This Week's Story

My parents' faith was not mine. I wanted to be me!

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Big Footprints, part two

Sometimes people expect that if your dad is an outstanding spiritual leader, you’ll be a good kid. That was not my road. I wanted to be me! I followed my parents’ activities, but not their faith.

My brother died unexpectedly in a military plane crash and my dad died at age 51 of a brain disease. After my dad was gone I was in a fog with nightmares. I said, “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t have these dreams every night. My folks had faith, but it isn’t mine.” I tried to understand my childhood. It helped me to find my own faith walk.

My dad was Vince Joy. He, Mom, and my brother Jimmy came to the Copper River Valley of Alaska in 1937. I, Beckie Jean, was born three years later. Dad was an intensely focused pioneer missionary, with Mom working with him. My parents loved and cared for my brother Jimmy and me. They had strong priorities. Sharing the good news of Jesus and helping Ahtna natives were primary. Sometimes I felt too far down on the priority list.

In our early years in Alaska we did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. In the winter getting water was going to the Klutina River, cracking ice, and hauling water on a dogsled.

Winters started in October. Temperatures could plunge to 50 degrees below zero. Travel required new skills. Dad got a dogsled and dogs—Kusko, Lad, and Dee.

He learned to fly. By time I was a teenager he had taught me and my brother to fly. Mom tried to make a lady out of me. When I felt like a rebel, I’d sit on a hill and think my thoughts. At age ten I received my last doll. At age eleven I received my first rifle. I shot squirrels and rabbits.

Dad saw that a pilot and plane were urgently needed for the Valley people, especially when they needed medical help he could not give. For several years, the nearest doctor was 120 miles away. Dad had had good first aid training. When he was called for help, if possible, he went. Cold, snow, few roads, long distances, and people with serious injuries convinced him, “Learn to fly and get a small plane.” He did.

Dad with Mom’s quiet support uniquely brought the love and good news of Jesus to the Copper River Valley. He saw troubles and needs in people’s lives. Their challenges brought vision to him for how to help.

Helping was building chapels and homes. It was stitching head wounds from fights, encouraging someone to stop getting drunk, flying in dreadful weather to an emergency. Weekly it was studying the Bible with men and women and leading worship services. Vince played the guitar and sang. My mom was the excellent pianist. Some Ahtna men played violins ordered through Sears and Roebuck catalogs or made by Frank Hobson.

Many Ahtna natives were thankful for their native heritage; and as Christian believers, their victories in defeating personal problems. Respected leaders were Frank Hobson, Robert Marshall, Walter Charley, Jim McKinley, Harry Johns, Ben Neeley, and Fred Ewan. The latter four became chiefs. All, worked to bring practical services to the Valley. Several became Christian pastors.

This is Barbara Steiner. Many people from the Valley, including Vince’s daughter, who found her walk of faith, have helped me to research this story. I’ll be returning with the conclusion to “Big Footprints.”

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