Calvary Chapel in the Arctic

Calvary Chapel Ministers in the Arctic
Calvary Chapel Ministers in the Arctic

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To the Ends of the Earth: A Family’s Mission Legacy in the Arctic Circle—Part 3

Story by Carmel Flippen
Photos courtesy of David Markey

This is Part 3 of a three-part story about missionary David Markey and his family, serving the native people in the Arctic Circle. He is the son of the late George Markey and his wife Pam, veteran Calvary Chapel missionaries in Eastern Europe for many years. To read Parts 1 and 2, click here.

Some names have been modified to protect ministry in this sensitive area.

Full Surrender

As a teen, David Markey returned to the U.S. to pursue basketball opportunities, only spending summers in Ukraine with his family. His faith faded as he slipped into his peers’ self-centered lifestyle. He felt angry with his father, who he felt prioritized ministry over family, and with his Heavenly Father for creating him in the first place. “I didn’t want God to exist, because if He did, it meant I was responsible to someone for my actions,” he remembered. “I didn’t see the relationship God wanted to have with me. I didn’t understand anything about grace. I remember thinking I’d end myself if I knew there wasn’t anything on the other side.”

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Man explaining game to kids in gym

David Markey’s basketball coaching position opened doors for ministry in this remote area of the world, the Arctic Circle.

The summer before his senior year, David borrowed his father’s car for the first time—and totaled it. George quickly arrived in the church van, handling the whole situation. Instead of rebuking David, his first words were, “Are you OK?” On the ride home, David sat in the van’s back row, head in his hands, steeped in shame, remembering all the horrible things he had said to his father in the past. Once home, he went straight to the balcony. “I thought, I wish I could jump and end my life right now. I felt like the worst person in the world, and that I’d never be free of that shame.

“My mom came to see if I was OK. ‘No,’ I said. ‘Dad will never trust me again.’ She said, ‘Then you don’t know your father.’ I was taken aback; I didn’t know what to say. My dad came and put his big, muscular arm around me. I felt like a little kid again. He said, ‘Son, what’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Dad, I messed up, I totally wrecked the car.’ He said, ‘David, I can replace a car. I can never replace you.’ Those words pierced me. When I got back to the States, he got me a car. Who does that? At that point, God really started showing me what grace was.”

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Soon after George’s death in 2007, David and Deborah moved to Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe (CCBCE) in Vajta, Hungary, where Pam teaches. For Deborah, raised in a small Kentucky town where she knew everyone, the international move was a big step, but she only expected to be separated from her close-knit family for one year. When they were offered an internship, which would double their stay, she initially balked. However, multiple mentors convinced her it was a great opportunity. “In Hungary, God showed me His qualities as a kind, gentle, loving Father,” Deborah said. “Surrounded by amazing people who were pouring into our lives, a hole we didn’t even know was there was being filled.” On their plane ride home for their second Christmas break, Deborah had a quiet revelation: “I thought, I don’t think we’re going to live in the States again. I think we’re going to be in long-term missions. Nothing had been decided; I just knew in my heart.” To her surprise, she felt peaceful: “I realized my life would look different than I’d thought, and that was OK.”

Men standing on ice

David and Eduard, a man from the church he is discipling, stand on the winter highway. The frozen river provides access to isolated villages, making mid-winter David’s busiest ministry season.

Meanwhile, David realized through prayer that he had not fully surrendered to God’s will in his life. He elaborated, “I hadn’t fully let go of what I wanted to do. I said, ‘God, take the reins. Just make it clear to me.’ After that, the ride got pretty wild.” Soon after, David learned of an unreached people group in the Arctic Circle. The Markeys began praying for them. “I wasn’t that faithful,” he confessed, “but God would not let me forget them. It was so weird—we’d get mailings, or run into people connected to them. When you pray for a people group, they become close to your heart because they’re always on your mind.”

Four years would pass before a door opened, but Deborah sees the in-between time as God’s kindness. “He didn’t just drop me at the end of the earth,” she said. “I would have crumbled. Instead, He gently led us step by step. First Hungary, then moving to Kyrgyzstan, which was my first real culture shock—but we were surrounded by family and an amazing team.” They joined David’s sisters, Renee Gourley and Melanie Billings, and their families in ministry. Their daughter Abigail had been born before leaving Hungary, while Selah was born there. Though there was no clear path to the people group that they felt drawn to, “We knew that God had put these people on our hearts and He had a plan,” Deborah declared. “Looking at their high suicide and alcoholism rates, and short average male lifespan, I thought, We have to bring them the hope of the Gospel.”

Men work with a sled

David, Vitaly, and other villagers prepare for a return trip to “Capetown” on the icy winter highway.

In Spring 2012, David took a three-week scouting trip. On the bus ride home from the airport, the Markeys noticed the only television they’d ever seen on a Kyrgyzstani bus was showing a documentary on the area they felt called to serve. It felt like confirmation. Weeks later, David was offered a basketball coaching position in that people group’s region.

Reaping Blessings from Difficulties

For the first three years, visa issues were a constant struggle. They stayed for three-month stints, visiting in-between with family members around the globe. Eight months were spent living in one room at Good News Capetown. After achieving residency, they were able to start the Bible study which gradually grew into the church. Now, they are outgrowing their church building.

Mission life continues to be different than what Deborah expected. “What hit me about [the COVID-19] quarantine is that my life didn’t change much,” she reflected—their one car, her language barrier, and their now four children’s needs result in her being mostly housebound, which can sometimes cause feelings of isolation or inadequacy. “God is doing a deep work to draw me to Himself. I need to find my sufficiency in Him, not in being able to minister in the way I think I should be able to. As I’ve been studying the life of Joseph, I’ve been seeing how the Lord works His plans out in ways we can’t grasp at the time. His path often goes through suffering, but that’s where we learn the lessons we need, and how His plan comes to fruition.”

Men at podium

David translates for visiting pastor Billy Rutledge, who came from Hatteras Island Christian Fellowship, NC, to minister at Good News Capetown.

Despite their new home’s inherent challenges, Deborah said, “It’s worth it. When we were at the Bible college, Pam (David’s mother) told us, ‘When you have days of doubt, look back and see how far the Lord has brought you. Then you can rest knowing you’re in His will.’ Even on bad days, we know we’re where He called us to be.” They are committed to stay as long as He desires. David concluded, “Our family would be worse off in America if that’s not where He wants us. I want to be where the blessing is, to serve my King.”

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:3b


All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.