Above the Arctic Circle

All Saints Cathedral- Aklavik

This photo is of the interior of All Saints Cathedral in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, where I spent my 10th to 12th years.

Above the Arctic Circle

I was a navy “brat” and when I was ten years old, practising for my very first ballet recital, my father announced that we were posted to the Northwest Territories.    My heart sank.  I was sure I would be the next Anna Pavlova and now I would miss my debut to move 2, 592 miles away from Ottawa.  I doubt that the National Ballet missed me and for my part, I am so glad that I didn’t miss the adventure of my life above the Arctic Circle.

Our preparation to move including putting most of our belongings in storage.  Mom and Dad had received a long letter from the current commander of the northern naval facility listing all the things that we should pack to be equipped to live in Aklavik such as long underwear, lined trousers, heavy socks and warm sweaters as well as a good supply of mosquito repellant called 6/12.  Mom and Dad crated up two huge wooden boxes of our supplies that were to be shipped to Aklavik by barge.  We packed up our car and drove across Canada to Edmonton where we spent a few days with relatives and then took a Pacific Western flight on a DC3 to Inuvik (then known as East 3).

Inuvik was just being built when we got there.  The buildings all had to be raised up above the permafrost on large pillars which were pounded into the permafrost by very noisy pile drivers.  We were not able to fly immediately to Aklavik as the float plane we were to travel in had “blown up” in the harbour which probably meant that the engine had blown something mechanical.  So we had to stay in Inuvik until another plane was available.  There are only three ways to get to Aklavik (even now).  You can reach it by plane anytime (depending on the weather), by ice road in the winter (frozen river) or by barge in the summer.

Aklavik is the northwesternmost settlement in the Northwest Territories, on the Peel River Channel of the MacKenzie River delta, below the Richardson Mountain range.  At the time we were posted it had a population of about 1600 people, mostly Invialuit, Gwich’n and Metis. Aklavik was settled around a Hudson’s Bay Trading post by two founding families – Pokiak and Greenland in 1912 and grew in number due to the excellent trapping, hunting and fishing in the area.

The Federal government was concerned in 1953 that the flooding and erosion would make the settlement ultimately untenable and so decided to establish a new “model” northern town in Inuvik.  However, due to the efforts of my grade 7 teacher and principal of the Aklavik Day School (as it was known then) A. J. (Moose) Kerr, a tall red-headed determined fellow and his committee, the hamlet of Aklavik did not disappear when half the population re-located.  Due to their efforts Aklavik lives on and is thriving with a brand new school named after Moose Kerr, a Fur Factory, a crafting guild and has produced many parliamentary figures, musicians, and artists.

We finally flew to Aklavik in a six seater airplane – enough for our family of five and the pilot.  I had been horribly airsick in the DC3 which was a milk run that stopped at every airport on the way north, but I was too excited looking down over the amazing Mackenzie Delta with sparkling blue lakes as far as our eyes could see to notice the motion of the plane.  We landed in Aklavik at the beginning of June, near the closing of the school year.  The naval officer my father was replacing brought the station jeep and took us on a tour of Aklavik.  At that time Aklavik had a very rough runway, large petroleum tanks on the banks of the river, a bakery, a Hudson’s Bay Store, two residential schools one Roman Catholic school and one Anglican, an RCMP headquarters, a Royal Canadian Legion, a gift store that sold magazines and comic books as well as other things, a tourist home, two churches, a radio station CHAK (established in 1946), a Native Hall, a Northern Affairs office and a post office.  Other than a few jeeps and in winter dog sleds and enclosed snowmobiles, there  were no cars.  We did a lot of walking on the boardwalks that went around the buildings.  In the springtime the boardwalks were necessary as the mud was thick and boot-sucking.

Our new home was a small two bedroom house with the only basement in Aklavik.  In the basement was a huge water cistern and room to store the all important beer supply for the naval base.  The drinking water for the house was in a metal tank with a spigot and every day a huge block of ice was dropped into the tank to which was added a chlorine tablet.  The toilet facilities were inside but they were not flushable and were emptied once a week.  We had a refrigerator, but our meat was stored in an outside box which remained frozen in the winter.

Our family had to get used to many new ways of doing things up north.  Our bedroom windows were always covered with heavy blankets to ward out the winter cold and the summer midnight sun.  Our clothes had to be ordered by catalogue, as well as our Christmas presents and they would arrive by barge in July.  Most of our food was dried – potatoes, onions, carrots etc.  and reconstituted with water.  Any fresh fruit and vegetables arrived by plane from Nome or Anchorage, Alaska.  Milk was a daily mixture made from powdered milk which we learned to like (sort of).  In summer we all wore shoes but our mukluks were worn inside and outside in the winter.

Parkas were a necessity and so one of the very first things Mom did was take us all to the local seamstress to be measured for our parkas and mukluks.  That was an experience.  The venerable woman who measured us used a string with knots in it for each of us.  For our mukluks she simply stood us on a piece of paper and drew around our foot with a pencil.  A month or so later we all had new winter clothes.  Mom’s parka had a zipper, but we children had to take our parkas off over our heads.  When we got to school we would slip the hood of our parkas on a clothes hook and back up to take them off.  In the winter we all wore two scarves, one over our mouth and one over our forehead.  We also had heavy fur mitts on braided woollen strings that held them on over our knitted mittens.  During the winter months we walked to school in the dark and home in the dark.  There were no snow days off.

Despite the remoteness of Aklavik, we had a lot to do.  I joined the Junior Axillary of the Anglican Church, Brownies and the church choir.  I loved singing in the choir.  The younger members of the choir wore red cassocks, white surplices with ruffled white collars and small red caps. The older members wore black cassocks and white surplices.  We dressed in the church bell  tower and I remembered being fascinated at how quickly my Gwich’n and Invialuit friends could braid their long black hair and tie their braids with red ribbon.  We had choir practice once a week and I loved learning all the beautiful hymns.  In the church some were sung in the native languages and some in English.   The church was especially lovely, having  stained glass windows and the incredibly moving painting of the nativity behind the communion table.  It was painted by a woman  artist (I wish I knew her name) especially for the church and sadly photos are all that is left now, as the church burned to the ground on Palm Sunday in 1974.

One of my most treasured memories is of the spectacular Northern Lights.  I remember leaving church after the evening service and walking home under the celestial curtain of bright crimson and deep green.  It waved and crackled overhead in a light show no July 1st fire crackers display could rival.  It was magical, as so much of that amazing experience up north was.  I don’t think the thrill of  dancing in my ballet recital at the Capital Theatre in Ottawa would have compared to the thrill of watching the dancing colours of heavenly splendour almost every winter night.

Our home in Aklavik

Our Aklavik home.  Mom would type her letters home in the front porch during the summer, but in winter it was frozen solid with ice on the inside walls.

I AM – a poem

I AM

© 2018 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

 

Jesus healing

I am the healer of pain-wracked souls
And the fixer of broken parts.
I am the soother of weary minds,
The one comfort for troubled hearts.
My arms are open to welcome all
Of those who are yearning to be
Sheltered from the storms of life,
Enfolded and strengthened by me.

I am the mender of shattered lives,
The breaker of earthly fetters.
I am the finder of long-lost souls,
Forgiver of life-long debtors.
I long to gather my dear ones home
And rejoice with all who will come
For I have prepared a banquet feast
With enough places for everyone.

A Candle Burning

candlelight #3

 

A Candle Burning
© 2017 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

 

A candle burning in the dark night
Cannot outshine my Saviour’s light.
The greatest bonfire and its glow
Compared to Jesus, will not show.
The brightest beams from our big sun
Cannot eclipse the Blessed One.
The love light from my Saviour’s eyes
Is kind, and caring, always wise.
He sees my weakness, knows my fears,
Has helped me stand and dried my tears.
And when my task here is complete,
You’ll find me sitting at his feet.

The Greatest Love Letter

I remember the excitement I felt as a young child when Valentine’s Day drew near. I chose my cards carefully, especially the one I was going to give to the boy I admired most. It had to be funny, not sentimental, and not mean-funny either. When all the valentines were passed out, I would secretly watch to see his reaction to my card. Love was an embarrassment and a mystery to me. I was just learning to love.

 
The Bible is full of many kinds of love stories. There is love of wife or husband, love of best friends, and the love of parents. Some stories are noble as the story of the love between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, or of David and his friend, Jonathan. Some of the stories are examples of the wrong kind of love, like the love that King David had for Bathsheba which led to the murder of her husband. There is the story of betrayed love as in Samson and Delilah. Other stories are of love-gone-wrong: Jacob worked seven years to win Laban’s daughter, Rachel and was tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah. There is also the tragic tale of unrequited love between the prophet Hosea and the prostitute, Gomer.

 
“Love makes the world go round” according to the popular song, and it would seem so when you consider the plethora of poems and songs written about it. Even in the Bible, there is the passionate “Song of Solomon”. Then there are psalms, songs of love and devotion of a different kind – the love of God.

 
The entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is a book about the great eternal love of God for humankind – regardless of how fickle, how unreliable, how unworthy and how uninterested the object of adoration might be. The Bible is a love letter from Genesis to Revelation, a love letter often ignored, slandered, left unopened, sometimes even ending up in a garage sale or dumpster.

 
Where do you keep the love letters from your spouse or sweetheart that you cherish? Close at hand I expect, probably in a special box or a locked drawer of your bureau or in your night table. Don’t you take those letters out from time to time to read them and remind yourself f that special person’s feelings and promises? How would you feel if your letters to that love were never opened, not cherished and possibly tossed away? It would likely break your heart- you would be devastated.

 
Yet, maybe the Bible lies on the coffee table or in the bookcase, beautifully bound, perhaps with colourful pictures, and not even the first page is creased. Or is the cover tattered and the pages almost falling out, underlined, highlighted , written in and dog-eared. Such a book is well-read, well-loved and even memorized. It might look in poor shape, but its contents, its words are treasured. Those words tell of a love so true it has no precedent and no end, even if it is continuously rejected.

 
Paul’s description of true love to the church in Corinth aptly describes God’s love for us.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…and now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 
All these aspects of God’s love for humankind – his creation- are demonstrated over and over again in the Bible, from the Garden of Eden to the visions of Revelation. One need look no further than John 3:16 for the greatest proof of God’s desire to woo us and win our devotion.

 
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Love like that deserves to be treasured. Words like that should be memorized. The Bible is a love letter that deserves our passionate and devoted response.

 

hands on Bible

Mirrors and Windows

angel-and-shepherd-painting-on-hall-mirror

This is the painting that I put on my parents’ hall mirror the Christmas that I was 18.   I loved the way the light seemed to shine through the painting, so each year at Christmas I would put a new painting on the hall mirror as part of our Christmas decorations.  When my husband and I moved into our apartment I put a Christmas scene  on our front window and later, when we moved into the country and became youth leaders, I enlisted the help of the youth group to decorate all the windows in our little country church.  The paintings could be seen from the inside and the outside.  They really looked nice when the church was lit up at night.  Eventually, the windows of that church needed to be replaced and so I was asked to draw up designs for each window.  I chose the familiar themes of the Ten Commandments, Alpha and Omega, The Burning Bush, The Lord’s Supper, and the Open Bible.  We took the designs to a stained glass window artist and he had them re- drawn to accommodate the requirements of his craft.  The windows were each sponsored by different church families and we had a special church service to dedicate them.  Although we no longer attend the church as my husband and I are pastors in another , it thrills me to see the windows each time I pass the church.  It is such a pleasure to use my gifts to praise God.

I was thinking of this today, and it occurred to me that we as the people of God are asked to reflect the glory of God in all our being.  I think that we can either be mirrors or windows in life.  The limitation of a mirror is that mainly the reflection we see is our own.  Windows, on the other hand, show what is on the inside and through them we can see the world.  We need to be windows to show the love of God that dwells within us to the world.  In order to be windows, we need to make sure that what is inside us is clean , healthy, and true.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)and find out what pleases the Lord. ”  (Ephesians 5: 8-10 NIV)

 

 

 

 

A Hymn of God’s Promises

Song of Wonder
© 2017 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

1.
Zechariah longed for a son,gabriel-comes-to-mary
Old, he thought, all hope was gone.
When God surprises , hope arises
And heavenly will is done.

Chorus:
O sing of wonder, sing of light!
Angels sing in pure delight.
God’s devices all suffices
Banishing darkest night.

2.
Mary had no thought of all
God’s good graces on her to fall.
Gabriel found her to astound her
Telling of God’s great call.

Chorus

3.
All night Joseph tossed and turned,
Stunned by all that he had learned.
Should he marry or be wary,
Should Mary’s love be spurned?

Chorus

4.
Herod was only king in name.
All he sought was gold and fame.
Though so clever, he would never
Destroy what God had ordained.

Chorus

5.
Never think your day is done
Or say a battle cannot be won.
When God surprises, hope arises
And Holy Spirit will come.

Chorus

Comfort Food

jesus-breaks-the-breadEveryone has a favourite food that not only fills the stomach, but also warms the heart.  Chocolate is a favourite, or sometimes ice cream and even macaroni.  Whenever someone feels particularly vulnerable, blue or upset, comfort food is often the line of first defence.

When I was little and sick in bed with a sore throat, my mother made me snow pudding.  It was a frothy whipped lemon gelatine dessert made with real lemons and covered with custard sauce.  I absolutely loved it and, until I got my tonsils removed at five years old, I had lots of chances to eat it.

I don’t know how my mother made it and I doubt that I could make it myself.  I’ve never had much luck with gelatine desserts.  The fruit always sinks to the bottom and half the time it doesn’t even gel.  Now I know it wasn’t just the pudding that comforted me as a child.  The best part was knowing that my mother made it especially for me, because she loved me.

The need for comfort is universal.  Around the world people in distress yearn for the one dish or drink that will remind them of their happiest and most secure childhood memories.  The recipes don’t matter because the most important part is always the love with which the food was served.  Sadly, no matter how nostalgic we may be for our childhood, simply eating the same food will not satisfy the inner child. Once we’ve scraped the plate and licked our spoons or drained the last drop in our cup, the comfort disappears.

Our Lord Jesus once met a woman in great need of comfort.  Her life was a shambles of broken relationships and insecurity.  She didn’t even associate with the other women in her village who went to the town well in the cooler part of the day. She went instead during the hottest hour so that she could draw her water without their judgmental stares and whispers.  Jesus saw her pain and offered her water that would end her thirst forever.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14)

On another occasion, after feeding a crowd of 5000, Jesus said, “Do not labour for the food which perishes…I am the bread of life; he who comes to e shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:27-35)

The greatest comfort food of all is commemorated in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  It’s our reminder that, “God so loved the world He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Now that is true comfort!