“Returning to Nain, for me, was like going home” says Winnie Ollerhead, one of Threshold Ministries’ Evangelists, who recently returned from a mission trip to Nain, Labrador. This was Winnie’s fourth trip to the isolated community characterized by its strong Inuit identity. Connected to Labrador as the northernmost permanent settlement in the province, Nain is only accessible by aircraft or boat. This remote town is home to 1230 people, making it the largest community and the largest centre for the Inuit nation on the coast of Labrador.
Despite being an isolated community, Winnie always feels welcome when she visits. This was no exception with her most recent visit, in April 2016, as she was once again welcomed by the congregation of Nain Community Church. “I was embraced with hugs from friends, and I was so excited to see the people I had met when I was there before.”
While in Nain, Winnie worked alongside Pastor Clarence (Junior) Andrews and his wife Ivy, from Nain Community Church. Junior and Ivy have been ministering in Nain since January 2011. They have a clear sense of God’s call to Nain and compassionate hearts toward the needy.
Before re-visiting the community in April, Winnie spent six months preparing for her trip. She and a wonderful group of women, from a variety of churches in St. John’s, met once a week to make baby blankets and pray. Together they were able to make 20 baby blankets, as well as prepare some packages with much needed supplies for new mothers and their children.
All the supplies were destined for Labrador Grenfell Health, which partners with many other departments to deliver community health programs that meet the health needs of residents in the region. Winnie was able to deliver them with Ivy. They presented them to Jane, a local nurse, who was overjoyed to accept the gifts. “It’s wonderful to know these supplies will be put to good use by people who really need them,” Ollerhead commented.
On her way to Nain, Winnie was able to stop in Goosebay, Labrador. She and a few others took the opportunity to go ice fishing. There were men, women, and children fishing on the bay. “Hunting, fishing and wooding is simply a way of life in Nain.” Describing the events, Winnie surged with joy, mimicking the air of excitement from amongst the community members as they fished the day away. “It was uplifting to watch as the young and old worked together for a common goal,” she reminisced. This was a highlight of the trip for Winnie; especially when she was able to watch a little girl catch her very first fish. “Fish were coming out of the water everywhere,” she said. Everyone was excited as they shared their many stories. However, something one of the local men said stuck in her mind. He said, “God is good”. Winnie explained that she couldn’t help but think about how God had provided for the people during this mission trip. “God provided the people with fish, birds, firewood, baby supplies, and most importantly the love and fellowship to all,” she said.
While in Nain, Winnie was able to help the locals with a variety of work that needed to be done. She, along with a few others trekked deep into the woods to get firewood for an elder of the community. She also had the opportunity to deliver banana bread and connect with the workers of the recreational center, as well as other members of the community. After the work was complete, it is customary to prepare a fire and discuss the day’s events as they sip on some tea or roast a marshmallow. “This is the Inuit way, which is often lost in the modern day of cell phones and T.V. It was a great way to connect with people and form relationships.”
The remainder of her visit was spent accompanying Ivy in residential visits. Travelling by ski-doo, they visited families and homes all across town. “Nain’s mixture of cultures, social issues and religious traditions make it a challenging area for ministry,” commented Pastor Junior.
Getting to know some families quite intimately, Winnie learned of the struggles and issues they face. “We did a lot of weeping due to the loss of loved ones and other things, but we also sang joyful hymns of praise. I saw and heard God’s people crying out to Him in their time of sorrow.” Thanks to God’s healing presence, they were also able to rejoice with many as they turned to God for strength. “One lady wanted to sing her favourite hymns. As we sang ‘I have decided to follow Jesus,’ I was touched as we listened to her sing from the heart. We truly experienced God’s peace.”
Winnie also had the privilege of preaching the message about the cross of Christ. The people were given the opportunity to lay down their burdens at the cross. She shared with the people about how Jesus died on the cross to bring us his light and freedom, when we believe in Him. John 8:36 says, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” This message was fitting for the community, as Winnie believes God’s purpose will be fulfilled in Nain as God continues to use people to bring His light, healing, and freedom to the community. “Transformation is taking place even in the midst of the pain and sorrow. It’s a very beautiful thing.”