Ein herzliches Dankeschön an alle, die anlässlich meines Buches so ein liebes Interesse an die Geschichte von meinem Onkel und seinem Wirken als Missionar und Pfarrer bei den Inuit im hohen Norden Kanadas gezeigt haben. Am 11. Februar 2012 mussten wir uns von ihm für immer verabschieden und sind unendlich traurig. Er befand sich (oft eher schmunzelnd – und immer frei von Starallüren…!) unter der Prominenz von Kirche, Politik und Gesellschaft, interessierte sich aber gleichzeitig für die kleinsten Details aus dem Leben unserer Kinder und wusste sogar, wie ihre Hasen heißen. Das ist wahre Größe. Unten einige Nachrufe – und mit dem Gebet, dass sein Vermächtnis in uns weiterlebt.
Tribute to Jack for the memorial service – from Roy, Tuesday, 14th February 2012
Greetings! My name is Roy Sperry, Jack’s younger brother. I am speaking on behalf of my wife, Jo, my daughters, Tanya, Nicola, Andrea and their families, here in the U.K. and also in Germany.
Throughout the years of our long lives, Jack has been all a brother should be and more besides. From our earliest years, we shared our lives together, in the very ordinariness of pre-war life, but enhanced with the sparkle which Jack ignited in so many ways. We were loved and supported by our wonderful parents throughout our lives. As youngsters, we were involved in traditional church activities – in those days, there was little else to do!
Life took a dramatic turn in 1939, when a visiting Australian evangelist, Lionel Fletcher, brought a compelling presentation of the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon our lives. A call to repentance from our sin and the acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Jack’s life was changed forever. A burden for missionary work was born, which culminated in his move into the Inuit world some eleven years later.
Although our face to face contacts were infrequent and spasmodic, Uncle Jack became a greatly loved and treasured member of my family, children and grandchildren. His sense of fun and laughter, the ability to see the amusing side of events and his interest in the lives and activities of our youngsters, were manifest. Also, his fund of fascinating stories, gleaned from his adventurous life in the Arctic regions, made him a firm favourite. Another special quality Jack exhibited, was the ability to be happy and contented wherever he was and in whatever he was doing. He had the capacity of making people feel appreciated and important.
Jack’s life was only what it was because of the dedicated loyalty and support of his wife, Betty. Sometimes she was left, with two small children in Coppermine, for weeks on end. This was while Jack and his Inuit colleague were traversing, by dog-team, over hundreds of miles of snow and ice, in the depths of an Arctic winter, in order to visit isolated Inuit communities. Nevertheless, Betty was content and had no desire to be anywhere else. This was her character and her love for the Lord.
So – it is good-bye to our beloved Jack. You spent your years well on planet earth. Now – enjoy the joys of Heaven!
Tribute to Uncle Jack – from Nicola Vollkommer 16th February, 2012
When, as a little girl, I used to hear Uncle Jack, Auntie Betty and Angela and John talk about Coppermine, as it was then called, I often longed to go there. Well, many years later, I did have the chance, in a sense, to ‘visit’ Coppermine, or Kugluktuk, as it is now called, after I was asked last year to write a book in German about the life and legacy of my Uncle and Aunt. With the help of tape recordings in which Uncle Jack and Angela documented hours of their memories of life in the far North, I found myself immersed in a world which captivated me in every way possible. Not just the climate, the history and the way of life of early years in the Arctic fascinated me, but also the warmth and sweetness of the Inuit people, who had endured unimaginable hardships and who were the love of Jack and Betty’s lives. And yet, one had the feeling that anybody they came into contact with, out of whatever nation, soon felt loved – a love that couldn’t help but become mutual. I see Betty quietly baking and cleaning in our kitchen in Leicester, spreading an atmosphere of serenity while my own dear parents were caught in the final throes of the curel illness which was eating up the life of my mother. I see Uncle Jack taking my little daughter for a “long walk” to see the hroses while he was staying with us in Germany, and commenting afterwards with that twinkle in his eye “for some reason we ended up in the candy shop.”
Between them, they made Christianity irresistable. They followed the call of God on their lives with joy and conviction, and never looked back. In a world in which self-fulfilment, the accumulation of wealth and the pursuit of personal pleasure have become the supreme moral law of our day, these two proved that there is a better way. That today, as at every other time in history, true happiness is found in giving, not in taking, embodied in the example of Jesus Christ. At a time when the word “church” is often associated with stuffiness, long faces and irrelevance, Jack brought the message of the Gospel right back to where Jesus meant it to be – into the centre of everyday life, embedding it is love, forgiveness, compassion.. and a lot of laughter.