In July of 2012 my sister Rachel and I talked about our next place to travel to which of course Alaska was on the top of that list. We didn't make plans but she said, "If anything ever happens to me I want you to go to Alaska no matter what." I shrugged that comment off and ignored it as if nothing ever would happen like that or at least not that soon. It was two weeks later that we lost my sister in a motorcycle accident that completely shook us to our core. I was in a fog, angry and just going through the motions at that point that come along with grief.
I flew out there to meet the group in Anchorage. When we got there they said we’re riding down in a large van with a couple that’s hauling fish down to Homer. I won’t lie that there were plenty of moments crossing my mind with, “What in the world have I done and why did I say yes?” (especially when they said we’d be riding with a load of dead fish). I While waiting to ride down there I struck up a conversation with the drivers that happened to be a young couple transporting fish for companies from Homer to Anchorage each day. They asked where I lived and when I said in Florida, they replied, “we do too!!” Turns out we only lived a street away from each other and they were there for the summer to make some extra money. As we talked more it led to me saying my last name and then they said, “Are you related to Rachel Bodi?” Turns out they went to high school with her (I know, my mind was not understanding how this was possible either).
We started to make our journey down from Anchorage to Ninilchik and I know God cleared every cloud away that day because the drive was absolutely stunning. I stayed quiet as I looked out the window with tears coming down just thinking about the fact that I had made it to Alaska but how I wish Rachel could see all of this with me. As we were almost to our destination I happened to look outside the window and saw a road sign that was Rachel Road right before the Welcome to Ninilchik sign. The tears started to flow again and just in disbelief of these little God winks as my grandmother calls them.
We were dropped off at the local general store and picked up by Chelsea who was volunteering at the camp that summer. When we arrived they were having dinner outside with a group that was getting ready to leave camp that next morning which was Woody and his son Ryan. In that same moment I met Grandma Knepper and J Knepper while receiving the biggest bear hugs that were so much needed in that moment.
The next morning I went out on the front porch of the main cabin and sat there just staring at the beauty all around while watching eagles soar right above the river that runs through the camp. J happened to walk out there and sit in the chair next to me and begin to ask about where I was from and the normal things you talk about but then I just blurted out that I had lost my sister. That was the first moment that I was able to start some of my healing process right there in Alaska.
Over the next few days I was quickly realizing that I was not there to help with this project I was originally contacted about, God wanted me there in that moment and He had already put all the pieces together for me to be there. During those few days I had the chance to meet and talk with each Knepper family member and each conversation was exactly what I needed including a walk with Donni along a gravel path road with beautiful landscape talking about grief and what she had been through in her own life. I’ll never forget that walk and the conversation for the rest of my life.
It was a short trip and there was this part of me that did not want to leave and go back to my reality at home. As I was packing up and went downstairs to the main living room they said, “make sure and sign the guestbook!” As I sat down to write it, each Knepper was in there sitting in that room and it was completely silent. As I finished writing and got ready to say goodbye, there was this overwhelming peace I felt that I can’t fully explain even in the silence with these new friends in Alaska. I think we all knew I was going to be back at some point. And I was. It wasn’t a few months later that I contacted J and said, “I’d love to come up to the camp this coming summer and serve if you need extra hands.” I went back that summer and all of the summers since 2013.
The stories I could tell you that I’ve experienced in the last few years are incredible in which God completely orchestrated whether it was for my journey or for someone else’s current journey. Alaska is stunning in it’s beauty and this camp is nestled in the perfect place for some of the best fishing in the world! But the secret sauce about this place is the family that runs it and they are obedient to the real cause of it. They change lives including mine and I am forever grateful for the Knepper family for their kindness, love, their hearts and the many laughs we’ve had (and will continue to have)!
If you’re looking for a place to stay and take in God’s beauty, look no further and “JUST GO”.