Mission in a parish the size of Great Britain

When Michael and Christine first arrived in Kugluktuk with their two teenage daughters, it was light for 24 hours a day.

Kugluktuk, a small town on the north coast of Canada in the central Arctic, had a population of 1,100 in 1992. The MacLachlans’ parish was the size of Great Britain. Their deanery (group of six churches) was the size of Northern Europe, but contained less than 6,000 people.

There was no other community for 400 miles, apart from Umingmaktok − a settlement of 30 people living 220 miles down the coast. There were no roads for 600 miles, so the family travelled by aircraft and snowmobile to support ministers hundreds of miles away. As vicar of Kugluktuk, Michael worked hard to preach, to teach and to mobilise the church’s evangelism.

The family faced some unique challenges. The novelty of 24 hours of daylight quickly wore off, as sleep was so difficult. Additionally, alcoholism is a serious problem in the Arctic, along with its associated problems: domestic violence, crime, depression and suicide. The family witnessed many children drinking from an early age, with all of them knowing where to buy marijuana.

Michael (top) with the elders of his church

Because she was not an alcoholic, Christine was asked to run the local counselling centre. In the winter, 24 hours of daylight was reversed and no one wanted to get up in the pitch dark! Christine kept herself awake by crocheting.

Upon arrival, both their daughters were vegetarian, but since all the meat and fish was free and vegetables cost several pounds per item, they quickly reverted to eating meat (although steered clear of hoof soup, a local delicacy!).

Michael and his church warden putting the finishing touches to the church roof

The MacLachlans spent their first summer rebuilding the church, which had finally collapsed the year before they arrived. It had been dragged a hundred miles over the ice in the 1920s from its original location. Once the church was rebuilt (with a new kitchen and washing facilities), Michael ran residential courses for lay readers across the Kitikmeut deanery so they could share ideas, teach and grow together.

Michael and Christine running training courses

Despite the cold, the dark, the hours of travel and huge distances between fellow ministers, the MacLachlans wrote, ‘we believed God wanted us there. Not many people want to go to the Arctic, yet it proved to be just the place for us … There was a need, we were available, and so we went. And we were very happy there.’

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Polly Standring

As the communications content developer at Crosslinks, Polly helps mission partners connect with both Crosslinks and their supporters back home. As well as ensuring Crosslinks' internal communications run smoothly, she also oversees the writing of our external communications, including the Crosslinks blog.