Magazine article Anglican Journal

Inuit Bring the Gospel South: Missionaires Are Right at Home

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Inuit Bring the Gospel South: Missionaires Are Right at Home

Article excerpt

During the 19th century, Europeans risked their lives trekking north to evangelise the Arctic. But this year, for the first time, the Arctic sent its own Inuit missionaries south with the gospel.

In 1874, Rev. James Peck travelled overland from the eastern coast of James Bay north to Kuujjuaq on Ungava Bay. Now, 127 years later, Lizzie York with three other Inuit was flying south from Kuujjuaq, to minister the gospel her ancestors had received from Mr. Peck.

The four missionaries came from four coastal settlements dotted around the rocky shores of the huge Ungava peninsula (the most northerly tip of Quebec). Snow had already fallen when the team left on September 18 for its 11-day mission to southeastern Ontario.

Joining Mrs. York, a court interpreter, were Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, the suffragan bishop of Nunavik, Rev. Iola Metuq from Kangirsuq, and Paulossie Napartuk, a weather observer at Puvirnituq airport.

They proved to be as comfortable with the homeless in a soup kitchen and the hurting in a group home as they were with the regular churchgoer in the pew. Language was no barrier. They were quick to laugh yet shared personal stories of sharp pain.

Bishop Peter Mason of the diocese of Ontario welcomed the team. "The Gospel they received is being re-presented, but in ways that are not just repetitious. Andrew spoke the gospel truth but in a way that indicated that he had apprehended it for himself; he was not just mimicking others. I welcome God's work of renewal from people who are in our culture as well as from those who are from outside our culture. Biblical christianity is not just putting a religious facade on our North American culture."

Bishop Mason attended services at St. Paul's, Kingston, and at St. Luke's, Camden East. The team also ministered at St. Margaret's on the Hill, Belleville and Holy Trinity, Brockville. Sharing of Ministries Abroad, an Anglican mission agency with a renewal perspective, organized the mission but the four raised their own funds.

Iola Metuq

The Inuit team was very down to earth.

Iola Metuq told people in a Belleville soup kitchen that he too had known hunger. As a starving child in the 1950s he had searched through RCMP and hospital garbage for food.

He told a home for abused women, "I'm not a prophet. I'm a victim too, like you." A doctor had lured him with treats of apples and oranges, then molested the terrified boy.

Later, as a mayor and regional politician, Mr. Metuq had power and authority but no inner peace, so he abused drugs and alcohol.

Despite his past, he spoke with an irrepressible joy. "If you want to release the hate, present it to Jesus. Jesus does the healing."

Lizzie York

"You often see Christ more clearly after you've been through hard times," said Lizzie York. She comes from four generations of Christian Inuit believers but her birth father was white. "I have been hated and despised by white and Inuit. I don't belong to either. I am gradually healing. Christ is working through all my pains."

Her greatest trauma was being raped as a 10-year-old.

"It took me 29 years to figure out what was going on inside of me. I was very angry and ashamed." Through prayer counselling with another Christian woman who had also been sexual abused, Mrs. …

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