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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
The Missionary

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Native TribesThe 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 worthy.

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 community.

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 movements.

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.


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