[b]Revival On Ice[/b]
[i]by Billy Bruce[/i]
Missionary Kayy Gordon has braved subzero weather and harsh conditions for 40 years to bring the gospel to the Inuit people of Canada's northern Artic region. Charisma takes you above the tree line to witness this unusual revival.
In the Canadian Arctic, subzero temperatures and wind-whipped blizzards accompanied by blinding, icy fog can leave human travelers directionless, stranded and vulnerable--in much the same way that sin can prevent people from ever finding God. Fortunately for the Eskimos of the Arctic, God raised up a missionary who has shared the compass and light of the gospel in this stark, frozen land for 40 years. Kayy Gordon has left the Arctic ablaze, bringing the Holy Spirit's revival fire to the icy land, penetrating a 5,000-year-old indigenous culture with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Above the tree line, they call this expanse "the barrens." The ground becomes frozen solid and snow-covered over the long winter months. During the short weeks of an Arctic summer the ground turns to a mushy tundra that supports swarms of mosquitoes, and for three months the sun never sets. Arctic dwellers then endure 24 hours of daylight.
Despite such extremes, on a frigid January night in 1958--as temperatures dropped to 50 below zero--24-year-old missionary Kayy Gordon from Vancouver, British Columbia, was determined to take her borrowed dog team 50 miles from her base at Tuk on a one-day journey to a roaming camp of reindeer herders. She took nurse Iona Blakney with her to do immunizations of the herdsmen's families.
Tuk, short for Tuktoyaktuk, is an Eskimo community located high up on the northwestern shores of the Arctic Ocean east of the MacKenzie River Delta on the Beaufort Sea. Out on the barrens Kayy hoped to spend a few days ministering to the herdsmen, many of whom already had become faithful believers. Also, Kayy was watchful for an opportunity to share the gospel with Blakney, who was known in Tuk as a woman who liked parties and could drink most men under the table.
Accompanying the women were two men: Nels Pulk, their guide, and his helper Komeak, an Inuit, or Eskimo--the more common term used by Westerners for the Canadian Arctic's native people. Inuit are related to most Arctic dwellers who inhabit the Earth's frozen rooftop. Their relatives can be found in portions of Greenland and Iceland and among Asiatic tribes in Russia.
At about 9 a.m. on the cold, overcast day, the missions team pulled out of Tuk into a terrific icy wind--the kind that cuts like a knife and slows to a crawl even the healthiest of Husky dog teams. Eight hours later the group set up temporary camp at Sownuktuk, or "place of bones." Nels and Komeak raised a tent and fired up a portable stove for heat.
After some hot tea and a meal, the team packed up and moved on again. As darkness fell, the moon lit up the Arctic landscape. Kayy pondered the God-given beauty of the Arctic, now lit by an almost heavenly light.
"There is something about the perfection, the vastness of this white wilderness...unspoiled by any strife or problems of this world, that to me is akin to heaven," Kayy writes in her book, God's Fire on Ice.
Taking Jesus to a Frozen World
After a few days of ministry among the reindeer herders, Kayy's missions team packed up to head back to Tuk. The day they left, the sun set at noon after about only two hours of morning daylight. The temperature dropped to 58 degrees below zero, and soon Kayy noticed her feet were getting very cold. They had gotten damp--a serious danger in subzero temperatures. Dampness can lead to frost bite--or amputation.
Kayy tried changing her socks, but her feet were nearly frozen, and they did not respond to the dry-sock treatment. She knew she must run to get her blood flowing again. She ran in painful strides as the toboggans traveled.
But the running wasn't working, either. Her frozen feet felt like wooden stumps. She feared the worst and prayed for healing. Thirty minutes later she felt sen sations in her feet. Miraculously, the blood began to flow, and her feet were spared.
Taking a different route home, the team found an abandoned cabin in which to weather the night. Soon they had a fire blazing. Before turning out her gas lamp, Kayy read her Bible and prayed. She noticed eyes zeroing in on her--those of nurse Iona Blakney.
On the way home, the temperature dropped to 60 below zero, and wind-chill factors lowered it to about 100 below zero. A misty, icy fog settled over the team as they crossed a frozen lake in search of an igloo for shelter.
"We couldn't find it," Kayy said. "We drove round and round, crisscrossing the lake several times until finally Nels stumbled onto the igloo, which had become iced up on the inside and was consequently very, very cold."
The team settled in to wait for the moon to rise, since the darkness and deep fog made further travel impossible. As soon as the moon was up, Kayy called on the team to leave.
Traveling again, it wasn't long before the wind had swept away all traces of the lead team's tracks, and Kayy's team was in danger of being utterly lost. Kayy prayed silently: "God, somehow make a way for us. I've brought this unsaved nurse with me, and I don't want to be an instrument of her death."
Suddenly, the blowing snow stopped briefly, and Kayy was able to spot Nels' team moving faintly in the distance.
Back in Tuk, Kayy was frustrated that she had not talked with nurse Blakney about Jesus during the trip. But God had different plans. After four days, Blakney came to Kayy's hut, a 14-by-20 plywood house she had built, and nervously asked her questions about her faith. She came back three nights later, and Kayy led her to the Lord.
At Kayy's next service, Blakney--the only white woman in the church besides Kayy--kneeled at the oil heater that served as a makeshift altar and gave her heart to Jesus.
"To the Eskimo people, it was a miracle," Kayy said.
"The white nurse has been saved!" they proclaimed hut to hut. "Even the whites are getting saved!"
Some eight years later on Dec. 6, 1966, nurse Blakney died of cancer at age 40.
Called to the Wilderness
Now 67, Kayy can recite many such stories of miraculous survival during her pioneering days, when dog teams or skidoos (snowmobiles) were the only mode of travel. She can tell of thousands of salvations among the Inuit people during her 40 years of crisscrossing the northern Canadian Arctic.
There was Silas, an alcohol-abusing Inuit man who liked to gamble and was headed for an early death until he heard the gospel. When he accepted Jesus, he went home and threw out his home-brewed alcohol and posted a "No Gambling" sign on his house.
He couldn't read English but wanted to read the Bible, so he prayed for the Lord to enable him to read His Word. God answered with a miracle, and Silas could read the Bible in English, but he could not read any other work printed in English.
Although Kayy's mission has achieved much in 40 years, her work is not complete. She received two very clear words of prophecy not to lay down her Arctic work. In one, the Lord spoke to her and said that "a slower transition is a more solid one," she said.
Kayy allowed Charisma to fly with her team for a week last March during an Arctic ministry tour with evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne. At each stop, Kayy beamed as community centers filled to capacity with Inuit families and town officials hungering for revival services.
The evangelism team took the gospel to Arviat along the western shore of Hudson Bay. In the very first service, the power of God flooded the room. A woman who was blind in one eye gained her sight, and a deaf woman could hear again. The altar looked like a Holy Ghost hospital, with several Inuit strewn about the floor, many sobbing and weeping, others laughing hysterically under God's anointing.
The troupe flew east to Coral Harbor on Southampton Island on the Hudson. At Arviat and Coral Harbor, Kayy's ministry team was honored by town mayors who are Christians, largely as a result of her ministry's outreach.
After an evening service at Coral Harbor, the team flew west at night to Baker Lake to beat poor weather forecasted for the next day. As team members marveled at the incredible lights of the aurora borealis, the airplane's autopilot disengaged, and Howard-Browne had to fly while the pilot corrected the problem. The matter didn't phase Kayy, who bragged about the quality of the airplanes used for her travels today compared with those used 20 years ago.
Kayy first heard the call to minister in the Arctic at age 19 while attending Glad Tidings Fellowship in Vancouver. She was praying on a Saturday night and received a vision of herself ministering to the Inuit, going from place to place in the land of ice and snow. Kayy was ecstatic and told pastor Reg Layzell that God wanted to send her to the Arctic.
"Well Kayy, God knows your address and phone number. When He wants you, He will call you," Layzell said. Kayy was devastated and left the church in tears.
For the next three years friends and relatives ridiculed and rejected her for her "Arctic calling." She prayed that God would remove her passion for the Arctic peoples, but it only grew stronger. Finally, Layzell realized Kayy's passion would not be silenced, and he agreed to send her to the Arctic if she could find a contact there.
Again God provided. On the same morning that Layzell planned to tell Kayy she could not go north without prior contacts, Anna and Mikkel Pulk decided to pay a visit to Layzell's church. The Pulks had lived in the Arctic for 30 years, herding reindeer from Alaska to Canada. The couple had given their lives to Jesus at Reindeer Station in the 1950s and were vacationing in Vancouver.
Moments before the Pulks came in the building, the Lord impressed on Layzell that strangers from the north were arriving at the church. He went to the foyer.
"You people are from the Arctic, aren't you?" he asked, greeting the Pulks.
How could he know that? they wondered. They both were white people and wore no fur parkas or mukluks (fur-covered boots).
Layzell introduced the Pulks to Kayy. At age 22, she left for the Arctic, and the rest is missions history.
Wings Above the Arctic
Kayy left Vancouver to begin her Arctic ministry in June 1956, and through the rest of that decade and the 1960s her work was concentrated in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic. She lived among the Inuit, learning their culture and eating their whale meat, reindeer, caribou and fish, while enduring the harsh weather.
By the 1970s Glad Tidings Arctic Mission was a registered arm of Glad Tidings in Vancouver. And in the 1980s, Kayy had set up Glad Tidings Arctic Missions Society to more easily meet government requirements for lands and grants. She remains president of the society.
She also had raised enough funds by March 1976 to begin operating a small Cessna 185 airplane that had been donated by Immanuel Church in Calgary, Alberta. The use of airplanes would greatly expand Kayy's outreach into the eastern regions across the Northwest Territories into what is now the Inuit's homeland--Nunavut Territory (see story on page 48).
The introduction of airplanes into the ministry also brought new danger and threatened to end the ministry.
In March 1978, pilot Royden Janz, a dedicated Christian, was scheduled to pick up Kayy at Cambridge Bay to fly the Cessna 185 south to Winnipeg, Manitoba, for a maintenance checkup and to give Kayy a break. Hours before Kayy was to leave, she got a call from a pastor's wife in Washington, D.C., to compliment her on her book, God's Fire on Ice, which Kayy did not know had finally been released.
"When I heard that, I decided that I should not go with Royden but should go west to my home church in Vancouver to begin presenting my book in my home church," she says.
After celebrating the release at Glad Tidings church, Kayy came home to her apartment and learned that the ministry airplane had crashed about a mile from Janz's home in Steinbach, Manitoba. Janz, married with five children, was killed.
The loss of Janz and the airplane greatly discouraged the Inuit believers, but God quickly taught them a lesson in faith. Kayy was invited to appear on The PTL Club with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The Bakkers interviewed Kayy before millions of viewers about her Arctic ministry and the loss of Janz and the plane.
They then asked viewers each to send $1 to help Kayy get another plane. By the time she got back to Vancouver, she had nine big bags of mail--and $32,000 mostly in $1 bills.
Within five months of the crash, Kayy's ministry--with more support from Immanuel Church--gained use of a twin-engine Piper Aztec airplane, and her ministry soared on wings again.
By April 1983, Kayy's Arctic missions work had produced a Bible school that began in Cambridge Bay and now operates in Rankin Inlet. Churches had been planted in villages across the far north. Her mission to evangelize, disciple and send out Inuits to reach their own people was coming to pass at a rate that far exceeded her expectations.
In fact, Kayy was so pleased with the progress that she planned to transfer full-time oversight of the Arctic work to a promising group of leaders God had prepared under her. She then would be free to travel in North America to raise more funds for Arctic missions and have time to minister in other countries.
But another tragedy struck, taking some of the mission's finest leaders.
Pilot Bill Goward, assistant supervisor of Arctic Missions for Glad Tidings, revved up the ministry airplane on April 6, 1983, to take Kayy, pastor Lynn Patterson and a guest minister from Rankin Inlet to Coral Harbor, where they would conduct a short-term Bible seminar.
Goward flew up to Repulse Bay to pick up church leaders who wanted to attend the seminar. As a storm brewed near Coral Harbor, Goward's passengers boarded: new pastor Paul Suisangnark and his adult son Solomoni; and two of Kayy's finest Bible school graduates, David and Cathy Tulugak, and their 10-month-old daughter, Holly. It was a routine one-hour flight.
The airplane crashed in the storm just 26 miles north of Coral Harbor's airport, burning badly, and all aboard were killed on impact. Kayy was asked to identify the bodies.
"I became angry," Kayy says. "I said: 'Lord, it is not fair! Why should these young people be wiped out when they were so dedicated?' Especially troubling to me was the baby's death."
Then in an instant, God showed Kayy all the hundreds of Inuit who had been blessed by the airplane ministry, how people were changed, saved, delivered and empowered to reach others. And Kayy had to accept the deaths that she did not understand.
"From that moment, the burden of it lifted off of me," Kayy says.
"And out of bitter came sweet," she continues. "God is never a loser! In the months after the tragedy, many, many [people] dedicated and rededicated their lives to Christ. Many young people were touched. Many relatives responded, saying they wanted to finish the job that their loved ones gave their lives to do."
In addition, Kayy dropped her plan to leave full-time work in the Arctic.
"That was my turning point...in everything. It seemed a lot more settled for me after that. I accepted what happened as God's plan and knew that He also had more for me to do in the Arctic."
Today, Kayy looks back in awe at the network of some 12 churches planted across the forgotten lands of ice and snow and the Rankin Inlet Bible school that is recognized by the Canadian government. As she edges closer to her 70s and retirement years, Kayy has plenty of work to do before turning over Arctic missions to other servants.
"There are some 32 Inuit communities scattered throughout Nunavut, and we have been to about 26 of them over the years," Kayy explains. "The whole key to me is that the Inuit now are carrying this move of God into their churches. The mantle has fallen on them, and they are running with the message."
She's blessed with uncanny vigor and health, and the younger Charisma reporter who followed her on the recent Arctic tour found it tough to keep up. Kayy is planning another Arctic tour in March 2001 with evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne.
"It is the principle Paul said to Timothy--to commit the truth to faithful men who will be able to teach others," Kayy says.
"As a missionary, I would not feel that I have completed my work if the torch of truth had not been gripped by local hands.
"I am so blessed to see my vision come to pass in my lifetime."
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon