Bethel: Welcoming and Wise

Arriving in Bethel on Monday was like arriving in a different country. As the plane descended, the only thing that could be seen for miles was the green arctic tundra. Suddenly, the small patch of buildings that is Bethel appeared.

Our view from behind the church where we're staying.
Our view from behind the church where we’re staying.

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew immediately that I would love Bethel. Maybe it is the comforting smell of a recent rain, or maybe it’s the kindness of the people I’ve met, but Bethel feels so welcoming. On just our first full day, we were given two freshly caught fish for supper. It’s truly humbling to be met with such open arms.

I’m beginning to see already how different Western culture and Yupik culture is. While interviewing today, we were told a fantastic story about the meaning of subsistence living to the native Yupik people. While talking to a friend, a native Yupik woman was saying that “white man’s food” (food from the grocery store) doesn’t fill her up. When asked why, she replied, “Because there is no story behind it.” For her, it not only mattered that she had food, but also who hunted the moose, which family caught the fish, or where the berries were picked at.

I think that all of us have a lot to learn from the people of Bethel. From our first interviews, it’s obvious that everyone has so much wisdom to share. I can’t wait to learn more as the weeks progress and begin to integrate these new world views into my own life.

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