An inside look at NCEM’s “Headquarters” in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
It’s almost 8:30 a.m. at NCEM’s office complex in the jack pines west of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Several cars have pulled into the lot. In a few minutes staff will gather for a half-hour chapel service, then disperse to their offices and work areas.
On the “mail desk” this day is Ardys Winger. Her initial concern is the contents of the mail bin from Canada Post. Individually addressed mail is sorted and remaining envelopes are opened for processing. Later Ardys will move on to other office duties.
In his office, Ardys’s husband, Gary, spends much of his day on the phone, in face-to-face conversations, or writing notes concerning the myriad of details of a Mission with over 40 stations and several departments.
Yes, it’s office work. It might seem ordinary, not the stuff that missionary books are made of. Truth is this work, and the people to do it, are vital.
“HQ” has sort of a military sound to it, but this isn’t where you’ll find generals barking out orders. It’s more a place where you’ll find people serving their fellow missionaries.
It is “HQ” in that it connects all our missionaries and ministries across the country. It’s a place of hands-on activity, but also of spiritual work. What goes on there helps build God’s Kingdom, and prayer is an important part. Daily chapels include prayer for all NCEM members. Prayer requests received by phone or e-mail are taken to the Lord — it’s not uncommon for staff to drop their work to gather in groups to pray at any time of the day.
Keeping Them on the Field
Without HQ, would NCEM’s work stop? The answer to that comes, in part, by understanding that our missionaries can only commit themselves because supportive churches and friends designate gifts for their living costs. These funds are passed on to the worker once a month … but there’s much involved in this process!
Each donation (whether by mail or electronic transfer) is acknowledged and receipted; and each donation — whether $9 or $900 — is considered important. Care is taken to honor donors’ designations and, when not clear, time is taken to call them. As with gifts to the Mission’s General Fund and other ministries, accuracy is required and approved standards are followed.
Besides Ardys, several others work at the “mail” and “receipting” desks. Laura Bekkatla is our bookkeeper, and Roan Elford is this department’s working director.
It’s day-in day-out work, and it’s for the Lord. There’s no guaranteed salary — these are “faith” missionaries just like everyone else in NCEM. It’s routine service — and they may struggle finding something “exciting” for their prayer letter reports — yet essential.
You’d expect to hear an unfamiliar language on NCEM’s fields … but at HQ? Well, you might recognize a few words of “computer-ese”! Computers have greatly enhanced the work done at HQ, but they are very complicated machines. We’re thankful that God has sent workers who understand them.
Jim Davis serves in computer support, and the ways computers are used is growing. Computers are used for finances, language translation, video and literature production, e-mail, Internet, inventory, postal services, and more. Jim must understand not only computers, but also the technicalities of each of the ministries in which computers are used.
Yes, we can easily imagine some of our field missionaries — used to being out on the land — going a little “cagey” if assigned to one of these HQ jobs! In God’s sovereignty, just as He has gifted evangelists and teachers, He gifts some for technical work.
Because We’re a Team
While field missionaries invest their lives in their First Nations neighbors, you’ll find HQ staff investing more so in their fellow NCEMers.
In 1996 the Wingers moved to HQ from serving among the Inuit of Arctic Quebec. Now, whether in the office or out, Gary and Ardys’s priority is enabling other missionaries. There are other NCEM administrators caring for the needs of fellow workers. Besides finances, they must tend to government regulations, insurance, property management, and numerous other matters. Our General Director, Albert Heal, and his wife, Barb, moved to serve at Headquarters in 2005, following field and aviation service in northwestern Canada.
Keeping You Informed
While our Printshop staff produce literature for First Nations readers (see “Media Missionaries” below), they also print materials that keep NCEM’s supporters informed and praying. Rollie Hodgman plans publications such as Northern Lights, along with audio-visuals and web sites.
Like other HQ staff, working each day with missionaries and machines, Rollie also finds opportunities for personal ministry. For him it’s mostly connected to a local Native church. Efforts like these give HQ staff perspective to their daily duties, but are squeezed into limited time and energy after a day at the office.
Where the Action Is
There’s so much more that could be told. There’s the Smiths’ hosting of HQ visitors. There are the mailing volunteers who help affix thousands of labels, and stuff envelopes. And though this is about those we often call “behind-the-scenes” workers, we need to say that these at HQ aren’t the only ones. There are the supportive spouses of HQ staff, some with other ministries, some with children at home.
There are also our field missionaries. They are “front-liners” but they faithfully serve where few may take notice. It’s for them HQ exists.
(definition) n. medium, pl. media — a means…
HQ is home to two media centres: TV (Tribal Trails) and Printshop. “Means” defines quite well what it’s all about — a means of spreading the Gospel! It’s the same message that takes our field missionaries to Native communities, but shared through electronic signals, paper and ink.
These media outreaches are not to replace our field missionaries — they are, in fact, a support. Through media, the message goes to thousands of destinations, including places a missionary cannot reach, or may not be welcomed. When our workers find open doors, videos or literature remain to witness and teach long after the visit. Another significant support is that media enables Native people to speak to Native people, crossing racial barriers.
Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #488). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.