by Meagan Gillmore
The most surprising part of the March/April issue of Faith Today’s article about church life in the Yukon just might be the byline. Despite having lived in Whitehorse, I never thought I’d write this piece.There’s a saying that most people come to the Yukon because they are looking for something or running from something. I belong to the first category. I arrived in Whitehorse on June 24, 2012, a 23-year-old from southern Ontario who had just accepted her first full-time newspaper job.
I left 14 months and one day later. That time, I was running.
Without hesitation, I can say the Yukon is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. But I took no photographs while living there. It was futile; photos couldn’t capture the grandeur. I worked with photographers. I attended church with artists. I knew where to get good images.
The real reason I wasn’t filling photo albums or Facebook feeds with shots of swans, lakes, rivers and mountains? I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the place. Small communities inspire beautiful fellowship – and bitter feuds. As a reporter, I had a front row seat, tasked with explaining a community and culture I barely understood.
Professionally, I met people all the time – from government officials to regular citizens. Personally, while making friends, I’d rarely felt lonelier. I’d come home from church and sit in my bedroom closet and cry, giving the term “prayer closet” a new meaning.
The darkness in the Yukon was for me at times, more than physical.
So is the light. The seemingly endless summer days are more offsetting than the winters’ darkness. Blackout blinds are as necessary as wool socks. Almost all my favourite memories of the Yukon involve the Church in some way: taking Filipino girls tobogganing for the first time; going to barn dances while snow fell outside; winter hikes, summer trips to northern British Columbia and Alaska.
In many ways, my time in the Yukon taught me the Gospel is true, that Scripture is living and active regardless of circumstance and culture.
I’ve studied 1 Corinthians while sitting on ruins in Corinth, but Scripture really came alive to me on a Yukon winter’s day. I stumbled across Psalm 147:17. After directing the Israelites to praise God because of His care for them, the psalmist describes God’s creation – including ice and snow. “Who can stand before his cold?” the psalmist asks. I looked out my bedroom window and thought, “There’s a verse in the Bible about the Yukon.”
But what grabbed my attention was a verse earlier in the psalm. I spent much time in Whitehorse convinced I was not going to belong there – ever. Scripture reminded me my worth was not dependent on my work performance or social standing. “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,” the psalmist writes in Psalm 147:11, “in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
I hope our article informs you about a part of Canada few get to see. For those of you who have been there, I hope it reminds you of your own Yukon stories. I hope it reminds us all of the need for local, faithful, witnessing communities, regardless of where those communities are.
The Yukon’s mystique is strong. From my current residence in Toronto, I miss Whitehorse every day. I may have left it – for now – but it has not left me.
If my time there taught me anything, it was that God’s love doesn’t leave either, that it is a steadfast hope.
Full disclosure: I want you to visit the Yukon. I’ll go with you! But more than that, I hope the article helps you understand God’s steadfast love a little better.
Meagan Gilmore is a writer — and traveller. Her work has appeared in Faith Today before, but the Yukon piece, “Seeking Kingdom Gold in the Yukon” is her first big feature.