In this series, we're journeying through God's preparation of Sandy and I before we became missionaries.If you missed any previous blogs, click for Part 1 or Part 2.
We were about to begin a whole new adventure. My training in the military had been excellent, and my training made me uniquely qualified to fill positions right across Canada. I was offered positions in a number of places: Kitimat, BC; Williams Lake, BC; Thunder Bay and Kenora, Ontario. One night I was looking through the paper and saw a position for a power plant operator; I was qualified for the position but the location was pretty undesirable. It was about 1,200 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle, in a place called Nanisivik.
Sandy made a statement something like this, “I will go anywhere with you, but I am not going to the Arctic.” I listened to her and got a kick out of her reaction, so I decided to take it further. I got out a piece of paper – I believe it was graph paper – and wrote them a letter. I had no intention of sending it, but for some reason I ended up sending it to Toronto. I promptly forgot about it. I certainly didn’t think I would ever hear from them, but to my surprise about 10 days later I got a phone call from them offering me a position as an operator. I asked them if I could bring Sandy and they said “no” so it was easy to turn them down; the conversation was over. The reason I was leaving the forces was to be with my family, so I wasn’t going anywhere that didn’t include them.
Sandy and I agreed that this was not an option. We were going somewhere together, and we decided that we would accept the position in Williams Lake, BC. A few weeks later, when Sandy was in Kenora with Erin for her parents' 25th wedding anniversary, I got another phone call. They said, “Mr. Alary, we have another position to offer you, and this position is being offered so that you can bring your family with you to the high Arctic.” I was stunned, and I blurted out, “Look at my resume; it is on graph paper!” I believe I even wrote it with a pencil – not the way to send a professional resume! As we talked, I went on to say that I never expected to hear from them again and that I had done all this to get a rise out of Sandy. They seemed amused with my explanation, and we both hung up.
Ten minutes later the phone rang again and the same man was on the telephone. He said, “Mr. Alary, we have an offer for you.” I asked what the offer was, and they said they’d fly us to Toronto for the weekend, put us up at the Royal York Hotel and cover all our expenses: "We just want to talk to you.” I quickly thought to myself, If someone is crazy enough to make an offer like this, we are going! Remember, we were poor, and this was an opportunity to have an all-expense-paid adventure in Toronto. I accepted the offer; now I would have to deal with Sandy.
I will never forget her arriving back in Yarmouth. I told her we were going to Toronto for an interview for a job in the Arctic. Sandy being Sandy flat out said, “I hate the cold, and I am not going to the Arctic. I don’t care what they are offering.” Even though she was clear that she had no intention of going to the Arctic, she was all in for the adventure in Toronto.
A few days later she came to me and said, “I have been thinking. Maybe we are supposed to go to the Arctic. Maybe this is from God and so maybe we should consider it.” I liked what I was hearing. The thing I did know is that if we took the position they would pay us very well. This was very appealing because at this point in time our total net worth was $700 in Canada Saving Bonds.
So how would we determine if this was the future God had planned for us? We were new believers and didn’t have much experience with discerning God’s will. Taking our example from Scripture, we put out a fleece of sorts. Sandy came up with 10 conditions that the company needed to agree to or we would turn down their offer.
The day come for us to go to Toronto. We arrived and a limousine took us into the city for our interview. They showed us a movie about the community we would be going to if we accepted the offer. They interviewed me and then they turned to Sandy. The interviewer said, “I am not concerned about your husband. He has the qualities we are looking for. You are the one I really want to interview.” Sandy was all for that and got the interview off to a great start by telling him she had 10 conditions and if he didn’t agree to all of them, we would not even consider going to the Arctic. He took it all well and invited her to start listing the conditions. To both of our surprise, number 1 to 5 he didn’t even flinch at; he simply said, “No problem.” The big smile on Sandy’s face was starting to change. This wasn’t a game anymore. It dawned on us that they may want us enough to agree to all of our conditions! In one case, he even broke policy to accommodate us, but Sandy’s final condition wasn’t based on anything he could control. The condition was that there had to be an evangelical church there.
We were blown away when he said that there was a small group of evangelicals who met there regularly; there was even a church building. I remember Sandy saying at the end of the interview, “I guess we are going to the Arctic.” God had shown us his will.
Over the years, we’ve experienced other ways to discern God’s will. Perhaps setting out a fleece isn’t the best idea for every decision. However, we were relatively new believers. We did what we understood we were to do from Scripture, and God was once again faithful. It was abundantly clear that he was taking us to the Arctic. We had learned the lessons of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV)
Next week we’ll be trying something new. I look forward to sharing our first video blog with you. You’ll hear about one particularly formative moment that has shaped me as a man and us as a family, as well as defined the ministry that God has entrusted to me.