Luke Jones said that as a young man there were a few things that didn’t stick. Piano tuning was one of them.
“After high school I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I had the opportunity to work as a piano tech,” he recalled. “But over time I didn’t feel like it was for me.”
Other things did stick — like the missions trips he grew up taking with his family, and the call to ministry he felt from that.
“It started really with my parents in 2001 and 2002,” Jones recalled. “They got into missions and ended up quitting their jobs to work with E3 Partners leading short-term trips around the world.”
When he was 9 or 10, he went with them to Peru on his first international trip.
“I visited every continent but Antarctica seeing different cultures and Christians outside the U.S.,” Jones related. “That really just imparted on my heart the international call of Christ and the gospel.”
At 13, he went forward at a Global Impact Conference at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, feeling God calling him into ministry.
“I knew God was calling me somewhere, and I had no option to say no. I had to say yes,” Jones declared.
That came back around when he was tuning pianos and “was talented in it, but my heart wasn’t in it,” he recalled.
He decided to pick up voice lessons to try something new, and his voice teacher told him he should stop tuning pianos and go to the University of Mobile.
“I went down there and remember this sense of peace of God saying this is what I needed to do, to do the worship degree there,” Jones said.
He did and eventually started leading music at a local church with the son of Jimmy Stewart, director of evangelism and church development for the Alaska Baptist Resource Network.
“I was leading worship with him on Sundays playing keys, and the dean of the school had an announcement for all the students and said, ‘If anyone is interested in an internship to Alaska let me know,’” Jones recalled.
No other plans
They were looking for someone to move to Alaska to help revitalize a church, and Jones — a graduating senior — was getting married that October but didn’t have any other plans.
“I talked with Jimmy, and he talked with me about life in Alaska and the demographics and how the churches were doing and his heart for wanting to see vibrant worship for young people in Alaska,” Jones related. “He said, ‘Here’s what I’m hoping. I’m hoping if you commit to a year, Alaska will stick with you, and you’ll end up staying.’”
Jones wasn’t sure about that. But he told his fiancé, Meredith, about it, and she immediately said, “That’s it; that’s what God is calling us to do.”
So in July 2016, Jones and his brother drove 5,000 miles to Alaska to serve at First Baptist Church Wasilla. They started out sleeping on air mattresses in a Sunday School room. When his brother went back home, Jones moved to sleeping in the sanctuary so incoming missions teams could have the classroom space.
It took a little while for him and the church to figure out what an internship would look like — two days after he arrived Stewart was in an accident and spent months in the hospital.
“He (Stewart) was my one real contact,” Jones said, “so I had to learn right out the gate to trust God and say, ‘OK, if God has called me to this, He’s going to equip me and provide for me.’”
And Jones saw God do that over and over.
To prepare for his new wife to join him in a few months, Jones got an additional part-time job, but it still wasn’t enough to pay for a place to live. A week before the wedding, someone told him their job was taking them overseas for eight months and asked if he would housesit.
“God ended up providing that for us,” Jones said. “And when they came home early, God provided an apartment that was nicer than anything we had been looking at. He has really provided for us every step of the way.”
The couple stayed longer than a year and joined the church staff. Last year he was called as senior pastor, and he’s committed to getting the gospel to the people of Alaska, which he described as a place “between international and domestic.”
“Alaska is a very special place,” Jones said. “People are very independent and individual, and they may say, ‘That’s fine for you, but I have my own thing.’ It’s a very dark community because of that. There’s a lot of room for the gospel.”
But he admitted it’s sometimes slow.
“We have to be patient and let God work on the hearts of people.”
‘Trust and obey’
Jones said it’s been encouraging to see the church get excited again to reach the next generation, and he’s grateful for the Alaska Baptist Resource Network’s partnership with Alabama Baptists. The teams that have come have been very encouraging to the work, he said.
Through the whole experience, Jones has learned over and over to follow through on the lyrics of one of his favorite hymns — “Trust and Obey.”
“God has kept all His promises,” Jones declared. “He asked that we trust Him and seek His will first.
“There were times I really wanted to move back home — the winters can be really hard — but God has been completely faithful and continues to show me and Meredith what He’s doing and how He’s working.”