If you missed any previous blogs, click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, or Part 6.
Several years ago, I learned the lesson that two hands are better than one, and four people are better than two. It’s a lesson that would prove to be very valuable.
During our time in the Arctic, micro-light airplanes were beginning to be sold commercially. Seven of us put our money together and purchased one. It came in a kit so someone had to build it. A mechanic from the garage did most of the building, but I helped him as much as I could. The only place in town big enough to build it in was the fire hall, so that was where it was built. When we bought it, we didn’t think through where we would store it so this became an issue. Fortunately, there was no lack of creativity with our team, and it wasn’t long before someone came up with the idea to build a storage facility using oil barrels. We had no lack of barrels so we did exactly that. We lined up barrels, filled the bottom row half full of water and welded them together. I will never forget the night I was hauling them there and the truck got stuck … with my family in it! I had to run into town to get help while my family stayed in the vehicle. This all happened while it was still -40 degrees outside.
The company helped us out by providing different materials, even a huge tarp that we would use to make a front door. When completed, it looked like a hangar at any airport. Eventually CBC came to do a story on us as we were the most northerly flying club in Canada and potentially in the world.
When we bought the plane, everyone thought we were crazy! Maybe they were right, but it was a good lesson in teamwork for me. It took technicians; a pilot to do ground school and some initial training with us; it took us working together to get enough barrels to the site; it took welders and it took the company standing behind us as we did what everyone thought was impossible. This turned out to be a simple project compared to some of the projects I would do in TWR, but it was the place that I first saw how much could be accomplished when people worked together towards a common goal.
The big annual event in Nanisivik was the “Midnight Sun Marathon.” They would charter a plane and fill it with people from the south who wanted an Arctic experience over a long weekend. It was always run on July 1 as this was the time of year when we had 24 hours of daylight. One year I decided to take on the challenge of running it. This meant I had to train in -40 degrees weather during the time of year when there was 24 hours of darkness! That was not an easy task. I ended up running 32 km instead of the full marathon (42.2 km) and finished in second place. It was a good feeling.
It was here that I learned the art of enduring through pain and darkness. Enduring training in dark and cold conditions and the 2 ½ hour run itself in 40 km winds on race day would serve to be a practical picture of enduring that I would reflect on during my missionary career. In Africa, it was this picture that I went back to as I led the entire ministry for almost two years. It was a different kind of endurance under very difficult circumstances, but the lesson I learned in a small way helped me in the bigger circumstances.
Nanisivik was as eye opener for us in many ways. God also used our time there to show us that our way of worshiping wasn’t the only way. Our church was made up of people from many different denominations. Some had very different ways of doing things. Each week a different group would do the service and would do it their way. We came to really enjoy it and appreciate the different ways of worshiping the Lord. This more than maybe anything else was preparation for what lay ahead for us. When we went to Nanisivik we were very set in the way things were to be done in the church; we left with a totally different idea of how one can worship the Lord. Thirty-five years later, it is so obvious why we needed to be taken out of our comfort zone.
God didn’t send Sandy and I to seminary or to Bible College in preparation for the mission field. He sent us to a small community in the middle of nowhere for our training. We went there to accomplish a task which was worldly. God in his sovereignty sent us for another reason: to get the skills needed so we could serve him globally in ministry. What a thrill it is to see how all the things we learned in that small community were used to further the kingdom of God.
Next week you’ll hear from me in the final blog in this series on the making of a missionary. I’ll share in a video interview some of the lessons learned from the early years of our marriage. As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback!