Nunavut Journals: Experiencing faith community in the Arctic
(Rev. Lisa Pak, Regional Director for Ontario and Nunavut, made her first trip to Nunavut and shared her experience in this daily journal.)
Friday, September 28, 2018
This is my first trip to Nunavut and the view is breathtaking.
There is a lot of life and activity but there’s also a sense that the people here are living the frontier life in a modern world. With 8000 people, Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, is the gateway to the Canadian Arctic.
Toronto was still sitting at 20 degrees Celsius when I left and here in Iqaluit, it’s a solid zero and will dip below that in the evening. I’m told that everything will slowly freeze over during December – that’s when the snowmobiles come out.
Pastor Manasee of St. Jude’s Anglican Church picked me up at the airport in Iqaluit and we did a quick tour of the town. I’m here to get familiarized with our Canadian Arctic. The Canadian Bible Society (CBS) Scripture Translation team has been working with the Inuit community leaders and translators to create a quality translation of the Bible in Inuktitut, and we are seeing the fruit of the collaborative effort. I’m here to see how we can further support the ministry of Bible engagement in the Canadian Arctic.
I’m not unaware of the difficult history between the Inuit and the Canadian government. I’ve had a few comments shared with me already at the local North Mart store (they clearly know I’m not from around here). At the same time, I’m a little surprised at their candidness in sharing so openly with me. When I mentioned that I’ll be preaching at St. Jude’s in the evening service on Sunday, one of the men I was conversing with said that he’d come, adding that he attends the service at St. Jude’s every now and then. I’m looking forward to seeing him there.
Tomorrow, I’ll make my way to the Visitor’s Centre and the local museum. I’m very interested in getting to know the history of the Inuit people as told from their perspective and by their voices. I know that there is a lot of work to be done – here and around the world – for God’s kingdom. But today, I’m here. May God give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand and love.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
I woke up this morning to snow. Apparently in Toronto, it’s somewhere around 17 degrees Celsius; here it is snowing! A beautiful reminder of how different life is in the Nunavut. Just down the hill from the Anglican housing is North Mart, where Pastor Manasee and I stopped for a quick morning tea at the Tim Horton’s Express. Then I was dropped off at the Visitor’s Centre and spent the morning looking, reading and learning. Our lunch meeting at Frobisher Inn’s restaurant, run by a charismatic Frenchman, was enlightening.
Pastor Manasee and I share a heart for young people and youth, not just of our respective cultures and communities, not even just for Canada, but truly for God’s global kingdom. It’s that paradox of being in a community that seems so far away from the rhythms of “normal” life and yet, being part of God’s global Kingdom and His eternal, without-borders Church.
The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing the sermon for tomorrow evening’s service. I have a good idea about what message I want to share. God’s people enduring, suffering, breaking free – dreams and hopes for the next generation despite current circumstances. The Bible certainly has much to share about that. It’s exciting to talk and pray about such dreams! May God bless the work of our hands to see them come to fruition.
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Today, I woke up to more snow and lots of wind! Pastor Manasee had already told me that the cold here in the Canadian Arctic is a dry cold and today, it’s exactly that. I was also told, however, that this is unusual for the end of September and beginning of October. I’m layering my clothes, but the kids here have a t-shirt under a light winter jacket!
It’s Sunday and it’s a short walk to the igloo-shaped (and designed) St. Jude’s Anglican Church for the 9:45 a.m. service. This one’s in English, there’s another one at 11:00 a.m. in Inuktitut and a bilingual service in the evening at 7:00 p.m. I’ll be preaching at the evening service.
There were a lot of kids in morning service; it was a special day! Two infants and three children were getting baptized. The congregation is a diverse mix of blended families. Bible studies are held throughout the week in both languages and I get the sense that St. Jude’s is a community focal point for many people; the fellowship building next door also serves as a soup kitchen. The service is distinctly Anglican, as there is a liturgy to follow, and it seems that the familiarity of Sunday offers a sense of stability to the unpredictable nature of the Arctic Tundra. I looked at the map again today and almost forgot that Iqaluit sits on Baffin Island and that the communities of Grise Fiord and Resolute are at least twice as far as the distance I’ve come from Toronto. What beauty in this raw natural world of the North. What resilience and strength in these people.
The evening bilingual service was much more spontaneous and free. It’s a vibrant time of singing, sharing, and receiving prayer. Though I don’t understand the words (I had a gracious translator, Rebekah, who translated for me), I can feel people’s desire to worship – I feel it in the air and in my bones. It’s real worship, it’s heartfelt and it’s simply wonderful to be a part of it. Rebekah tells me that there are young people who are slowly coming forward to serve in the church as the leaders now are getting older. I had the opportunity to pray for a few young people during the praise and altar call. May God uphold these younger sisters and brothers of mine and equip them for His kingdom work.
Monday, October 1st, 2018
It’s a beautiful, bright, and sunny day in Iqaluit and the weather is a brisk, fresh kind of cold. It’s a stark contrast to the bitter, windy snowfall of yesterday and with all the ice and snow melting, it feels like the thaw of spring! It’s true what I was told—Iqaluit has four seasons in one day! I had a morning meeting with Jeela from the Language Authority and it was interesting to hear about the projects that our Scripture Translation team had proposed to the board. It would be wonderful to be able to partner with the community here in developing language resources for their people.
On the way back, I took a walk along the shore, just behind the North Mart, taking some photos. It’s colder by the water but it’s refreshing. It’s also majestic and appropriately imposing and makes me feel small. I can see the islands from the beach; frozen tundra that peaks over the waters providing some respite for the land animals and birds. To me, this is all the proof I need for a Creator God and Intelligent design. I’ve been told that there are seals, beluga whales, narwhals, all thriving beneath the cold, freezing waters. I love animals and one day, maybe on the next trip, I’ll be able to see them first hand. I wonder what my dog would do if he came face to face with a narwhal!
It’s my last full day here and I have one more evening meeting with a new friend I first met in Toronto. Her name is Myna. I hope to learn more about life here and about how the Canadian Bible Society can support, encourage and pray for the ministry. Then I’ll come back and pack. Tomorrow morning, it’s a morning prayer at St. Jude’s and then off to the airport, planning, of course, my next trip back to Iqaluit, the place of many fish.