Bernadette’s Take on
Regula Schule, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador
On a mission in Labrador
One of the first things Regula Schule (82) tells me is: “Do you know that I have to go jail?”
I am taken aback, of course, and ask: “Why? What did you do?” A person with such good intentions like Regula! In jail!
Well, it turns out, Regula visits the prison inmates in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and teaches the Bible to them. She is a true missionary.
If you think this is an extraordinary thing for a former Swiss teacher from Lake Zurich to do, I can only agree.
I am sure you would like to know how Regula came to Labrador in the first place.
She wanted to become a missionary – and she did eventually become one in 1968, at the age of forty. She thought it would be an interesting thing to do. And she wanted to do something for Jesus Christ. Well, this is a motive as good as any.
Regula applied for a teaching job at some missionary societies in Switzerland. She was offered two positions: one in Africa and one in Labrador. She chose Africa and prepared for it. She learned to drive a car, for instance.
But in the meantime, they found a local woman teacher in Africa, and Regula was left with Labrador. So she became a teacher at the Moravian Mission (in Ger-man: Herrenhuther Mission) in an isolated coastal settlement named Makkovik.
It was a village of white settlers but some Inuit families moved there, too.
I had to make an UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to find out what this Swiss teacher en-countered in Labrador.
Regula, what on earth did you know about Labrador before you left Switzerland?
I knew that Eskimos live there and that it is cold – that was it.
What did you do in Makkovik?
I taught white children and Inuit children in English, but there were also some lessons in Inuktituk. The Moravian missionaries had church services in English and Inuktituk. They respected the Inuit language.
Were you able to speak Inuktituk?
Only a few words but I can read it.
How was it to live in Makkovik, such a small settlement in the middle of no-where?
Oh, I was used to small places. In Switzerland, I taught in Dürstelen in the canton Zurich. Now this is a small place, I can tell you!
How long did it take you to warm up to your new home?
First I thought the Inuit are lazy people because the farmers in Switzerland got up at 4 in the morning to milk their cows. In Labrador, they slept until day-light. But I realised quickly that the Inuit women look after their families as well as the Swiss farmer`s wives.
Was it a culture shock to be a teacher in Labrador?
The teachers were always outsiders in Mukkovik. We had a house where only teachers lived. Some teachers married local men.
I think for the children, it probably was a bigger culture shock to have these strangers as teachers.
For me, it was a shock to be ousted from my job.
I was the only trained teacher in Makkovik. So they made me principal for four years, but a colleague helped me in my task. Eventually, the local school council said that I was not strict enough with the children and that they did not want me anymore. I cried the en-tire night through.
But I got a new job at Northwest River, a village about 40 minutes from Happy
You were a teacher there, too?
Yes, I was a special needs teacher at the Grenfell Mission. Amongst my pupils, there was an Inuit girl with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) who stole my heart. I adopted her. Susie is 40 years old today and an advocate for the prevention of FAS. She tells people: “Don’t drink when you have a baby in your stomach.”
So you are a missionary and a single mom?
Yes. I always wanted to have a husband and children but I did not find the right man. I was only half in love – that is not enough.
By the way, I was not only a special needs teacher, I also preached and taught in church services.
But you moved yet again to another place in Labrador?
Yes, Susie and I moved to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. I retired in 1988, when I was 60. I feel at home here, I have a lot of friends, and many people come to see me, homeless or unemployed people.
Oh, I don’t fit there. I am not orderly enough!