Jun 29 2008

GTY Cruise Day 6



Today we docked at our final port of call in Ketchikan, AK. Ketchikan is a bustling fishing town with the least amount of “touristy” feel yet. It is known as Alaska’s 1st city because it is the first city you come to on your way into the state. It’s also known as the salmon capital of the world.

We decided to take a walk around town and found it pretty interesting. We ended up walking to the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center. The hatchery is a salmon hatchery and it was interesting to see. They are strictly a replenishing facility, which means that they do not farm their salmon for food but release them into the river to make their way down to the ocean. As is the habit of salmon, they return to their birth place years later to spawn and die and at that point the hatchery staff give the meat to local nursing homes, elders and children’s facilities.

The most interesting part of the center was the eagles. They have 2 rescued bald eagles in captivity and they both had severe wing injuries and are unable to fly. They were fascinating! I’ve never been that close to an eagle before. The 2 birds seem to be rather spoiled and we were told prefer not to eat the fish that’s given to them, but will wait until someone brings bear or reindeer meat.

We met with our group again for the evening session where John led worship and Kory sang a solo. MacArthur wrapped up our study on John 17 where Jesus gives the final reason for His prayer - that we would be filled with His joy. What an encouraging time together!

We headed once again for the dining room and enjoyed another delicious meal. We were told there was a karaoke competition later on and so we made our way up to the Crow’s Nest to scope out the competition. John and Kory tossed around the idea of singing, but then decided not to - good thing! The other singers were, um, unfit for an American Idol rejects reel. It was entertaining, none the less, and we had a good laugh.

Stay tuned!

Jun 29 2008

GTY Cruise Day 5



This was a very special day in Glacier Bay. We got to sail through some of the most stunning scenery in the world, we got to see whales, seals and glaciers….and all that on our 5th anniversary!


It was 5 years ago today that we were on a different boat in another beautiful part of the world taking our vows and beginning our new life together. It was a Wednesday too!

We cruised around the inlets of Glacier Bay for most of the day stopping in front of Johns Hopkins Glacier, Lamplugh Glacier and Margerie Glacier to watch for calving and take in the breathtaking view. We’re told these glaciers move several feet a day.

On our way out of the bay we spotted a pod of humpback whales near one of the islands. They were too far to get any good pictures and they never did any Seaworld acrobatics, but it was thrilling just to see them spout.

Kory led music for this evening’s session and John and I sang one of our favorite duets - Cross of Love from Savior. Kory announced to everyone that it was our anniversary, so we got many congratulations and good wishes throughout the rest of the evening. We were invited to join the MacArthurs for dinner along with the Rices. We had a great time together. After dessert, we were surprised by a beautiful anniversary cake and an Indonesian anniversary song from our waiters. The day ended with the ms Statendam Dessert Extravaganza.

Check out these pictures!

Stay tuned!

Jun 27 2008

GTY Cruise Day 3



It’s 11:30 pm and there’s still enough light to see the snow on the mountains! We’re very excited about our first port of call in Juneau today and our adventure ashore….more on that below.

We woke up this morning to a gorgeous scene along Alaska’s Inside Passage. We crossed into Alaska late last night and also gained an hour. We enjoyed that extra hour by extra sleep. Even though we were up and about by around 9, we somehow missed the humpback whales that were on all sides of the boat around 9:30. Oh well. We’re told there should be plenty of whales to see in Glacier Bay on Wednesday.

John led worship for today’s late morning general session where we once again jumped into studying Jesus’ prayer in John 17. During MacArthur’s message ms Statendam docked at Juneau, AK. I sneaked out during the last few minutes to see what was happening and I was so impressed by the docking process. I have a hard time parallel parking my Jeep, I can’t imaging parallel parking a ginormous ship like this! The captain eased the floating mass in little by little until he was within 6 inches of the pier and then dropped anchor.

Once the general session wrapped up, we quickly went down to our room to change into comfy clothes and then hit the town. Juneau itself has some interesting buildings, but the most stunning thing about it is its natural setting.

img_3612.jpgJuneau is Alaska’s capital city and we were told that 60% of the 30,000 people who live there are government employees. Another interesting thing about the city is that there are no roads in or out of the area. The only way to come and go is by plane or boat. It is also the nation’s largest city by square mileage, although the downtown area is actually fairly small.

We grabbed a quick sandwich at the cutest little local cafe and then met our party for our big adventure. We climbed on a bus with about 15 other people and drove a lovely scenic route to a heliport outside of town. After a safety orientation and a glacier boot fitting we walked out to the helipad and watched as 4 helicopters landed some 75 feet from us. The workers refueled the chopper we were to take and then motioned for us and the other couple in our group to come board. We climbed in, ladies in the front with the pilot and men in the back and after getting strapped in and set up with headsets, we were off! We flew up and over the most gorgeous and rugged peaks surrounded by snow filled valleys and creek canyons. The 20 minute flight took us over the 12 mile Mendenhall Glacier, up to the very top where there is a dog sled camp. Our pilot pointed to some little black dots below us and said, “That’s where you’re going.” A few moments later we landed on the glacier just outside the camp and were greeted by the mushers. We were all bursting with excitement as we were given a brief orientation and instructions.

There are 300 dogs and 30 mushers/handlers at the camp and it is the largest of it’s kind. Many of the dogs had already run in the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest (both races are over 1000 miles) and many of them are just yearlings being trained to race. Each dog had his own little dog house and about a 6×6 ft plot of space. They were split into 10 plots of 30 dogs each and there is a musher and a handler for every plot. The people live in tents on elevated wood floors, sleep in cots and keep warm by propane heaters. There is 1 outhouse in the camp and I’m pretty sure there is no shower anywhere. They do have a kitchen tent and a full time chef. The camp operates during the summer for about 4 months and the staff goes down to Juneau for supplies and such about once a week.

The dogs are runners, all they want to do is run, so as soon as a group of tourists land they start barking and pulling on their chains as if to say “Take me! Take me!” They are in perfect shape, like a marathon runner - pure muscle. They aren’t exactly show dogs and so they don’t look anything like what you seen in the movies. The race dog is actually a mix breed of malamute, huskey, pointers, hounds, spaniels, german shepherds and wolves. Each breed was chosen for specific traits and every dog looks different. The race breed is pretty refined now and they are no longer breeding in new types, but it has not yet been recognized as a pure breed by the AKC.

We were introduced to our musher, Eric, and handler, Mike, and then walked over to their dogs. They had already chosen 9 dogs and lined them up to hook to our sled. We were introduced to each dog and let them take a moment to check us out. Eric asked us to stand back as they hooked the dogs’ harnesses to the sled and then gave us quick instructions on how to drive. There were 2 sleds attached to each other - Eric drove the front sled and commanded the dogs, while John and I alternated driving the back sled. The with the first command, “Alight, let’s go!” - we were off! Eric took us on a trail about a mile loop over the glacier, stopping twice to let the dogs cool off and let us snap a few photos. The dogs have amazing stamina and strength. 5 in our team had already raced in the Yukon Quest and were going to race again this year. The races are in the winter time in incredible conditions. It wouldn’t be unusual for the dogs to race in temperatures below zero! Eric told us, that the 40∘weather on the glacier felt hot to these rugged dogs.

Once back in camp we were given a tour of the camp and got to meet the litter of puppies that were just 3 months old and just starting to be harnessed trained. They were so soft and adorable.!

Alright, enough stories….enjoy the pictures!

Stay tuned!

Jun 24 2008

GTY Cruise Day 2



Very early this morning we navigated the narrow passage north of Vancouver known as the Seymour Narrows. Seymour Narrows is a 3 kilometers long by 750 metres wide section of water located 14 Km North of Campbell River and between Vancouver Island and Quadra / Maud Islands. We’ve been leaving our curtains open at night so that we can look out the window as soon as we wake up. This morning the sun rose at about 5:15 and I guess we were pretty tired because neither of us were up until almost 7. Though John was awake enough to snap this picture the rugged forests of the islands on the West side of the Queen Charlotte Straight.We woke up to the smell of eggs and bacon (hallelujah for room service!) and were already in the Queen Charlotte Sound. We’re so thankful to have a room with a window - we could stare out the window for hours at the ever changing scenery.


The map above is the exact route our cruise is taking. Our first port of call will be tomorrow afternoon in Juneau, AK. Then we’ll stop in Skagway on Tuesday and cruise through Glacier Bay (where I’m hoping to see some Orca whales!!) and finally on to Ketchikan on the way back to Vancouver.

Most of today we spent cruising though the Queen Charlotte Sound, which is as much open sea as we’ll be in and we definitely felt the rock of the choppier water. No one in our group was seasick, that I know of, but there were several of us who felt dizzy.

There are about 300 people who are in the GTY group and 80% of them have us beat by about 30-40 years. We’re enjoying getting to know some of them as we hang out on the ship. There are quite a few fascinating stories among them - even some who were saved through the ministry of GTY. The morning general session began at 9 with Kory leading several songs and Mark on piano/John on keyboard. Then Mark played a beautiful arrangement of He Hideth My Soul. MacArthur then opened up John 17 for us and expounded on the 1st section of the chapter where Jesus prays for His own glory. Tomorrow he’ll jump into the 2nd section where Jesus prays for his disciples’ glory. This is a wonderful prayer and I can’t wait to get through all of it!

After the morning session we grabbed lunch at the taco bar and ate by the pool. Then we went up to the Crow’s Nest lounge at the forward top of the ship. This lounge is filled with comfy chairs and is surrounded by large windows and a panoramic view. We must have spent 4 hours up there watching the ocean, working on photos and napping. Well, I napped alongside of my 60 yr. old buddies while John worked on editing our photos. That was the most relaxing time aboard so far. I kept my eyes peeled for whales while I was awake, but I’m pretty sure they’re all waiting for me to turn away to do their flips and kicks. I’ll catch them yet!

Our evening session tonight was absolutely fascinating! I mentioned before that we’re priviledged to be on board with Colonel Jeff Williams, NASA Astronaut. MacArthur gave him the entire session to give a presentation about his 6 months on the International Space Station. This is definitely a highlight of the cruise so far. What amazing pictures and stories he has! It was really cool to hear his perspective about exploring and the things that he has learned about God by being in space. He was impacted by the macro view of the provision of God. Looking at how the earth is designed brought his heart close to the reality that our Creator sovereignly sustains and provides for us in ways that we so often take for granted. What a priviledge to see his presentation.

Well, I’m sure you’re more interested in pictures than in stories, so here are a few from today! Hope you enjoy…

Stay tuned for Juneau!

Jun 22 2008

GTY Cruise Day 1


We woke up early this morning to get our luggage prepared, grab breakfast and get a quick walk down to the beautiful Vancouver port before meeting our group to head to the ship. We ate breakfast at a charming little market called Urban Fare just a block from the hotel. Then, at 10:30AM, we met up with the Grace To You staff and took a shuttle bus to the ship. Boarding the ship is an experience all by itself. First, you must go through customs, have your passport scanned and then head off to go through X-ray machines. From there you are handed a form that asks some very personal, and shall we say “irregular,” questions to make sure that you’re not going to bring any epidemics aboard. Then they march you off to the check-in desk where you are greeted by a very happy Holland-America employee. That’s where you have your picture taken, sign a couple of forms, give them a credit card for on-board expenses and receive the official “Welcome Aboard!” As part of the Grace To You staff, we were allowed to board about 4 hours earlier than the rest of the passengers so thankfully we did not have to wait in long lines.

Lis and I have been looking forward to this cruise for a long time so the the moment we were finally granted passage to board was very exciting. Our ship is called the MS Statendam (Stah-ten-dahm). We found our stateroom right away and were welcomed by a beautiful ocean view along with info and gifts from Grace To You! We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity of Grace To You. We are so grateful to Kory Welch an John MacArthur for inviting us to enjoy this incredible week with them. After exploring every corner of the ship and going to the safety drill with the crew, we grabbed some lunch at the buffet and went down to the VanGough lounge where we attended our first general session with the group as we were leaving Vancouver. Our cruise MC, Paul Sailhammer, officially welcomed us aboard and introduced the special guests. One of our guests on board is Colonel Jeff Williams, United States Astronaut! John led the group in 3 worship songs and Kory sang an arrangement of Psalm 23. John MacArthur gave the group a Grace To You ministry update and then introduced his topic for the week. We’re going to be studying Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

We’re really looking forward to this week.

Stay Tuned!