Isolation in Arctic leads to greater gospel appreciation
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At the northernmost tip of Alaska, members in Barrow enjoy sharing the light of the gospel in a place where the sun goes down in November and doesn't come back above the horizon until late January.
About 14 members of the Fairbanks Bush Branch in the Fairbanks Alaska Stake live in Barrow and gather together on Sundays for Church meetings either at the community teen center or in the home of Gaylin and Edna Fuller in Barrow.The sub-zero temperatures can be tolerated by wearing heavy clothing, usually including a parka with a fur ruff, explained Sister Fuller.
"Polar bears occasionally wander into town, so a winter evening walk is dark, cold and not recommended," she said.
The Fullers and their six children have found a new appreciation for life by living in Barrow, where her husband works as a librarian.
"Living here has made me appreciate the light and beauty of a winter sun, and increased my desire to someday live in heaven again, where celestial beings dwell eternally in light," Sister Fuller commented.
To combat cabin fever in the long winter months, the family keeps busy in their work, school and in Scouting.
"We are very grateful for the scriptures," Sister Fuller added. "We have established a habit of reading a chapter or two each night before our family prayers. This gives us a feeling of unity and builds testimonies and knowledge. We have read clear through the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants and are reading the Book of Mormon for the second time.
"We also appreciate the Church magazines and the Church News. It is so good to read about fellow saints, and to share the knowledge and experiences of others. We look forward to getting a videotape of general conference after each conference.
Working with less-active members and non-members proves to be a continuing challenge in the area, Sister Fuller said. But "for years there has been a small group of active saints in Barrow. Perhaps the seeds are being sown for future missionary work."
Beverly Prociw, another member living in Barrow with her husband, Larrie, and daughter, Tamie, said, "The Church here has provided us with challenges that would not have been ours if we were in a big ward.
"Being away from the technology of Church broadcasts on TV has made us more aware of the need to keep in constant contact with our leaders in Fairbanks. We have learned that we must and can be very self-sufficient when it comes to gospel study.
"We have also found you can live in a small home and enjoy each other's company without having to be entertained by a box. You begin to learn more about yourself and what is important to you and your family.
"You realize how important the gospel is to you when all the trappings are removed and you have to rely on your own gospel well-being and the thoughts of others. You begin to recognize that you are a lot stronger and are able to take on responsibilities that you never dreamed of when you were in the safety of a large ward.
"We have found the environment to be both beautiful and harsh at the same time. The beauty is found in the animals, birds, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that you cannot see anywhere else but here because of the different angle of the sun. The frozen Arctic Ocean, with its pressure ridges and icebergs grounded and surrounded by ice, is awe inspiring."
Tamie Prociw, a school teacher in Barrow, said, "The most difficult aspect of living above the Arctic Circle is the distance we are from the rest of the Church. Our branch president lives in Fairbanks, which is about 300 miles south of us, so it is difficult to go to stake conference. Because of this distance, I look forward to getting the Church magazines and the Church News."