ST. PAUL, MN (June 25, 2010) – A small gift of hospitality extended 100 years ago to the widowed mother of a boy extended through multiple generations led to a surprise connection between this morning’s devotional speaker, Curtis Ivanoff, and one of the students he mentors at Alaska Christian College (ACC).
Ivanoff, the director of admissions and an instructor at the school, shared that his great-grandfather, Stephan Ivanoff, was an early convert of Evangelical Covenant Church missionaries to Alaska and provided translations among the Inupiaq Eskimos. The descendent did not know an important story about his ancestor until recently, however.
Ivanoff had attended a conference held in conjunction with another denomination that attracted 200 people to the town of 400 residents. He wasn’t sure where he was going to stay when he arrived.
He was picked up at the airport and driven to the pastor’s house, which was crowded with people who had gathered for lunch. During a conversation, he met an elder who asked his name.
After he answered her, she replied, “Oh, you must be from Unalakleet” and asked how he was related to Stephan Ivanoff. She proceeded to tell him the story of the family that arrived in Unalakleet following a tragedy.
Ivanoff’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother, inspired by their love of Christ, took in the newly widowed mother and son. Her father was that boy.
The elder pointed to a couch in the room and told him that because of the generosity shown to her father, he could sleep there. The audience laughed when he added, “It wasn’t even her house!”
Ivanoff said, “That happened 100 years ago, and she recounted that story as if it happened yesterday. He began “to put the dots together” and was surprised to realize the boy taken in by his great-grandfather was Covenant pastor Fred Savok, who also was the author of Jesus and the Eskimo. It then dawned on him that boy his father took in also was the great-grandson was a young man attending Alaska Christian College who Ivanoff was mentoring.
It all started when someone said, “Come in.”
Hospitality is not about changing people, but about giving people space to change amid the pressures of their lives, Ivanoff said, recalling the words of Henri Nouwen. Ivanoff also rooted his message in John 21:1-14, which tells of Jesus preparing fish for his disciples following his resurrection when they were unsure what to do next with their lives.
“Who is God calling you to have breakfast with?” Ivanoff asked. “Who is God calling your church to have breakfast with?”