Gilbert and Laura Bekkatla have come full circle: from being the harvest field, to being harvesters on the field. Gilbert was raised in northern Saskatchewan (Buffalo Narrows and Dillon) where his family knew the NCEM missionaries. The oldest of 14, he started commercial fishing with his dad at age 9, and left home at a young age to support himself.
Both Gilbert and Laura had a religious upbringing. Laura says, “I was raised in southern Saskatchewan, taken to church and Sunday School, and told that we should be good. But I knew that I wasn’t good.”
In 1962 she heard Billy Graham preaching on TV, and later told her family how she had asked Jesus to forgive her sins. “I struggled and lived a very weak Christian life, but I knew I belonged to God from that time on.” Laura strived for acceptance through achievement. She earned a teaching degree and took a position up north.
There Gilbert had just experienced the lowest point of his life, after the alcohol-related deaths of two friends and his own near-drowning. Meeting and marrying Laura did not much change Gilbert’s alcohol abuse. Their marriage suffered, despite the birth of two sons. Shortly after, they moved to Meadow Lake for Gilbert’s carpentry training.
One day Laura was invited next door for a ladies Bible study. She was thrilled and found herself finally growing in the Lord. Later that year they were told not to expect their oldest son to recover from spinal meningitis. Area churches prayed, helped with expenses, and surrounded them with love. When a nurse explained to Gilbert his need of Christ, he was ready to respond. Miraculously, the Lord restored their son’s life. Gilbert began craving God’s Word and fellowship rather than alcohol.
In 1978 they returned to Buffalo. For seven years, while Gilbert worked for the government, they helped the local church, traveled to other communities for Bible studies, and worked at Pine Ridge Bible Camp. “We began to go to conferences at KBI, and became interested in attending,” they recall. “The Lord began to burden our hearts for those who did not know the Saviour. In 1985 we sold our house trailer, left the security of steady employment, and went to KBI to become career missionaries with NCEM.”
Three years later (with their children aged 16, 13, 10, 8), they moved to their first station, Tadoule Lake (MB). “God taught us that we needed to totally rely on Him, that we could trust Him to take care of our family.”
Since 1992 Gilbert and Laura have been based in Prince Albert, with travel to Dene communities. Laura works in the NCEM Office, Gilbert in prison ministry, visitation, and translation when not traveling.