Distinguished Service Award: Dr. Claire Schnupp

March 8th, 2016


“We’re a team,” says Dr. Clair Schnupp of his extensive ministry travels with his wife, Clara, to the extreme Arctic north. “We have really served together. It’s not just me, it’s us.”

Aviation plays a central role in the Schnupp’s ministry. Clair has flown over 12,000 hours in planes bearing floats, skis and wheels.

“Forty-seven years of marriage, family, flying and ministry have been very invigorating,” 70-year-old Clair reflects. “Our chief desires are to continue our ministry, fight the good fight, finish well and keep the faith. Woe is us if we don’t keep on and if we don’t keep our hearts for lost and hurting souls.”

Clair began missionary work in remote Aboriginal communities in 1959, the year he graduated from Eastern Mennonite College, married his Canadian sweetheart and earned his pilot’s license. In recognition of his nearly five decades as a missionary under challenging conditions, the EMU alumni association conferred the 2007 Distinguished Service Award on Clair Schnupp.

This past spring, Clair and Clara spent three weeks in Greenland where they observed lay-counseling classes taught by 14 earlier graduates of the Schnupps’ biblical counseling program. This time, though, the classes were being taught in the native language by local people to their own people. This was a source of satisfaction to the Schnupps, who always intended for Aboriginal people eventually to “evangelize, disciple and train their own.”

Clair is chairman of the board for Northern Youth Programs (www.nyp.on.ca), an agency begun in 1967 as a multi-faceted organization for Aboriginal ministry. Under its umbrella are Arctic Ministries and Beaver Lake Camp, used for youth and children’s camps, as well as for counseling. Another program serves urban youth in Thunder Bay, while prison outreaches serve several cities.

Clair graduated from EMC with a bachelor’s degree, with majors in Bible and philosophy and social sciences. “My four years at EMC further prepared me with a missiological, theological and biblical foundation for ministry,” said Clair. “I thank God for that training.” He completed his graduate work at Providence Seminary, Otterburne, Manitoba, in 1991, with a masters degree in biblical counseling.

Schnupp is now an adjunct professor with Providence Seminary, teaching counseling programs all across the north. He earned his doctorate of philosophy in religion and society at Oxford Graduate School, Dayton, Tenn., in 1995. His dissertation — “A study of Paternal Absenteeism among the Oji-cree People” – discussed problems which the Schnupp’s ministry seeks to address.

Clara is a certified teacher, and also has a masters in counseling from Providence Seminary. Their daughters are all married, and live in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, one near them at Dryden. The Schnupps have 25 grandchildren.