As missionaries we believe that learning the language and culture of the host people is essential in communicating the Gospel clearly. We’ve found, though, that being a true learner does not mean “adding” knowledge – more often it means starting at zero! It’s like building a new framework on which to place the new knowledge.
“Context” is so important. For example, one of the details of First Nations and Inuit languages I’ve recognized is that the names of the 12 months line up with what is occurring in nature at that particular season.
So, along with learning the meaning of the various months, I have learned some history of the people’s nomadic lifestyle – when the people were living inland, or other times of the year when they were on the coast, hunting, fishing and gathering.
Once, while talking with an Inuit friend, I was told that “August” means the “black berry harvest month.” Having only lived in the south, I envisioned some kind of black fruit that hangs from tree branches or grows on bushes.
Of course, some research could provide photos of this berry. But I really learn about it by participating in picking paungaqutik* (*variations in spelling; also known as “crowberries”). If I was “on the ground,” I would know that there are no trees or bushes in that area of Nunavik!
Living in the Arctic and renovating a house also takes on new meaning. One of our experienced missionaries told us that all supplies (including an accurate estimation of the number of nails and screws needed!) have to be ordered and placed on a ship in the St. Lawrence River by spring. These materials travel out to the Atlantic Ocean, and are shipped up the Labrador coast and down into Hudson’s Bay.
Then there is the weather to consider – the very limited “window” of suitable weather to do exterior work. If you miss the deadlines, nothing can be done on the job for another year.
This year we’re thankful for construction workers who will volunteer at their busiest season to fly north and renovate a house this summer in Puvirnituq, Quebec.
We are very thankful for our NCEM missionaries who have made a long-term commitment to serve in the Arctic. Some of our missionaries, now past retirement age, have returned to the North for visits and to fill-in for our workers on furlough.
We are praying for and seeking younger people to hear the call of the Lord, leave behind family and church fellowship for longer periods of time, and commit themselves to a missionary team outreach.
Investing months/years in language study can be arduous. Learning and loving the community of people for Christ’s glory requires an open heart and mind. Going without the myriad of choices we have as consumers leads us to rely on God for ingenuity in how to repair without the parts, to make a menu with what is on the store shelf, and stretch a budget to meet the high cost of living in the North.
But it’s all worth it when we do it for Christ!
This appeal is also for Christian educators, medical workers, plumbers and other professionals to take on a bi-vocational role and support those in language learning and assisting in the spiritual growth and nurture of the church.
Jesus asks us to pray for workers – please write to NCEM and ask for the new Nunavik prayer card.