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Religious revival, Arctic style

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 03/01) - Gleaming at a directive to raise the volume and increase the tempo, the band comes alive with blaring guitars, pounding drums and strained voices.

Situated at the front of the second-floor gymnasium in the old residence building in Iqaluit, a group of songsters scream: "Alive! Alive! My Jesus is alive! Alive forevermore, my Jesus is alive!"

The music is solid, but the voices -- alternating between English and Inuktitut -- aren't particularly polished.

Judging by the crowd, it doesn't really matter. Arms raised, hands clapping, whistles blowing, the audience -- the congregation -- is shouting out a Holy Spirit revival.

There are 300 congregants on this Sunday night, and the gym is full.

A school bus brings people to the building, and the gym swells with each set of new arrivals. They are here for spiritual nourishment, a time of fellowship with congregants from all over the Arctic, and even from the south. But more important to them, they are here for revival.

And a good time.

"It's fun and I learned about Jesus," said 12-year-old Megan Siksik.

"It has been wonderful. I've been refreshed in the Lord. I got my vision as a leader for the people," said Hattie Alagalak, a pastor from Arviat.

"I see a wonderful change in the North for the betterment of people's lives, and it's spreading across Canada," said Dave McIntyre, who flew in from Priceville, Ont. to attend the conference.

Spiritual healing

Bill Prankard, a charismatic Canadian evangelist who has devoted much attention to the North, organized and headlined the conference. Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come also spoke, preaching a message on the need of spiritual faithfulness and devotion.

"Our primary point is to encourage (attendees), and have a time of refreshment so they can go back to their communities with fresh strength," said Prankard.

He and his organization also have a heavy focus on spiritual healing.

"If people come needing help physically, spiritually or emotionally, we want to see that they get the help they need," he said.

At the end of the conference, his wife Gwen said that one woman was healed of arthritis and three lumps.

Prankard said he feels called to the North by Psalm 72:8, which says, "(God) will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." Prankard calls the North "the ends of the earth."

"Our nation was founded on that scripture -- it's engraved in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa," he said. "I really felt very much that God gave us that scripture as our mandate. White people have come to the North and have abused the people in many, many ways.

"That, to me, just means we have more responsibility to do something positive and to help them in whatever way we can."

"It's not because I like cold," he said.