Celebration of Hope overcomes legacy of pain in Arctic community

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Many people in Rankin Inlet have ample reason to distrust Christians. For decades, church-led residential schools forced many
of the remote Nunavut community’s Inuit children to live apart from their parents.

Some schools inflicted physical and psychological abuse on children in Rankin Inlet and hundreds of other First Nations communities across Canada.

As adults, those tormented children often resort to alcohol and drugs to numb the lingering pain. And although some Inuit families have maintained the faith in Jesus that they learned in residential schools, others view Christianity with anger and bitterness.

It was in this complex environment that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada partnered with some of Rankin Inlet’s churches to organize a Celebration of Hope with Will Graham—BGEAC’s first-ever evangelistic initiative in the Canadian Arctic.

The Oct. 26 and 27 event—after months of prayer, evangelism training and worship—was held at Rankin Inlet’s high school. More than 335 people attended each night, with 90 responding to Will’s invitation to publicly commit their lives to Christ. Another 30 rededicated their lives to the Savior, and dozens more sought prayer and assurance from trained counselors.

“This truly has been a Celebration of Hope for our people.” – Susan Aglukark

“This truly has been a Celebration of Hope for our people,” said Susan Aglukark, the Juno-award-winning singer-songwriter from Nunavut who performed each night.

“Even when I was struggling the most, God was always there for me,” Aglukark told hundreds of mostly Inuit listeners. “He has given us all the things to have an awesome life, but we must make good choices. What can carry us through is the amazing grace and mercy of God.”

While in Rankin Inlet, Will visited the local jail—a territorial government facility known as a “healing center” because so many of its inmates need healing from the abuse they endured at the schools. Many of the inmates are serving time for drug and alcohol related offenses.

They are paying a price for their sins, Will said, just as everyone should pay a price—the condemnation of death.

“We’ve all broken God’s laws,” Will said, “but Jesus paid the price for us. He was not only willing to go to jail for us, but to die for us.”

Jordan Janzen, lead singer for the Christian band The Color, told the audience about the five-year struggle he and his wife had before she was able to get pregnant.

After that experience, Janzen was convinced of this fact: “God loves you, no matter what challenges you have in your lives.”

Texas-based illusionist Jim Munro shared what seemed like an an amazing series of coincidences to illustrate that while life may seem random and chaotic, God has a plan for each person if they will simply welcome Him into their lives.

And then Will came to the podium.

“I’m here to tell you that God sees everything,” he said. “God sees what you’re struggling with, what your challenges are, and He loves you. God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and that is to know Him. He wants to live in your heart.”

“God has a plan and a purpose for your life.” – Will Graham

Among those who came forward in response to the invitation was Eva, a 34-year-old single mother of five children. The Inuit woman was sexually assaulted several times as a child and in her early teens. She was still carrying around that legacy of pain when her common-law husband, and father to all of her children, abandoned the family in November 2017.

“When he walked out, I was so broken,” Eva recalled. “I started to drink alcohol—drinking and drinking to numb the pain. But I decided
to come here tonight instead of more drinking.”

Through tears of joy, Eva said she could already feel a new sense of resolve and strength after accepting Christ as her Savior: “Before, I was
struggling without the help of Jesus in my life. Now I have Jesus.”

Kevin Sanguin, a longtime Rankin Inlet resident and a Celebration of Hope volunteer, prayed with and counseled some of the people who
accepted the invitation to dedicate their lives to Christ.

Kevin summed up the amazing weekend this way: “Praise the Lord for what happened here. I praise Him, and I thank Him for the privilege of working with such a wonderful organization like BGEA.”

The other Celebration of Hope with Will Graham that BGEAC has organized this year in partnership with local churches was in St. John’s,
Newfoundland, from Nov. 2-4. Look for a report on the Avalon Celebration of Hope in the next issue of Decision magazine.

>> Stories, videos, and photos from the Rankin Inlet Celebration of Hope

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