Scientists estimate that Canada geese can fly up to 70 percent farther because of the updraft produced by flying as a group. An independent and self-reliant goose doesn’t go near as far nor as fast!
That’s a great illustration of the benefit of teamwork. In NCEM we have to admit, though, that maybe “independent” and “self-reliant” is exactly the way we’ve sometimes thought of ourselves.
Many of Canada’s First Nations live in small and widely scattered communities. Geography demands that our missionaries be self-reliant and resourceful, as many find themselves serving far from coworkers.
It did take the independent spirit of Stan Collie, our first missionary, to launch out like he did back in 1939. He traveled North by boat with his young family, built his own home, caught and shot his family’s food, and preached the Gospel where no one else was doing it.
But even Stan Collie was not a loner. For one thing, he knew the task of reaching Canada’s Native peoples was too much for one man. And he understood that the first missionary bands in the New Testament had demonstrated powerful effectiveness as tightly-knit, task-oriented groups. So he began praying for team members to join him.
Psalms 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” God has promised to bless when His people serve together. But how can a mission as spread out as NCEM function as a unified “team”?
We’ll be the first to admit that the challenges in seeking that blessing are many — but the benefits are even more!
Certainly, communication is key. We all need ongoing mutual encouragement, especially for those times when we may feel like giving up. We also need reminders from our coworkers to stay on task, to keep focused on reaching First Nations for Christ.
There are many ways to stay connected: phone, mail, etc., but we’ve learned that nothing can replace face-to-face conversation and fellowship!
That’s why “conference” is held in such high regard. It’s only at our workers’ conferences that our Mission body can be together physically. “Field” conferences take place once or twice a year, and our “general” conference every three or four years. That’s really not very often, and that makes these times seem even more special.
At conference you see long-time workers reunited. And it’s an opportunity for the Mission family to meet our newest members. There are special sessions for children and teens, and our “MKs” go home having developed friendships with those of common experience. Bible messages from guest speakers are always appreciated — especially so because missionaries have been on the “giving” end of ministry all year. It’s a spiritual boost — one of our past general directors called conference, “Family Devotions.”
We share reports from our fields and departments — the victories and the struggles. There’s just something special about getting together — the noise of friendly (even exuberant) conversation in between meetings makes that apparent.
… which may cause us to take the “goose” comparison a little too far … but those same scientists do believe that the continual honking of geese serves no other purpose than mutual encouragement!
No matter who or where they are, there is always a reason when people get together. Worldwide, that’s what Christians do, for the Lord has called us into one Body, the Church. This oneness is most often expressed in local gatherings. And while the local church group will place its attention primarily on the needs of its own people, the missionary “group” has its focus predominantly on a task. (That is not to say that a local church has no task, or that a mission has no relationships!)
Though we are physically spread out, our NCEM team has “banded” together for a specific task: reaching Canada’s First Peoples for Jesus Christ.
Of course, NCEMers find fellowship outside of conference, too! We experience meaningful fellowship with Native believers year-round in our communities (of course, harder to find in pioneer settings). Some missionaries find fellowship in evangelical churches located close to their stations, and NCEMers also find fellowship with other IMCO missionaries (IMCO is a cooperation of about 10 missions with a similar mandate).
Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #489). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.