Serving Jesus in the Arctic
I had the chance to catch up with my friend and seminary colleague Rebecca Osborn. She and her husband, Jared, are priests serving the Lord in Iqaluit, Canada. I first learned of Rebecca’s call to Iqaluit and the Inuit people when I saw a picture of her and her two, super cute preschool aged children in full snow suits in the middle of what looked like (at least to a Floridian) a terrible blizzard. I thought to myself, wow, she is freezing her butt off for Jesus. But she promises me it’s not that bad, in fact, it’s pretty great.
Rebecca and Jared share an assistantship at St. Jude’s Cathedral. They preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, and teach God’s Word. They are active in reaching the young people in their community and discovering ways to make Gospel connections in their community, through initiating programs such as bi-lingual Alpha. Rebecca and Jared see their call as coming alongside people, discovering where they are spiritually, and offering their friendship and support. What has been critical to their ministry is their commitment to learn Inukitut, the indigenous language of the Inuit people. When the Osborns arrived, they were warmly welcomed by the Inuit and the English-speaking people. Their parishioners saw that they were trying to talk to them in their language. This was a point of strength in their fellowship, or as Rebecca put it, “we didn’t have to speak perfectly. They saw we were trying and that made a difference.”
During our conversation, Rebecca said, “We really are just ordinary parish priests,” and that’s what struck me most. Aside from the snow drifts, the forty degrees below zero weather, the complex language, culture, and history of Iqaluit, her family’s ministry was a lot like my own. We proclaim the Gospel, think about how to engage the culture, raise our children in a Christ-centered, loving and fun way. For us, family fun time is the splash pad. For the Osborn children, it is riding on their snowmobile.
From the outside the Osborn’s call looks radical, but to Rebecca and Jared it was simply what the Lord desired of them. He made his will abundantly clear and he took care of them every step of the way. Rebecca’s advice to a family discerning a call to ministry would be that if the Lord is calling you to something, even something cross-cultural, you will be okay. He will take care of you. Rebecca, furthermore, takes a healthy, balanced approach to ministry. “You have to make your family a priority. Staying sane and having fun is so important, if you want to stay in ministry. We have remained faithful to God and our family and the people keep showing up for church. This was more effective than any fancy program.” Important words for anyone who has ever accepted a call that feels overwhelming (which I think is most of us).
One final thought, I was surprised that the Old Testament was not translated into Inuikitut until 2012. We still have work to do, friends! Even in this global landscape, there are people groups who do not have the Bible in their own language. The call to proclaim God’s word to every people tribe and nation is as timely as ever.
Lord Jesus, I give you thanks and praise for all the families that have committed themselves to international missionary service. Bless, strengthen, and sustain them. And for us at home, may we remember them in our lives, work, and prayers. Empower us Father to have the Gospel on our hearts and hands so that one day all people of the Earth can read your Word in their native tongue. In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
Lilly Sanders Ubbens is a published writer and mother of two. After growing up as a missionary kid in Honduras, Lilly went on to earn a masters degree from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. While there, Lilly met and married the love of her life, Bo, and they now serve at Christ Church Anglican on the Mainline in Wayne, PA. You can contact Lilly here.