Connected to the rest of Alaska by road, rail and the Alaska Marine Highway, Whittier attracts a large numbers of visitors during the summer looking for the unspoiled wilderness of water, ice and granite that lies beyond its shores.

Whittier’s history is nothing short of fascinating. Not long after the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands during World War II, the U.S. Army began looking for a spot to build a secret military installation. The proposed base needed to be an ice-free port and as inaccessible as possible. Whittier fit the bill perfectly, thanks to 3,500-foot peaks that surround it and keep it hidden in cloud cover for much of the year. To provide access to the Seward Highway to the north, the Army blasted a supply tunnel out of solid granite, and the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel remains one of Alaska’s great engineering marvels. Construction of the tunnel led to construction of what at the time was the largest building in Alaska to house more than 1,000 workers.

 

The Army maintained Whittier until 1960, leaving behind the 14-story Begich Towers, where most of Whittier’s 190 residents live today. In 2000, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was overhauled to accommodate auto traffic as well as the Alaska Railroad. You can now drive the 11 miles from the Seward Highway, the most traveled highway in Alaska, to what was once an impenetrable fortress by the 

The Seward, Alaska port is home to Alaska Christian Seaman’s Mission. This mission provides a home like setting to seafarers who come to the mission from various passenger ships that dock in the Seward port. Most of these seafarers come to the mission to use WiFi, purchase a phone card to call home or to just relax in a home like setting. The same ships come into the Seward port during the summer about every two weeks. This means that many of the seafarers have an opportunity to come into the mission every couple of weeks depending upon their schedule and their position on board ship.

The mission’s director also goes onboard the ship when the ship comes into port to visit those seafarers that are not able to come into the mission. During these visits, the mission’s director also attempts to contact the captain and other top staff to develop a relationship with those members of the crew.

90722fff-2bf0-4d7f-919a-36f564de89fc_dEach morning and all during the day, the volunteer staff uses the mission’s van to pick up seafarers at the port and drive them to the mission or drop them off at a local grocery store. While at the mission, the staff attempts to visit with each visitor to see they can assist them or minister to them. In some instances these conversations lead to an opportunity to present the gospel or communicate what Christian believe and why. Seafarers also can use the mission’s computers if they do not bring their own laptop or tablet.

Also, on many days, the mission holds a worship service for the ship’s believers. This special event allows the mission staff and some of their volunteers to worship together and present a special teaching to the ship’s Christian community. These services are very uplifting to the seafarers, staff and volunteers as songs can be sung in many different languages and it reminds one of what it might be like in heaven as believers from many nations worship together.