It’s always amazing how the Lord works in all our lives whether we realize it at the time or not. We can plan, organize, and be diligent even on matters that we believe the Lord is leading us into, only to realize in hindsight how the Lord’s purposes prevailed. A case in point was a “mission trip” to Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Several years ago, as the President of a Christian Marketplace Ministry for Canada, I received a invitation from James Arreak who at the time was a Pastor of a local church in Iqaluit. Sandra and I had met James previously through Tagak and Sally Curley who had become special friends of ours. Tagak was a driving force for the name change from Northwest Territories to Nunavat and subsequently received the Order of Canada.
James is a well-known Christian leader throughout Nunavat and his vision was to host a Business Conference for Christians throughout Nunavut in Iqaluit in how to start and manage a business using biblical principles. He stated there was a growing interest in business opportunities especially for small businesses but limited business education for the Inuit. He felt there would be approximately 50 people from around Nunavut who would be able to attend. The cost of travel in the Arctic is exorbitant.
We put together a group of 13 that included spouses and business people with expertise on key subjects that were to be presented and we looked forward with excitement to serving the Lord and the Inuit believers. Before we left, a couple of the presenters in our group felt it was right to but a “Joseph ornament robe” similar to the one that Joseph’s father Jacob gave to him. They believed it was meant for someone at the conference and as it turned out they purchased one that was a woman’s size.
We arrived in Iqaluit dressed for our typical winter weather only to find out how bitterly cold it was, especially with the northern wind. The teaching part of the Conference was a tremendous success with the help of interpreters. There were over 80 Inuit from across Nunavut who attended. What was so special was the relationship building and friendships that started being established.
On the Saturday afternoon I felt the Lord saying that before the evening session we were to offer to wash the feet of the Inuit attendees as they entered the evening session and pray for them as we washed their feet. The Hotel provided five water basins, chairs, and towels for us and as they entered, we asked permission to wash their feet. We did not receive any rejection from the women but just a willingness and desire to participate. The men were (not surprising) more reluctant but several did participate.
Three dramatic events took place that we can never properly explain but will stay with us all our lives:
1. Some of the husbands were deeply touched and were moved to tears watching their wives having their feet washed;
2. The women broke into deep crying, weeping, and brokenness and had to be consoled by our spouses;
3. The Lord gave a word to one of our presenters that we were breaking the historical curses of the white man’s abuse of the Inuit woman.
Later, the group gave the “Joseph robe" to an Inuit lady they felt had a special calling from the Lord on her life. A couple years later, when some Fort St. John Christians hosted the “Peace Rising Above” for the healing of indigenous people who suffered because of the residential schools, she came from Rankin Inlet to Fort St. John at her own cost staying with Sandra and I so she could assist in any way especially offering counselling and prayer.
On Sunday morning we were invited to a House church with Pastor Arreak giving the message and hosted by an Inuit lady who had not allowed English to be spoken in her home, including her children and her children’s friends. She not only invited and hosted us but welcomed us all with hugs and brought out an old oil lamp that was used for warmth and light in their past. She claimed what she received at the Conference was love, reconciliation, and healing of her deep wounds, and it was her way of honouring us, saying that from now on English speaking was welcome in her home.
Proverbs 19:21 states, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." Truly we had no idea what the Lord had purposed for our trip. We can have our plans but we need to learn to step aside and let Him be Lord.
John Grady lives and writes in Fort St. John