Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:54 PM on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Memories of Ray Clapp

April 17, 1955-Feb. 9, 2011

By Leonard Miller


Photo by Leonard Miller

Ray Clapp and his dog, Zeke, pose in this 1983 photo.

One year ago many within the Homer community gathered at the memorial for Ray Clapp. I wanted to share a particular memory of him then but was overlooked as I was waiting. Since I'm somewhat uncomfortable speaking in front of large audiences a part of me was relieved. Yet I also knew Ray would've liked it and was convicted that I needed to share the memory with the community.

My memories of Ray began in early May of 1983 when I left Iowa and the past I'd known for the new and unlived adventure of Alaska. I'd felt drawn to the north since childhood, and when the time came to cross a threshold of life into the adventure, instinct took over. It was as if I had to go and wouldn't be stopped — like the spring migration of birds. Ray also experienced the same sort of resolute determination, except his decision to leave Oregon for Alaska was much more impulsive then mine.

Ray and I met at Alaska Bible Institute (ABI), on Mission Road, as the Bible school rented rooms when school wasn't in session. Because we'd both left family and familiarity and had to establish a new place in the community of Homer, and because of the three months we roomed together that summer, we developed a friend/brother relationship. During that time Ray talked a great deal about his past and the life he'd left in Oregon.

The memory of Ray I wanted to share at the memorial involved one of the stories he'd told me. It's one he shared while we were bounding our way up dusty, frost-heaved, gravel-surfaced East Hill Road in his Toyota truck as his dog, Zeke, hung his head through the caopy and cab sliding windows.

In the Bible at Philippians 3:7-8 we read, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ."

In the margin of my Bible at this passage I've written, "God wants me to understand the limits of what I can claim in the things I hold up as my 'trophies' (illustration of Ray Clapp giving his trophies away and laughing at how others took ownership in them)."

So as the particular story went that I would have shared at the memorial, sometime after Ray graduated from high school he began to lose interest in keeping all the trophies displayed and dusted off that he'd won motocross racing as a teenager. He may not have considered them exactly as "rubbish" but certainly cumbersome to deal with. So he picked out some memorable ones and gave the rest away to neighborhood kids. Shortly thereafter he began to notice his old trophies in picture windows of homes where these kids lived. Obviously they'd taken ownership in them and were proudly displaying "their" awards. Ray was genuinely amused by the comedy of it all.

I believe the story offers a great illustration of how God wants us to regard the natural gifts and abilities he's given us, which we often hold up as our trophies. God delights in the excitement we experience when we use gifts and abilities entrusted to us in ways that are positive. I believe he delights in a similar way as Ray did in this story.

However, are our natural gifts and abilities only a product of our own efforts?

When we claim them that way, we're as a child, who was given a trophy Ray had earned, and then racing home and proudly displaying it where the community displays their family accomplishments: in the front picture window (I'm laughing with you Ray).

I left Alaska in late summer of 1983 and spent the winter working in Pennsylvania while Ray, as he summarized it, fought for survival during the winter in Anchorage. In the spring of 1984, Ray and I both returned to work in the Homer area. Laura and I were married in Iowa that fall and moved to Pennsylvania. But I missed Alaska and especially the family of friends I'd made while here, so in the spring of 1987 the path of our life took us north. We're blessed to be a part of this community. Thank you for allowing me to share.

Leonard Miller