encounter of the missionary with a people and their culture is, in many
ways, a highly localized phenomena. The particular gifts, weaknesses and
personalities of those who meet greatly influence the different responses
and experiences of those at hand. The missionary's challenge is to find
truly meaningful connections between the traditions and practices of the
local culture and the 'gospel' as understood by the missionary.
The missionary's presence and belonging in the community is precarious.
While the support of a mission organization sustains a local presence, a
missionary is largely dependent on the goodwill of those who are
neighbours. This acceptance has been described as 'a grace and a gift'
which the missionary cannot earn but of which the missionary must be
Because missionaries lived and worked among First Nations people and
continue to do so, they have been important documentarists of languages,
traditions and community history. While this may be viewed as a technical
task, for the missionary it is ideally a humbling spiritual exercise. Many
have worked to help articulate the concerns of individuals and the larger
While the matter of spiritual instruction is central to a missionary's
work, missionaries are often both observers and participants in the
difficulties and challenges that modernity has introduced into many
communities. For several generations, missionaries have found themselves
between the political and cultural prejudices of government policies or
corporate interests and the very real lives of the people among whom they
work and live. As both observers and participants, their lives embody many
of the seeming contradictions and challenges of the these mission
It is important to note that the story of Methodist missions in Alberta
is particular to this region, with experiences varying from person to
person, community to community. There are many voices.