Brad and Lindsay Sturm grew up outside the Chicago area and married shortly after high school. They both attended Moody Bible Institute and upon graduating, focused on church planting in Central Mexico. They spent nearly a decade there serving a local church before moving back to the States and landing in Maryland. They worked alongside a church in Maryland as they considered what their next move might be. After a lot of prayer and planning, their sending church commended Brad to pastor an existing church in McGrath, Alaska.
It was important to Brad and his sending church to ensure they weren’t going into this endeavor alone. There was already a team of people serving in McGrath, they just needed stable leadership to continue developing the ministry. Brad and Lindsay felt confident in moving their family of nine to serve the church in McGrath, so they made the move in 2018.
Landing (and Staying) in Rural Alaska
McGrath is a rural town in the Alaskan Interior with a population of less than 300 people. They’re situated on the Kuskokwim River and are nearly 250 miles from the nearest road. Like many towns in the area, McGrath is only accessible by snow machine or airplane. The locals are used to this way of life, but it’s an adjustment for newcomers.
When Brad and his family arrived at their new home, they were unpacking a large moving box of their belongings. Brad was excited when a neighbor approached them, thinking this was a great opportunity to introduce himself and his family. The woman was cordial but had only one reason to talk to the Sturm family. She asked them if she could have their storage box container when they’d had enough of Alaska and decided to leave in a few months. They have a deep conviction about serving in rural Alaska. To them, it isn’t a project; it’s home. Click To Tweet
Brad hadn’t been in town even a day, and his legitimacy was already being questioned. Not because of his character or reputation but because it’s all the town of McGrath knew. Outsiders didn’t last. The winters are brutally cold and long, transportation is difficult, and for a few months out of the year, they have short days and a lot of darkness. Isolation is inevitable, so you must be prepared to combat it. But this was a welcomed challenge for Brad and his family. They have a deep conviction about serving in rural Alaska. To them, it isn’t a project; it’s home.
Building a Unified and Missional Community
In a city of less than 300 people, McGrath Community Church has around 50 members, and they’re slowly growing. They’re one of the only churches in town, so different faith backgrounds and beliefs are all melded together. Brad said this was a challenge, for sure, but it presented a great opportunity to paint a picture of gospel unity. Neighbors who may disagree on some issues still find a way to serve God and be in fellowship together. When Brad first arrived at McGrath Community Church, he didn’t immediately change or “revamp” anything; his main focus was building relationships and ensuring his people were unified in the true gospel.
Even though Brad and his family have a wonderful group of people they’re serving alongside to reach the lost in McGrath, he desired more missional allies, so he connected with an Acts 29 church in Wasilla, Alaska. He’d heard of Wasilla Bible Church from two of the members whom he’d met previously during the state’s annual Iron Dog Race. The race follows the historic Iditarod Trail and happens to run right through McGrath.
The Iron Dog team from Wasilla Bible Church (affectionately called the “Sons of Thunder”) is well known for their ministry. They meet with children and families in the towns they visit during the race and share the gospel. Through this connection, Brad was invited to attend a gathering at Wasilla Bible Church which focused on prayer and connection for pastors. This was Brad’s formal introduction to Acts 29, and he left highly encouraged.
A Missional Vision for Remote Alaska
Not long after, Brad and his family began the assessment process with Acts 29. He said the partnership was a natural fit for many reasons, the primary being Acts 29’s focus on equipping churches to minister effectively in their context. McGrath Community Church officially became a missional partner with Acts 29 in December 2022. They remain focused on serving their local community while reaching out to other small towns around them. There are many rural communities in the Alaskan Interior that have little to no Christian community—some don’t even have an established church. Click To Tweet
There are many rural communities in the Alaskan Interior that have little to no Christian community—some don’t even have an established church. Brad and many others in Alaska are working toward their vision to see the gospel proclaimed in these areas as churches are planted for the glory of God.
Growing up outside of Chicago and then serving in Mexico, Brad and Lindsay hadn’t planned to move to rural Alaska, but in God’s sovereignty, it’s now their joy to serve the community of McGrath. Acts 29 partners with people like the Sturms to reach the lost, whether it be by snow machine or airplane, so that people in need of hearing the gospel may one day join the great multitude in worshiping King Jesus.