Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies


It was June, and for Alaska, it was warm. The snow had mostly melted, and some parts of the ground were actually thawed. The sun rose at around 5 in the morning and didn’t set until after midnight, which gave lots of time to do things before it was too dark. And best of all, it was Pascha, which Father Jacob always loved. He wasn’t a well man, and was grateful that God healed him every Pascha, so that he could celebrate the Feast of Feasts properly and attend to his people, the Yupik, afterward. They loved the stories he told – stories from the Bible, and about the Saviour, and the saints who were so close to God. He’d been telling them ever since he’d arrived in Russian Mission, almost ten years ago.

But he was surprised when his deacon hurried up to him and told him there were some men down by the river, wanting to see him. He gathered his kit and hastened down to the beach, concerned that there was a crisis. Had someone been injured? Or had illness come to a village? Either way, they’d need his prayers and his medicines. He stopped short as he reached the stony beach. Those boats were not Yupik, and the men standing by them weren’t his people. They were Athabaskan, and enemies to the Yupik. The men moved forward, speaking in their own tongue, as one of the villagers translated. They told the priest that they had heard about the stories he’d told the Yupik for years and years. The Athabaskans had heard some of them retold and wanted, now, to have their turn, so he was to come with them so they could hear the tales about faraway lands and remarkable people. He cast an anxious glance back to Deacon Constantine, but there was really no choice. If he didn’t go, they might try to force him, which would mean the villagers would fight to defend him, and people would get hurt. So he nodded and climbed into the boat.

They traveled up the Yukon River, camping each night and trying awkwardly to communicate, but since he didn’t speak Athabaskan, and they didn’t speak Yupik, and they only had a few words of Unangen, his milk tongue, it wasn’t very successful. He worried some about whether they meant what they said – did they really only want him to tell them his stories? Or was there something else going on? Would he be allowed to return? Would they kill him, or hold him hostage for something they wanted from the Yupik? He simply had to trust that God would protect him.

For three or four days, they paddled up the river, until they came to a small settlement. He was escorted into the village and put into a hut, where he stayed until evening. They brought him out and took him down to the river, where he was astonished to see a hundred boats – kayaks, canoes, a sailboat, and a bydar with a cloth sail. There were hundreds and hundreds of people gathered, all of them come to hear him tell his stories. So for three days, he told stories. There were people in the crowd who spoke Unangen, and they translated from his own tongue into Athabaskan for the people to hear. He told them stories about the creation of the world, from the book of Genesis, and kept telling them the story of God’s love for all, right up to the story of Pentecost in the Book of Acts. He talked to them about Jesus’s birth and his life and retold the stories Jesus told to the crowds of thousands who came to hear Him. And when he finished talking, they all wanted to be baptized. So he spent the next three days baptizing people. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Athabaskan people were baptized in the waters of the Yukon river, much as John the Forerunner had baptized his listeners in the Jordan.

And the following day was Sunday, so he celebrated a liturgy and preached to these new Christians about loving your enemies and living in peace. Then the Athabaskans took him back to Russian Mission, where he continued to preach loving your enemies and living in peace.

The people listened to Father Jacob. The Athabaskans and the Yupik both heard what he had to say and tried to live by it. Today, the priests in that area report that the wars between the Athabaskans and the Yupik stopped. They argued (they still argue), they had spats (they still have spats), they’d get angry with one another (and they still do), but they no longer fight wars and skirmishes against each other. They’ve found better, more peaceful ways to resolve their problems, and today, many of them worship in the same parish church.

For more information about St. Jacob Netsvetov, see our reference page.


Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Bev Cooke

Bev. Cooke has been writing for publication since 1989. Her first love is writing for young adults, and she has three YA books on the market: Keeper of the Light, a historical fiction about St. Macrina the Elder in 2006. Royal Monastic, a biography of Mother Alexander (Princess Ileana of Romania), also published by Conciliar came out in 2008. Feral, an edgy mainstream novel was released by Orca Book Publishers in 2008. Her latest publication is a departure from her regular work - an Akathist to St. Mary of Egypt, published by Alexander Press in 2010, which was written partly as a response to the seventy missing women from downtown Vancouver's east side, and as a plea to St. Mary of Egypt to pray for those women, and the men and women who live on the streets.

Bev. and her husband live in Victoria, BC where they enjoy two seasons: wet and road construction. They have two adult children, two cats and attend All Saints of Alaska parish.

Bev's very out of date webpage is and her blog is It's a little more up to date than the webpage. Bev is planning to blog more and update her webpage very soon, so keep checking back to them and be sure to "Like" her FB page: Bev. Cooke, writer.