ANCHORAGE, AK (January 17, 2017) – It can be a struggle for Alaska Natives to figure out how to maintain their cultural identity in a rapidly changing world, Alaska Conference superintendent Curtis Ivanoff says in a broad-ranging interview published on the Christianity Today website.
“With the way our lives have changed in Alaska, particularly among Native Alaskan peoples, the way young people are growing up today, they straddle two worlds,” Ivanoff says. “It’s a challenging proposition. That captures the hard part of our youth and young adult ministry: helping people become grounded in their identity in Christ yet reflecting and honoring their cultural tradition and heritage in a way that will glorify God. That’s challenging work when you have a mixture of people like we do. But I’m seeing that more and more, and it’s something I give thanks to God for.”
Ivanoff, who grew up in the small coastal village of Unalakleet, is the first Alaskan Native to serve as superintendent for the conference. He has watched Alaska become more diverse than most people realize. Three neighborhoods in Anchorage, for example, are the most ethnically diverse in the country, according to a local sociology professor.
Ivanoff says other cultures can learn a great deal from Native Alaskans who reside in rural areas. “One of our cultural traditions is that when a hunter catches their first catch, whether it’s a caribou, a moose, a seal, or a whale, they are to give it all away. That captures something you’ll find in our rural communities. There’s a great deal of generosity. I have come to appreciate that about our culture and our people, and I think it’s reflected in the church.”
Ivanoff also discusses the historical growth of the Covenant church, his personal history, and leadership development.