THE SHORT STORY
The Gear Up Project is a Christian non-profit organization that exists to equip missionaries in Alaska with quality gear and resources, and a strategic network of people ready to support them as they reach a generation of Alaskans desperate for the Gospel. We have watched first hand the sacrifice missionaries make when they choose to go into remote places. We don't think they should sacrifice when it comes to gear. That's why we started — to supply essential items like winter coats, snowshoes, hiking boots, and backpacks to those coming to Alaska and going out to Alaskan villages. It's also about building a support system for missionaries going to remote places. When a missionary knows they are cared for, that someone has their back, it changes everything. The gear allows them to survive comfortably, but the community enables them to thrive. We believe Alaskans are ready for the Gospel; our missionaries should be ready too.
If you want the not-so-short story, keep reading.
Missions is a little like rescue rappelling. Some rappel down the ravine, some are rescued from the ravine, and some hold the rope. At the World Missions Summit in 2016, Orry was seeking and asking God if he should pursue a life on the mission field. He was confused when God clearly answered, "No." Then he heard God call him to "hold the rope." In other words, be a support so that people can go. Orry couldn't let that idea go. He didn't know what it would look like, but "Hold a Rope Ministries'' was somewhere on the horizon. It was pointed out that the acronym for "Hold a Rope Ministries'' is HARM — we couldn't have that. Eventually, it was named The Gear Up Project, which we like a lot more.
Alaska: It is full of adventure and grandeur, beautiful landscapes, and kind people. It's also known for having extreme weather, dark winters, isolated wilderness, and high rates of suicide and substance abuse. The largest geographical state in the U.S. is speckled with two-hundred and forty small villages — one-hundred are without a consistent gospel witness. These villages are off the road system, meaning the only way in and out is by bush plane. Alaskans are desperate for the Gospel, but because of limited access combined with a high cost of living, sending missionaries proves difficult. Extreme weather conditions, months of total darkness, and isolation make it hard to find people willing to commit to minister in these places long-term.
We know too many missionaries who have arrived in Alaska with less-than-adequate gear and a budget that does not allow them to buy anything different. In addition, the dark winter months and isolation have a significant effect on their mental health. In fact, most people who move out to a village in Alaska return before winter ends. This causes distrust in Alaska's rural communities, which only makes it more difficult to make connections when someone new arrives. But we don't want that to be the story. Our missionaries deserve better, and so do Alaskans.
At The Gear Up Project, we want to supply missionaries with the quality gear they need, but our heart goes far beyond that. A missionary can receive all the equipment necessary, but they won't last without community. Missionaries need to know that someone sees them, that someone cares for them. They need a support system. If we expect missionaries to make their homes on this mission field, we have to help them find community there.
What if we connected with people and businesses to build a network of people who passionately want to serve missionaries? What if we could, as a team, take care of our missionaries extravagantly? Imagine if our missionaries had the highest quality gear instead of getting caught in a cycle of buying what doesn't last. What if receiving that gear did more than meet a physical need? It's more than a means to survive; it's a tool we can use to show missionaries they are not alone in this. It's about providing the gear to go and the support to stay.
Through generous donations and a lot of hard work, we can supply missionaries with winter coats, snowshoes, hiking boots, and backpacks, and that's only the beginning. The possibilities are endless. If it helps a missionary thrive, we want to provide it. If it makes a missionary's life easier, we want to make it accessible. If it simply makes a missionary happy, let's work to make it happen.
"When a missionary has access to things they need and want, and when they are supremely aware that someone is in their corner, it fuels passion and breeds longevity on the mission field. A lack of resources should not be the barrier stopping them from going to unreached places. If they do go, it shouldn't be the reason they leave. We can't allow it."