My wife, Lois, and I have had very little time to feel lonely here in the Northwest Territories with all of our children now gone from home. Lois’s part-time work as an airline ticket agent has fit in well with our ministry goals. It also keeps a steady flow of people coming through our house.
The mouth of the river is just next to town, right by the airport. When the temperature drops to minus 30, like it did one day in November, there is always fog over the open water. A slight southeast breeze can close the airport in minutes. On that particular day the fog cleared for about 10 minutes and closed right back in, so the airline decided that it wasn’t even worth trying the flight.
Bad weather and cancelled flights, rather than giving a break, seem to increase the visits and phone calls. One of Lois’s passengers, Johnny* (*not his real name), came by to reschedule his travel arrangements, then stopped to chat.
Johnny is just over 60 years old and he said that he was planning on going back to his trap-line in a few days when his partner returned. He began telling me a story in his Native language.
It was about a year ago that he had set out for his trap-line on a foggy morning just like this. He couldn’t see a thing but headed north, straight across the bay ice on a fast snowmobile, knowing that once he crossed the hill two miles over, he’d be clear of the fog.
“I never spotted the trail at all,” he said, “but after awhile I saw what looked like smoke ahead in the fog. I was wondering what it could be when, suddenly, I saw a small island that I recognized. I had circled back in the fog and was at the mouth of the river! (The ‘smoke’ was the denser cloud over the open water.)
“My heart was pounding as I stopped, and got off and dragged my ski-doo around to face the other way and got out of there.”
He knew which way town lay from there and made it back safely. After the fog lifted and he told his friend about his experience, his friend had to go and see his tracks. They still can’t understand how he didn’t break through the thinner ice that covered the fast water. “You are being watched over,” his friend told him.
Johnny concluded his story: “I’m so thankful I was spared. If I’d fallen in, I couldn’t have helped myself — it was so cold. No one could have seen me through the fog. My wife knew I was heading out to my trap-line for a week, so no one would have come looking for me. They would have found my body with a boat the next spring. I’m so thankful I was spared!”
I can’t think of a better illustration of the lostness and hopelessness of people without Christ. Spiritually blind, many are headed rapidly for destruction. Pray that God will spare them. Pray for us as we try to bring God’s Word and God’s love to them.
The Stauffers now serve as associate missionaries in the Northwest Territories.
Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #475). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.