Making Friends:

Jared Davis, Elisa and LaRece Egli of King Salmon, Alaska

By Ra Nell S. Howlett

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    Where do you go to Primary when you live in Alaskan bush country? When people think about Alaska, they generally think of snow and ice, igloos, and Eskimos. But Jared Davis and Elisa and LaRece Egli live far from the Arctic Circle, where most Eskimos live, and their Primary is held in a building made not of ice and snow but of wood and cement. The three children have the same lessons as other Primary children their ages. They learn about Jesus, sing songs, give talks, and do activities.

    Alaska is the biggest state in the United States, and it is the farthest north. During the summer, however, most of the state turns green. Beautiful wildflowers grow from mountaintops to marshlands, from lonely river sandbars to ocean beaches—even in cracks in roadways and sidewalks!

    Mountain ranges cover much of the state, and the highest mountain peak in North America, Mount McKinley, rises 20,320′ (6.2 km) and is surrounded by tundra. As you go farther north, the tundra, which grows over permafrost (a layer of frozen ground that never thaws, even in summertime), consists mostly of grasses, sedges, and mosses. The few woody plants in the tundra include willow, birch, and alder trees—only 2″ (5 cm) high!

    There are modern cities and towns in Alaska, but most of the communities are bush villages of fewer than four hundred people. There aren’t any wards in the bush areas, just branches. Many Latter-day Saint families are the only members for hundreds of miles, and they hold their Primary and other Church meetings in their own homes. Some areas have several LDS families, and they take turns meeting in each other’s homes or in community centers. The mission headquarters in Anchorage films Church conferences, meetings, activities, and other things of interest and sends the videotapes to the branches to help them have a variety of speakers, learn Church procedures, and get new ideas.

    Elisa, LaRece, and Jared are among the six hundred people who live in the King Salmon area. There are thirty-five members in their branch and just three Primary classes, each with two children and a teacher. They meet in a community chapel that they share with many other religions.

    Elisa (4) and LaRece (5) spend a lot of time with their father, who flies supplies into the native villages. They take turns going with him and helping him load and unload the plane. Planes are the only way to get to many parts of Alaska, and the people who live in the remote areas are happy to see the supply planes come in. LaRece and Elisa get to meet lots of people in many places, and they share their sunny smiles and their love of the gospel wherever they go. They are starting their missionary work early!

    Jared was baptized in the Naknek River, which empties into the Bering Sea. The beach along the river is a favorite place for the children to play, and they also catch lots of fish in the river, mostly red, king, pink, and silver salmon. King salmon may be as big as Jared, so just one will feed lots of people!

    The day Jared was baptized, a special thing happened. It rains a lot in King Salmon, and it had been pouring for two days. A few minutes before the baptism the rain stopped. As the congregation walked down to the river, the sun peeped out and the usual sounds of aircraft and other noises ceased just long enough for Jared’s father to baptize him!

    Illustrated by Dick Brown

    Photos by Lynn Howlett

    1. LaRece and her father.

    2. Elisa playing with some of the many flowers found in Alaska.

    3. Elisa and her brother, Bobby, riding a three-wheeler up and down the beach with their mother.

    4. Elisa in Primary with Nathan Cramer and their teacher, Nathan’s mother.

    5. Jared playing in the Naknek River.

    6. LaRece helping unload supplies from the plane.