Missionary work can be a hard road, taking you far from comfort to bring the Gospel to desperate people. John and Sandra Drost had hoped to find a mission field somewhere tropical. But God took them from the warmth of Queensland to the cold, inhospitable Arctic. That was the first of many unexpected turns their road would take.
John and Sandra first landed up in the sub-arctic community of Whitehorse, Northern Canada. Talking to Eric Skatebo on Vision’s the Story, John explained that though they’d expected to be based elsewhere, overtime they realised this was where God wanted them. “I know why He placed us there now, because it was a really good area to learn some culture, and also learn how to survive in the cold.”
They spent their time getting to know the indigenous people groups in the area, and they were surprised to discover that some of the elders were listening very carefully for God’s guidance. “They were totally illiterate,” Sandra said. “And yet God would impress on them truths from Scripture that they couldn’t read.”
But the elders were careful to verify that the messages they were hearing were Scripturally sound. “It was so amazing just to see how God was working through his Holy Spirit, and bringing truth into these peoples’ lives, and that it was constantly always being backed up through Scripture with what he was doing.”
The next stage of their journey would be far more challenging. They travelled north, deep into the Arctic Circle. “We really felt called to that area,” John said, “and we got involved in some ministry up in those communities, and actually helped build a physical Church building as well.”
Sandra struggled to find restful sleep during the summer, when the sun is out 24/7. And in the heart of winter, living through weeks of total darkness, John started to understand how deeply lack of sunlight can affect us. “I used to look forward to the 1st of February, when we would just see the little glimmer of the sun come up on the horizon, and come down again.”
And it was in this strange, alien environment, far from everything and everyone they knew, that they were rocked by a major crime. “It was devastating on our family. And in fact we weren’t sure how we were going to handle everything up there. But God came through for us.”
“Here we are, we’re the missionaries, we’d gone to these communities to reach out to the people, and in fact it turned around the other way. God used the Church that was in the community, the local people, to Minister to us.”
Though they had support from their mission organisation, and friends and family back home, it was the people around them that carried them through. And Sandra said God used their ordeal to help others as well. Many Christians in the community struggled with a low sense of self-image and self-worth, feared they weren’t good enough for God.
“One of our focuses, and things that we really felt called to, was to live this authentic Christian life, where things aren’t always rosy, things are really tough. And we make terrible mistakes. We’re human, and things happen, and so when this tragedy happened, and this situation happened, we wanted to live that out.”
The morning after their tragedy, Sandra woke up singing ‘It is Well with My Soul’. They knew then that God was present with them even in the deepest darkness. And they hoped that this was a lesson their community could learn with them.
“We wanted them to see us being carried by the Holy Spirit, being carried by the Lord, that this God that we served and loved was walking right beside us, not condemning us, and that as strong Christians, we had a father that we could hang onto, and that actually, even in our frailness, even when we couldn’t hang onto him, he was hanging on tight to us.”
John and Sandra Drost have faced plenty more challenges in their mission journey through Northern Canada and Alaska. But even through long periods of uncertainty, they’ve always kept faith in His plan. For more on the tribulations and joys of the missionary life, listen to their conversation with Eric Skatebo below.
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