I agreed to teach two weeks at a Bible College near the North Pole… in FEBRUARY! The Eskimo students were really excited about Bible classes and it was the best time to teach since it was so cold there wasn’t much else to do. No one prepared me for what was in store. I was 5 miles from the magnetic North Pole in Cambridge Bay, Northwest Territories, Canada.
After a few days of acclimation, and teaching me survival skills which included courses like how to wear mukluks, eat fresh caribou and use a restroom where all waste was frozen solid in moments, I was ready to teach these Inuit Eskimo students the Bible. During one session I noticed many heads bobbing from the warm stifling room and I did what I had done many times before. I told everyone to stand to their feet and take a lap outside to get some fresh air. But then I remembered that the wind chill made it 60 below zero outside and I started to reconsider when the students quickly ran outside – without their coats! It took them all of one minute but when they all were back inside laughing and wide awake they asked if they could do it one more time. Amazing! Talk about being physically acclimated, they were, but I wasn’t.
That afternoon a student took me on a snowmobile ride and we drove out to the edge of town to see a half sunken ship in the ice. As we drove along I realized that I had never known such cold, even though I was completely bundled in multiple layers, mukluks and all! My guide watched me closely as one wrong move could spell disaster. When I tried to take a photo I couldn’t because of my two layers of gloves. As I started to take off my outer glove he shouted at me to stop. He offered to take the photo and then took off both sets of his gloves. He tried to take a few pictures and then hurriedly put his gloves back on and said we had to return immediately. We jumped on our snowmobiles and raced back. He didn’t even wait for me but darted into the kitchen and turned on the cold water as he jerked off his gloves. He screamed as he put his hands in the cold water. I just stood there dumbfounded. He had come within moments of losing his fingers to frostbite just to take some photos for me. I was so grateful that he didn’t lose any fingers, and so sorry that I had inadvertently caused him such pain. The photos turned out all blurry, but I still keep them to this day!