Journey is typically defined as an act of traveling from one place to another. Life has a way of moving lives and redirecting paths, taking people from place to place and person to person. This narrative describes a journey that started in late 2014. It involves myself, Dr. Eugene Ulmanis, known as “Dr. Gene” to most people. I am a veterinarian and I also serve as a board member of Victory Ministries in Alaska. In the course of this journey, God intersected my life with a man named Steve Collins, who in the beginning, was just a client and acquaintance. However, during the months prior to the fall of 2014 a series of events dealing with animals allowed Steve and I to become close friends.
As Steve and I developed our friendship he became fascinated with my travels that have taken me on mission trips around the world, Morocco, Mongolia, Israel and Alaska. Steve was touched by the work being done and the young people’s lives that were changed in Alaska by Victory Ministries. One of our discussions led him to come to Alaska and lend his expertise at the camp.
Steve and his wife, Michelle, own several businesses that specialize in door and window installation in commercial buildings. He volunteered to come and help the ministry to address the security needs and the aging hardware on the doors at the VBC campus. He also decided to have his oldest grandson, Asher, come and attend Bible camp in Alaska in June 0f 2015. This resulted in planning a special trip to spend several weeks working in Alaska. This trip included my annual visit to work and care for ministry horses while visiting the two facilities belonging to Victory Ministries. Steve went along to assist as a volunteer. While visiting the facilities, he walked away with a design to upgrade and redo all the doors in Miracle Lodge and felt that this was a very special place in God’s kingdom. With those two thoughts in mind, Steve and I planned a return trip in the fall of 2015.
The return trip was different. Camp now had begun to experience the peace that is present with summer camp gone and winter setting in and Steve felt God’s peace in a special way. Spending time at the camp drew him to a unique closeness with God. During both the previous summer and now again, different people had continued to share the Gospel message and God’s love with Steve. Keep in mind Steve had probably not stepped into a church for over fifty years but yet he walked away captured by God’s amazing love and awesomeness.
This visit would link Steve with Doug Thiessen and his family. Steve learned of the series of tremendous medical difficulties that had a devastated Doug. He became very fond of and deeply respected Doug and felt special bond to him and his family. Doug’s life and his steadfast faith in God left a profound impact with Steve. Doug’s medical tragedy resulted in Steve requesting a commitment on my part to call him each day and join Steve in prayer for Doug’s healing. Our morning prayers started in the early part of January and continue now to this day.
Discussions in early 2016 led to another trip to Alaska planned for June of 2016, my annual horse care trip. This future visit would also involve Steve now coming to work again on different locks and a keying system for the Victory Ministry campus.
The months rolled quickly by as we awaited the next trip and April was here before we knew it. Steve’s birthday happened to fall during that month and I decided to give him a bible for his birthday. We incorporated reading the bible over the phone during our morning conversations. Steve indicated a desire to be baptized at camp during the June visit. He also asked if his youngest grandson, Noah, who would be accompanying us on our trip, could also get baptized. I gladly agreed to his request.
As the days sped by Steve anticipated another trip to Alaska. Finally June arrived and we were all off. As usual the days were filled with being busy, visiting folks and working hard to help all at camp. The hustle and bustle of summer camp was well on its way. Steve reminded me of his desire to be baptized and have a small group of friends attend. We picked a day everyone would be available especially Doug, as he particularly wanted Doug to be there. After our discussion, Steve and I chatted the next morning about the meaning of baptism. He then prayed to invited Jesus into his life to be his Lord and Savior.
Interestingly enough the next afternoon as we were working on horses Steve’s grandson, Noah, was hanging on the fence watching me working on horses. He said, “Doc, I want to get baptized.” My response was, “Great! We will plan on it.” The next morning at prayer Noah gave his heart to the Lord and he was saved as well.
All this culminated on June 22, 2016, with Steve and Noah being baptized in Shallow Lake at camp, as a small group of friends watched. What a privilege to baptize Steve and Noah and witness the journey to a new beginning!
There is no doubt in my mind that there were numerous people along with way that planted and watered the seeds planted in Steve and Noah. The daily prayer and bible reading prepared the path and God was faithful to give the increase. The most powerful witness of Doug Thiessen’s faithfulness to God influenced Steve’s life in a huge way.
Steve’s life became changed forever and the impact on family and friends has been tremendous. I am humbled that God would let me be a part of this very special journey and very thankful for all who have traveled the same path.
Victory Ministries Board Treasurer
P.S. The bible study and prayers continue to go on every morning seven days a week. Recently Asher, Steve’s oldest grandson has requested to be baptized.