10 Things I’d like you to know about my Field
1. Greenland is the largest island in the world.
Greenland is one and a half times the size of Alaska. Although it is the largest island in the world, it is one of the least populated countries. Only about 57,000 people live in the entire country. Many years ago while we were on deputation someone asked us “Why Greenland? There is hardly anyone there!” Well, if you were a Greenlander wouldn’t you want someone to bring the Gospel to you?
2. Greenland is a very remote place.
People only live along the coast, because the interior of Greenland is nothing but mountainous ice cap. These 70 plus villages are not connected by roads, so the only way in and out of town is by boat or plane. This takes “cabin fever” to a whole new level! There are NO Fast-food chains or American stores in Greenland.
3. Greenland has 24 hours of sunlight during the summer months and 24 hours of darkness during the winter months. In the summer, the 24 hours of sunlight is like an energy drink. You never feel like going to bed. How can you sleep when the sun is shining in the windows at midnight! We use darkening shades to help keep out all that light. Sometimes it is easy to lose track of the time. There have been times that I thought, I better make supper now and when I looked at the clock, it was 8 o'clock in the evening! The kids didn’t mind because they were having fun playing outside. In the winter however, the darkness has the exact opposite. It feels like a sleeping aide. All you feel like doing is sleeping! You wake up when it is dark and you drag through the day just longing for bed time! No time for napping when you have 5 children to homeschool and care for. :-) I often joke that I can be like the Virtuous Woman in winter, “She riseth also while it is yet night…”
4. Greenland has really only two seasons, Summer & Winter or as we like to call them, Bug Bite and Frost Bite. We have seen snow fall in 11 out of the 12 months and though we have not seen snow fall in July, we still have patches of snow. You would never guess that mosquitoes thrive in the short summer months. They swarm around you and can take away the joy of the summer in the Arctic. The short summer brings with it many varieties of wildflowers and berries.
5. Our home is in Ilulissat, Greenland which is the native word for “icebergs.” We live 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Our town lies just north of one of the most productive glaciers in the world. The glacier dumps millions of tons of ice into the Bay every day which gives us an ever-changing spectacular view.
6. There are more dogs here than people. The dogs look like Huskies, but they are their own breed. They are not pets, but work animals. For nine months out of the year they pull sledges for hunters and fishermen as well as give rides to tourists. The dog sledge races are very popular in the late winter once the sun has returned.
7. Everything has to be imported on a big supply ship that comes from Denmark. It comes about once a week in the summer and then sporadically in the winter based on the weather and ice conditions in the sea. Because of this, groceries are very expensive and the prices increase overnight in the winter months. We have learned to stock up on the important stuff like yeast, sugar, flour, milk and toilet paper. Milk comes in boxes and has a shelf life of six months.
8. The Greenlandic People are Eskimos and still follow many traditional ways. While the Greenlandic children love candy it doesn’t compare to mattak (raw whale skin and blubber). They prefer it above all else. The Greenlanders love modern technology, yet still cling to their old ways. They love iPhones, Facebook, digital cameras, etc… and at the same time, fishing with harpoon guns, spending days at their summer huts (with no electricity or plumbing), berry picking on the tundra, dog sledging, seal hunting, kayaking, etc.
9. Greenlandic is one of the most difficult languages to learn. It is the native language of the Greenlanders. A 2007 study in Norway declared Greenlandic THE most difficult language to learn. While we aren’t sure if that is entirely accurate, we know it must be in the “top ten” :-) It is a polysynthetic language. You start with a root word and then build upon it. A sentence for us English speaking people may simply be one LOOOOONG word in Greenlandic.
10. Greenland is a Pioneer Mission Field, We are the only Baptist Missionaries in the entire country. I won’t lie and say Pioneer Missions is easy. On the contrary, it’s hard work, a lot of hard work. The only Gospel Literature in the Greenlandic language is what we’ve been able to write and translate. Sometimes it feels that for every step forward, we take two backwards. Being the first and only, we have experienced many setbacks, but we continue pressing forward in order to blaze a trail in this spiritual wilderness.
The loneliness is hard, the isolation is difficult, and the ministry is time consuming, yet the rewards are out of this world! We can’t imagine living any other life! The good news is that help is on the way! My Dad is coming this summer to help us launch our summer boat ministry to the outlying towns and villages. Also another family is currently on deputation to join us on this Pioneer Mission Field!
I hope you’ve enjoyed your brief visit to Greenland and leave knowing a little more about this country and its people.
Click Here to visit Susan, a missionary wife in France. God Bless You.