Dear Praying friends,
The array of items on my desk is an accurate microcosm of missionary work. As expected, there are four bibles, an English dictionary, an Inuvialuit dictionary, an old school hand bombed address book, a hymn book and a book on revival by Ravenhill. There is the usual 21st century electronic wizardry; external hard drives, wireless router, chargers, cables and recharging batteries. My laptop, printer and an old school pair of drug store reading glasses occupy reserved spots on the desktop. (The real desktop, not the virtual one)
Along with the expected stuff there is a birthday card for mom needing a signature from her far away son, an exploded view of my truck’s transmission and the phone number of a parts guy in Yellowknife who said he’d call me back when the parts came in. Speaking of parts, the pullout writing surface of the desk has now become a shelf where the shifter and surrounding parts are sitting awaiting Jeff the afore mentioned parts guy to call.
I just properly stored a couple of shotgun shells that stood as paperweights, and there is a dry erase board with a multi colored “to do” list scrawled at a right angle to another list of things I need for Tuk. Odd scraps of paper with notes, phrases, reminders, phone numbers and late night thoughts lay here and there. Some extra printer paper and a cup full of pens, pencils and highlighters sit to my right as a reminder of a simpler time uncluttered with digital technology.
The hodgepodge desk is representative of a missionary’s life. Theology and devotion to Christ is certainly an obvious and large part of who a missionary is, but the normalcy ends there. We are mechanics, our own tech support and accountant. We are purchasing agents, medics, writers, sons and daughters. We teach, preach, parent, counsel, build, repair, fix and demolish. Our tools are bibles, hammers, rifles and wrenches. By the time a missionary reaches the field we are professional drivers, advanced telemarketers, and conference speakers. We dabble in audio visual production and become amateur historians of our field. Some are linguists, interpreters and translators of God’s precious Word. Missionaries must multitask.
This is my last newsletter until September. The short Arctic summer is extremely busy and it is a great help to slide the next newsletter one month. I appreciate your understanding. My summer work consists of ongoing duties in Inuvik, foundation repair in Tuk, paint my house and preach two weeks of Rock Crossing Bible Camp in Alaska. I am teaching four courses for Points North Baptist Mission and All Points Baptist Mission’s Advanced Missionary Training. I end the summer with a trip bringing my repaired boat back to the North from Manitoba for use in any aspect of ministry which puts us on the river.
Lois’ heath continues to stabilize and even improve. She can travel now with lesser difficulty and we humbly thank you for praying for her and we honor God for His healing touch. I have had a couple of skin cancer spots on my face dealt with and they have proven to be more embarrassing than dangerous. Angie is back from college for the summer and is an amazing lady. We are blessed by her walk with the Lord. Our other two kids are doing great in serving and preparing to serve.
The Tuk mission is going well. Our attendance is solid and we are building relationships with more and more people in Tuk. I continue to experience total liberty when preaching and I believe decisions are being made or at least pondered. I envision a day when we live in Tuk and we continue to move toward that end.
Your faithful monetary and prayer support is a source of continual blessing. Thank you very, very much. We do count on you and we know we can.
In His cold but easy yoke,
Steve, Lois and Angie Donley
So how does this sound? We retire our 2004, 29ft camping trailer to Tuktoyaktuk? We could conceivably live in it from late spring through summer and into early fall. Then as the temperatures fall we could re-occupy our home in Inuvik and drive the ice roads to Tuk each week until spring when we could move back into the camper. We would essentially have a year round ministry in Tuk and the housing costs would be nil. Lois and I both love to camp, and we lived in the camper for a year of furlough, so we know what we would be in for. The water and sewer situation will take some out of the box thinking and preparation, but certainly not too big of an obstacle. What do you think?
Our services in Tuk have been very encouraging. Each service I have a moment where I almost become overwhelmed with emotion. Either it is during the song service or during the message. I get overwhelmed with joy that the Lord is working in such clear and distinguishable ways. What a joy to serve the Lord! Good participation in the song service, eye contact during the preaching, sweet fellowship after the service and some good questions getting back to me. I am thrilled!
God is continuing to use me in Inuvik. Although I am no longer pastor of FBBC, I am often called upon by Bro. Gary Forney to preach or participate in the service in one way or another. Bro. Forney is our mission director and Pastors FBBC as we slowly transition to indigenous leadership. I also am honoured to be friends with fellow missionary Larry Noland in Aklavik and help him in small ways as he leads the congregation there. Although we wait on the Lord to facilitate our onsite presence in Tuk, we are definitely busy. I am looking forward to two weeks of Rock Crossing Bible Camp in Alaska and as well working on our own Delta Bible Camp here in the Canadian North. While activity is never the sole indicator of a good missionary, activity is part of the picture. I pray you can see that Lois and I are busy, moving forward and pressing toward the mark.
Our family is doing excellent. Each one is serving the Lord and faithful in preparation for or actively in full time Christian service. Our granddaughters are doing excellent, with the youngest just turning one year old. All four are… grand!
Lois is improving a bit. We are being cautious to not have a setback, but progress in noticeable. Please continue to lift her up in prayer and thank you for doing so. I’m doing fine, just getting older.
Thank you for your faithful prayer, support and friendship. We are blessed in so many ways and you are part of those blessings,
Steve & Lois Donley
Dear praying friends,
I suppose by the time this letter reaches you CHRISTmas will be over and the New Year will be upon us. The CHRISTmas season always holds great opportunity to reach people who are usually unapproachable concerning the things of the Lord. This year we have the opportunity to spend the CHRISTmas season in Tuktoyaktuk. We will be house sitting and will enjoy sharing Christ in the community by way of special services and hopefully some visits.
The 2040 window prayer initiative has already produced some results. Late October Bearing Precious Seed – Canada shipped a John and Romans to every household in the Northwest Territories! The staff emailed me in response to my last newsletter and was thrilled to be part of getting the truth to those NWT communities with little or no Gospel witness. Our efforts to evangelize the Western Arctic are always throttled by the exorbitant cost of travel. An adult return ticket to a fly in community such as Ulukhaktok (pop. 479) is $2,108.40. Paulatuk (pop. 341) demands $1,226.40 for return airfare and Sachs Harbour (pop. 135) a mere $1,526.00. Through the years Bro. Forney, myself and a few others have visited most of these communities and recently believers from our established ministries have delivered a witness in one form or another. But a consistent, faithful witness and church plant will most likely have to come from a God called local man. The 2040 window prayer initiative must include the prayer for laborers.
Lois traveled to Edmonton for an MRI to help diagnose her sensory input difficulties. A phone call from the Neurologist was good in that there were no tumors, cysts, blockages or evidence of stroke. We thank the Lord for this. She will meet with the Neurologist in January to see if there is anything else we can do to eliminate or at least lessen the debilitating results Lois experiences when she receives an overload of visual input or experiences something that taxes her inner ear when extra balance is needed. Travels on bumpy roads are a severe problem to Lois and we serve where bumpy roads, ice roads, and bumpy plane rides are a way of life. If this is the new normal for us, we will need much grace.
We have still not moved into the community of Tuk to live. I am waiting for the Lord to bring us there in His perfect timing. It seems no matter how long you have been a believer; waiting on the Lord is still a chore. Experience has taught me that waiting is still easier than undoing a bad choice. While we wait, I travel to Tuk each Sunday night and hold a worship service that is attended by around 20 people – give or take a few. The Lord has orchestrated some powerful services and I am absolutely positive the Lord is working. We shall reap if we faint not.
Thank you for the CHRISTmas offerings, gifts, correspondence and kindness. Our family is blessed and you are the vital part in His blessings being showered upon us. Your love for us is humbling and we thank God for such a faithful and engaged support family.
Steve and Lois Donley
The State of the Arctic
There is a tourism slogan that has been used in the Northwest Territories for a long time. It simply says, “Within reach, yet beyond belief”. This refers to the stunning natural beauty of the NWT and that it is possible to see and experience such a place. I have always thought this slogan fit perfectly into the spiritual side of things as well.
There are nine communities in the Arctic of the Northwest Territories of Canada. By “Arctic” I mean those communities that are physically above the imaginary line that runs at 66 degrees, 32 minutes North of the equator called the Arctic Circle. By Northwest Territories I mean exclusively that. Not the territory of Nunavut or the Yukon, and obviously not Alaska, USA.
The combined population of those nine arctic communities is 7134. For the past 20 years our focus has been on the three major communities in the extreme Northwest corner of the territory called the “Western Arctic.” Inuvik has a population of 3504, Tuktoyaktuk 935, and Aklavik has 655 people dwelling there. Those 5094 souls in the arctic of the NWT have had a gospel witness for decades. That leaves six communities and 2040 souls in the Arctic of the NWT that have had little or no gospel witness. In the same time span the western arctic has had the blessing of a consistent and clear gospel witness, the 2040 of the remaining six arctic communities in the NWT have not. They must be reached with the gospel. Is this not truly representative of “Within reach, yet beyond belief”?
So I want to start a prayer initiative. I’m going to call it the 2040 window prayer initiative. 2040 refers to the number of souls and window refers to the window of opportunity to reach those souls. At 52 years of age, the window of opportunity for me to reach those communities is almost closed. My mission director, Bro. Gary Forney is respectfully a bit older than me, so the window is a bit further closed for him. Larry Noland is focused on Aklavik and the other 13 missionaries of Points North Baptist Mission are dedicated to a ministry and people groups in other areas. The answer lies in those reading this letter. Some may surrender and go, and some may pray for the 2040 window. Some may give and some may promote Arctic Missions in their ministries. We truly are in a symbiotic relationship.
2040 window. Yep, I like it.
In lesser intense news, the meetings in Tuk have been good. Attendance is picking up since the weather has turned colder and I have experienced great liberty as I preach. Several visitors have been attending and the regulars have been faithful.
I was able to purchase a “new to me” snowmobile due to a generous love offering of a Canadian church and a specific offering from a small Ohio church. The Arctic Cat snowmobile was new to me but in actuality it was 99.3% brand new. The machine has 7 miles on it! Nonetheless was officially not new therefore the price was reflective of a used machine.
Lois is still adjusting and learning a “new normal” in dealing with her continued neurological difficulties. Angie attends Bible college in Florida and Steven and his family are living in Manitoba attending Bible college too. Becky is a mom of 3 now and is faithfully serving alongside her husband in Nunavut.
Thank you for your love and support both in prayer and finances. We are grateful God has allowed us to partner with you.
Steve and Lois Donley
Dear praying friends,
This letter is being written from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territory. It is a warm summer evening and although the clock indicates 12:05 AM, the sun is a good 20 degrees above the horizon. It is tough to sleep in a room that is being invaded by beams of light, so this letter comes in an attempt to make good use of the sleepless evening.
Our trip North was fairly uneventful, a flat tire on the camper in Grand Prairie, Alberta, and some rain on the way up the Alaska Highway were really non-events. (Although the road washed out shortly after passed through the rain soaked area.) We attribute our travelling mercies to your faithful prayers and the Lord answering them accordingly.
The annual Alaskan youth camps at Rock Crossing Bible Camp were outstanding and our fellowship with friends in and around the Fairbanks area are always the highlights of the year. Upon our departure for Inuvik and eventually Tuk, we heard the Dempster Highway was washed out in places and was in rough shape. So in an effort to lessen our chances of problems, we decided to leave the camper in Fairbanks instead of dragging it up the 450+ miles of gravel road that is the Dempster highway. It was a wise choice as the road was a muddy, slimy mess.
As we turned the truck’s engine off in our driveway in Inuvik, I quickly tallied up the total distance we travelled on furlough. 65,226 kilometers or 40,529 miles! We were safe for every mile and the Lord provided for every need along the way.
I hit the ground running as six days after we got to Inuvik, I preached a funeral with well over 200 in attendance. 15 or more people responded with heads bowed and eyes closed in admission of their need of a Saviour and thus asking for prayer concerning their souls.
This is day 10 of our return North and I’m in Tuk! Tomorrow is a Sunday and at 7PM a few souls will gather to sing praises to God and hear the precious Word of God preached. There are very few churches of any stripe above the Arctic Circle anywhere in the world. To think God even cares for a tiny speck on the map called Tuktoyaktuk is mind boggling. But to think he cares about me as well is beyond comprehension. I must tell the people of Tuk of His tremendous love and plan for eternal redemption. I’m here! I can! I will! Thank you for making that possible. Our partnership makes this venture of ginormous proportions possible. As you give and pray, you are here as well in the economy of God.
Welcome to Tuk!
In His cold but easy yoke,
Steve and Lois Donley
So what does it cost to do a year furlough? And why do a furlough anyway?
As far as why I had to take a furlough, there are several reasons. First and foremost was to gain some new support and also to sure up existing support by reporting on our Arctic ministry. There are other reasons for taking a furlough but we will just leave it at financial reasoning for the purpose of this update.
What does it cost? I could bore you with the details of each expenditure, but I think two bits of data will put the cost into perspective. We drove 65,226 kilometres or 40,529 miles on furlough. $12,399.06 was spent on diesel fuel for our furlough. That’s .19 cents per kilometer or .30 cents per mile. If we drove 500 miles to a meeting, on average it costs $150.00 in fuel alone to attend the meeting. One way.
God again and again met our need and through the obedience of His people the horrific cost of travel was covered sooner or later. God has met our need according to His riches.
You might ask, “What was gained for the cause of Christ?” God honoured the preaching and many were stirred and made decisions of eternal consequences. Young people heard and saw how the Lord is working in our corner of the world. I believe preachers were encouraged and their resolve to be obedient in the area of missions was solidified. Several believers were unnaturally intrigued about missionary work and the call to the ministry. The Arctic received exposure as a truly “forgotten” mission field. And last but not least, hope for the indigenous people of the Arctic was facilitated with the logistics of adequate financial support for we who are called there.
Can you put a price on hope?