boss asked me when was I coming back IN to the office to work. I told him, “I’m not. Unless you make me.” From that point on I have been working from home. That was 2 years ago.
I wrote to my boss and said, “Hey we are moving to Alaska. Can I work from home in Alaska?” About fifteen minutes later he calls me up and asks if we’re serious and I say yes. Then he tells me that it would be great and it would really help him out. It would leave Tech Support open for an extra three hours because of the time difference.
I know what you are thinking. I thought the same thing but hey, God works His own way. So I am moving to Alaska but with the same job I thought God was moving me away from.
So now Kerri tells me, “Well don’t just get excited. You need to pray and ask God what he wants you to do.” So I start praying. And start looking at how much it’s going to cost to move.
A few years ago if God would have said, “Move to Alaska,” I’d have had the money. I spent our entire savings on opening our photography business, PhotoSentimental. So we cannot make this move on our own.
We believe the timing was because God wants to show His power and show me and everyone else that it’s not up to us to do His will on our own. He is in control.
Advice About Alaska.
Kerri sent emails to several churches asking about advice on moving to Alaska. She got several emails back. One of the preachers and I talked about why I thought I was being called to move to Alaska. I told him I had been doing research and I had found that a lot of the small villages did not have churches. My idea was to pick a village and go help them with doing every day chores on the weekend and to tell them about Jesus.
The preacher explained not only had this been tried before but that they had not had success with it.
Well I believe that’s why God is sending me.
What an idiot.
Like God needs me there to do something He could have done with all the other people who tried.
The preacher told me if I was really set on doing this he could get me in contact with a pilot when I got there and it will cost us a lot of money for the pilot to fly me out and back.
God led us back one Sunday to a church we’ve been part of on and off for 15 years. To our surprise they were talking about having a Harvest Sunday the next week. They said this amount was how much money they needed for the ministries they already decided to support. And then they said if they go over they will just have to find new ministries to fund.
Kerri turned to me after church and said, “Follow me.” She felt we were supposed to talk with two of the church leaders and told them that we were moving to Alaska to minister there. They told us to write up our plan and give it to them. We said that if more money came in than their budget would they pray about our ministry we’re doing and help move our family to Alaska.
I did not have a plan.
We did not know what to write.
We just felt God was calling us to move to Alaska and to minister to the native Alaskans but we had no idea what the ministry looked like so I sent a message to my new preacher friend in Alaska and said I might be able to get funding for my ministry but I really don’t know what it looks like and I asked if he could help me figure it out.
He said it was so strange that I asked when I did. He had just opened an email about this year’s Alaska lectureship and it’s going to be about evangelism.
He said there are three preachers who sent this message and that I should contact them. So I sent a letter to all three.
After a few days I decided to call.
The Same Old Story.
This preacher told me the same thing the other one did. Working with the villages takes like 15 years just to gain trust.
And he told me his church was full of military families and other people who moved there to climb the corporate ladder and after they got their next promotion they would be out of there.
He told me he would love to have me at his church and that he could use someone who would help make a strong backbone for the church.
I told him that sounded great but I did not feel God was moving me there just to be a part of a local church.
The Next Guy.
The next guy I called started to give me the same story, but then he started telling me ways they were trying to get into the villages, like through prison ministry and working with an adoption agency.
He said there were more kids than families.
He then said something like, “What we really need is a homeless teen shelter.”
We’re your guys. (And now we believe God has shown us a bookkeeper, a gardener, a physical education coach, a history teacher, and a home school teacher. All of these have been in our thoughts and prayers. And we believe God’s shown us who they all are. So we’ll be moving to Alaska with our army of servants ready to help.)
The Empty Church Building.
This preacher said they are trying to build a new church building but had to stop until they could sell the old building. It is a big building and is on eight acres of land. They thought it was sold before but it fell through and maybe this is the reason why.
My dad’s a preacher.
I called my dad up and was telling him how building the Ark was going.
It was funny because his first words were something I had forgotten about. He said, “Wow! That is exactly what you and Kerri said you wanted to do when you first got married.”
This is the ark that is in my yard.
Why is the ark there?
Well I believe God put the ark there. Not so I would have something to write about but so God can show people He does work in our lives.
Open your eyes and trust Him and he will send you on great adventures. Some will be sad, some scary, some wild and some will leave you asking “Why?” like in Habakkuk.
But one thing’s for sure. If you have faith in God and trust in Him, He will get you through all of it.
He will turn your pain in to a healing tool.
He will turn your scary moment into comforting.
And He will take your wild adventures and turn it in to an ark in your yard.
I was not always broke financially.
I think God designed it this way for His story and to show His power.
I have no clue how any of this is going to happen. What I am doing is what I feel God leading me to do.
I hate asking for help. That is one reason I went to prison in the first place. But like with all God’s adventures, they are designed to make you grow.
If you want to donate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also in the process of making a donate button online and we’ll be glad to send the link when we get this part figured out. If you know you are to be part of making this happen, email us and we’ll figure out how to get you a receipt for your donation. The name of the teen place is in the process as is the non profit work we need to do. He leads. It’s been a long journey. And we haven’t even really started the work yet.
Please Share Our Story.
If you do not feel called to help financially or have no idea how to help please just share this story.
I know God has other people who are supposed to be a part of this because I know nothing about building a homeless teen center and I know I am not capable of doing everything it takes to make it happen.
Why A Teen Center?
I know this has been long but for those who are interested this is why a teen center.
Back in the 1800s when people first started moving to this area, different religions decided to divide Alaska up into sections.
Instead of bringing the Native Alaskans to God they made them not trust people.
Our first goal will be to get the teens to a safe place and make sure they are healthy.
The next thing is to help educate them in skills that will help them survive on their own and make a living.
The most important thing is to let our light shine so that they can see God and are led to Jesus.
There are state run places. The state can house them and feed them, but what they are not doing is showing them God.
Where does an Alaska teen go after he is given the tools to survive and has been given the Light?
He goes where we have had no luck.
He goes where we are not trusted.
He goes back and shows his village how well he is doing, and he shows His Light.
One of the preachers in Alaska responded quickly after our Ark letter. He has given us permission to share this.
Great story! Has the church in Texas offered any help? Even if they could do a one-time offer just to help 5you make the move to Alaska there are always employment opportunities here for those who are willing to work. So keep that option in the back of your mind. There is also a tremendous need in Alaska for foster care especially in the Anchorage area. They simply can’t find enough families who are willing to take on that responsibility. So that’s another option to consider. If our congregation were more financially stable we could consider helping families like yours who want to move here to do the Lord’s work. But we’re like so many other congregations in the area. We are plagued with what churches in Alaska typically call “transfer growth” – where families transfer in but stay briefly before leaving again. We have a very transient membership of Air Force and Army families who are here for only three years at most. They’re here just long enough for us to get to know and really love them and then they’re reassigned elsewhere. Then there are others who move to Alaska thinking this is the land of opportunity only to face a harsh winter or two before deciding they can’t handle the cold dark winters. I get really frustrated by all this but it’s just a fact of life about trying to do the Lord’s work in Alaska. But every now and then there are those who move to Alaska and never leave. But they are a rare breed. If you can find the support you need to make the move I think you would never lack for opportunities to fulfill your dreams of making your dreams a reality. Please keep me posted about your progress.