We live in a dark world...a world that suffers the affects of sin and evil. Yet this is the world God send his Son, Jesus Christ who is the light of the world bringing us deliverance from the darkness of sin and evil. But Jesus also gives us his Word to light our path, to guide us, and to take to the far reaches of the earth. As His word says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Post-Easter Trips

With the snowy winter finally behind us, I am now home in between my winter travel season and the upcoming spring community trips and VBS season.  So it’s a good time for me to give you a quick update on the latest ministry activity that continues to take place among my LAMP communities.

Another family and parenting workshop took place in Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba in early April.  This is the second year in a row for the workshop there.  Beside conducting the workshop, I helped the staff at the family resource center put together over 160 Easter baskets for each family in the community.   

This is the "production line" putting together the Easter baskets for the families in the community

The Easter baskets were proliferating as fast as rabbits! 
The workshop was held in the evenings so that working parents and family members could attend.  This year, the attendance was up about 25% which indicated the need and desire for this type of workshop. 

The Family Resource Center where the workshop was held

This year's "graduates" of the workshop
After the workshop was over, I flew to Toronto for the spring LAMP board meeting on Friday and annual banquet Saturday evening. It’s always a joy to share the ministry and the positive impact it’s having on the lives of people in the north.  The next day on Sunday, I made a LAMP presentation and preached at the church where retired pastor-pilot Rev. Bill Ney is acting vacancy pastor.  It was good to reconnect with Bill and his wife Diane.

The LAMP Boards...US and Canada combined.
The only drawback to the trip was that I got caught up in the ice storm that hit southern Ontario and Toronto.  In spite of my original flight being canceled, and a 2nd flight I was rebooked on, I was able to get out on the last flight of the evening (we pushed back from the gate at Midnight) to Atlanta and then got a seat on the first flight out to Indianapolis the next morning.

All that white stuff is sleet and ice, not snow!
Now I'm in full VBS mode contacting teams and communities to make sure that dates and arrangements are confirmed for the summer.  This year, I have 2 new teams going into communities that haven't had a LAMP VBS team in a couple of years.  One of them is from a church here in the Indianapolis area where I live!  So this is exciting to see those communities once again being served by volunteer missionaries.

Thank you so much for your financial support and prayers.  Once again, your partnership is allowing LAMP to expand the ministry to more people in isolated northern Canada with the Good News of Jesus our Savior.

Until the next time...

God bless!


Monday, March 5, 2018

Ministry Revived

With the Winter Olympics of 2018 now in the books, I'm reminded of the USA men's Olympic hockey team of 1980, referred to as "The Miracle On Ice."  Before the pinnacle game with the Soviet Union, coach Herb Brooks gave the talk of his life to the team in the locker room.  He began with these words: "Great moments are born from great opportunity."

This was definitely a great opportunity on my most recent trip to Kingfisher Lake, Ontario for the first week in February where I conducted a training session for First Nation pastors at a semi-annual ministry school organized by Bishop Lydia Mamakwa.   This was a ministry that Steve Dreher, our sainted pastor/pilot, had been a regular participant in the past and taught theological classes.  LAMP hasn't had a pastor on staff that has participated in this ministry school since Steve.  That is, until now.

The backstory to this ministry being revived started with a meeting I had with Bishop Lydia last fall in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  I met with Lydia to talk about possibly getting a team back into Kingfisher Lake and if there was interest in the family and parenting class I'd been taking to communities in the north.  One thing led to another and Lydia thought it would be a good idea to teach it to the pastors and elders in the communities at her winter ministry school.  So the idea was hatched and the wheels put in motion to make it happen.

My trip would take me through Toronto and Thunder Bay instead of my usual Minneapolis/Winnipeg leg.  I didn't want to contend with the Superbowl mayhem at Minneapolis, not to mention the airfare prices were ridiculous.   Going through Thunder Bay allowed me to meet a long-time LAMP supporter, Wilf Sainio and his wife Carol.  I had a lovely dinner and evening with them.  Another upshot of the visit was that they had collected a large amount of children's hats, mittens, and scarves that needed to be distributed.  So before I left, we packed them all in a lightweight duffel bag for me to take to Kingfisher Lake to be distributed.  Wilf is also a private pilot and interested in seeing the ministry of LAMP firsthand.  So Wilf will be my "co-pilot" in the fall trip schedule.

Wilf with the duffel bag full of winter clothing for the children of Kingfisher Lake
The next morning, I was off to Sioux Lookout where I would get my next flight to Kingfisher Lake.  I had about an hour layover and was able to connect with Steve Morley.  Steve was my flying partner for a couple of weeks last summer.  Unknown to both of us, the Lord had a plan to bring Steve and his family permanently to Sioux Lookout.  He was offered a full-time position flying with SkyCare medivac and charter service.  So he moved to Sioux Lookout from Victoria, British Columbia!

Steve and me at Sioux Lookout airport terminal.
I boarded my flight and got to Kingfisher mid-afternoon.  That gave me plenty of time to figure out my setup at the Mission House where all of the pastors were staying and where all the presentations were held.  I was scheduled for  4-1/2 days including morning and afternoon session.

This is a truck convoy fresh off the winter road bringing fuel into the community for the power plant.

This is yours truly on my way back to the mission house from the restaurant during our lunch break.
One of the interesting aspects of the presentation was having a translator.  Bishop Lydia's husband, James, would be my Cree interpreter.  (James was also the retired chief of Kingfisher).  James and I are good friends and he did a great job of translating.  I also learned a few things about word meaning in English versus Cree which were valuable.  I'll use what I learned to make the presentation more clear and precise for future Cree speaking attendees.

This is the classroom for the family and parenting workshop at the mission house
Overall, the workshop was a great success.  Everyone was engaged in the material and we had quite a number of in depth questions and conversations.  Again, it was a great learning experience for me too.  I got to make some more friends and have a number of one-on-one conversations that allowed me to offer encouragement and support to those individuals.

At the end of the workshop, the consensus was that the group would like to have it again in the summer where they could absorb it again along with more pastors who would attend who couldn't attend this winter session.  So I've already made plans with Bishop Lydia to return to conduct the training again at the summer ministry school the first week of July.

This is the class picture of those who attended the family and parenting workshop

Me sporting my new moose skin and beaver fir hat I received as a token of appreciation for teaching the class!
In my last meeting with Bishop Lydia, she had mentioned how some of the pastors had asked if LAMP would ever come back and teach at the ministry school.  The theological training that Steve Dreher did was greatly appreciated.  Bishop Lydia was very pleased that I came and that I'll continue to come and support the continuing education of the pastors in the north.  So another aspect of LAMP's ministry to the people in the north has been revived.  Hopefully, it will continue for many years to come, Lord willing.   It's truly another way to encourage people in the faith and life of Jesus Christ in northern Canada.  And that, after all, is what LAMP is about.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Busy and Fruitful Start

It might be an old cliché but it’s nonetheless true, especially for the few weeks of 2018.  “Where has the time gone?”  

With only 5 days in the books for 2018, I flew to Cross Lake, Manitoba and met 13 members of the team there that conduct the summer VBS.  It was a whirlwind weekend packed with activities focused on the children.  This would be the third winter trip for this team.  You might recall that the first trip revolved around the winter 2015 suicide epidemic that hit Cross Lake hard.  That trip set the stage for continuing winter trips to the community to support the children and their families.

The Montana team with kids at a community hockey game the first night in Cross Lake.
This team comes well prepared for just about anything.  One area of ministry is to deliver “Hope Notes” and gifts to several dozen of the children and families.  These notes are ways to encourage some of the children who have been going through tough times with the hope of Jesus as their Savior

The prayer walkers going from building to building

Members of the team who participated in the prayer walk around the elementary school buildings
We did a prayer walk around the building that make up the elementary school praying over them for the children’s safety and peace.  During the evenings, the gym was opened for the children to come and hang out with us.  It was full of fun and noise.  

One of the gym nights with the children.
Montana team member B.J. Shaw did a devotion at the end of our second gym night.

I conducted a worship service for the community at the school on Sunday.  The team had planned Sunday school after worship with a presentation of "The Three Trees", a craft time, and scavenger hunt in the school.  It was a great time of worship and learning for the children and their families who attended.
Pastor Dennis conducting worship on Sunday at the school
There were lots of hugs and tears after gym night the last night we were there.  The connections to the community and the children are strong and continue to support and encourage them in the faith of Jesus Christ.

The next community trip took me even further north to Shamattawa, Manitoba.  This is my third winter trip there with team members.  I met the team of 4 in Winnipeg.  Then we flew up to Shamattawa for our visit.  

We had just a little bit of excess cargo...like 280 pounds worth!
We flew up Sunday afternoon and stayed at the school.  We were a little apprehensive as there had been a lot of staff changes recently and we were meeting people we never worked with.  However, the Lord opened doors for us in so many ways.  The new Vice Principal met us at the airport and transported us to the school.  His wife, who is also the Home Economics teacher gave us keys to the canteen so we could store food we brought.  We were off to an encouraging start.

Monday morning, be began our visits to the classrooms.  We sang VBS songs and brought booklets on "Learning to Pray".  Pastor Dennis talked about it with the older children and read it to the younger children.

The team also prepared a craft for the younger children.  They used wafer cookies and icing to make cookie LAMP airplanes.  They were fun to make for the kids (and quite tasty too!).

The children "flying" their LAMP cookie airplanes
Two churches donated gloves and knitted hats we distributed.  We were amazed at how many children didn't have hats and gloves with them.  They enjoyed getting them and we saw several of them wearing them the next day.

The hats and gloves laid out for sorting by size for each of the classes.
The older children enjoyed picking out their hats and gloves.

The big event was hosting (and cooking) a chili supper for the school staff.  They had a difficult and challenging year with teacher shortages and rotating classes.  The new administration also was settling in.  So we decided to do something special for them.  The big event would be putting on a chili supper for the entire school staff and families.  We spent two evening in preparing the food.

Shawn is making cornbread muffins
Leon was our master chili chef
 We gave gift bags to teachers, assistants, bus drivers, and administrators that included Tim Horton gift cards and a 365 day devotion book.

The team put together a “Saran ball” game that everyone played after supper was over.  It was a huge hit.  One of the administrators said they hadn't heard the staff laugh so much in a long time.  Nothing like sharing the joy of Jesus with others!

The Saran Ball game was a huge hit!
It was too soon that we had to leave to head home.  Our good byes included many hugs from the children and teachers.  They even presented us with a homemade card with their signatures and notes of thanks.  The Lord blessed us beyond expectation and our relationship with the people of Shamattaw is even deeper than before.

My old friend Mylee came up and gave me a giant hug before we left for the airport and our flight back to Winnipeg
There was just a short 8 day window for me before my next trip north.  This one would be to Kingfisher Lake, Ontario.  It was also to carry out a different aspect of LAMP ministry to the people.  I was going to be conducting a training session for First Nation pastors at a semi-annual ministry school organized by Bishop Lydia Mamakwa at Kingfisher.  (Steve Dreher, our sainted pastor/pilot had been a participant in the past and taught theological classes.)  This workshop was arranged with Bishop Lydia last fall and is a way for the information on family and parenting to be taken back to more communities.

I stayed at the Mission House which also doubled as our accommodations and classroom.  The interesting aspect of this training is that there were a number of people attending whose language was Cree only.  I had an interpreter (James, Bishop Lydia's husband) and things worked out really well.  It was a good experience for me as I was able to learn some English words that would be easier to translate into Cree.

The people attending were deeply involved with note taking and participating in much discussion of culture and families and how things are changing and affecting them both.  In a way, it wasn't much different than what's happening in our own communities in the US and Canada.  

The workshop was 4-1/2 days of intensive work.  At the end of the workshop, the consensus was that the group would like to have it again in the summer where they could absorb it again along with more pastors who would attend who couldn't attend this winter session.  So I'll be sandwiching another week of training at the summer ministry school between VBS teams and community visits the first week of July.  The pastors and Bishop Lydia are excited that LAMP is once again supporting the ministry school.  It's truly another way to encourage people in the faith and life of Jesus Christ.

This is most of the attendees of the ministry school.  It included pastors and elders from surrounding communities

This is me wearing my new moose skin hat that was a gift of appreciation for conducting the workshop
Trips like these to take the love and Gospel of Jesus to northern communities is what your prayers and continued financial support are allowing LAMP to do.   I can’t express my thanks for your partnership enough.  You are truly touching lives for Jesus in northern Canada.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Gift

Snow has already been flying in some places.  Fall is falling behind with winter knocking on our doors.  Thanksgiving (both Canada and the US) is fading quickly into the past.  And the season of Advent in preparation for the season of Christmas is upon us.  One of the traditions of Christmas is the giving of gifts.   In a way, it’s a celebration of the ultimate gift that God gave us in His son Jesus, who became one of us, to live the perfect life, to take on the sin of the world,  providing for each of us redemption from eternal death and a resurrection to eternal life.   That is quite a list of gifts that all of us have received through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Yet the Lord continues to give us gifts throughout our lives.  Some are quite profound such as His Holy Spirit given through the Word in Scripture, our baptism, and the Lord’s supper.  We have also received other gifts in our lives such as loving families, good health, and our physical needs met through the fruit of God’s creation.   More specifically, there are gifts you and I have received this past year that have probably been quite a blessing to us.   I know this year I received a special gift in the form of a place.  And it’s called Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

What makes Sioux Lookout such a gift?   A number of things actually.   Out of the 16 communities that I am responsible for, 10 of them are in Ontario and 6 are in Manitoba.   Sioux Lookout also has the advantage of more services available at the airport.   We were able to have access to free parking for both the aircraft and car, along with a company who provided routine service and maintenance for the LAMP airplane.  In addition, Sioux Lookout is served by 3 different airlines.  This allows me a backup to fly into most of the Ontario communities I serve in the event of bad weather or a maintenance issue with the LAMP aircraft.  Finally, 90% of the teams traveling to communities in Ontario travel through Sioux Lookout.  This gives me the extra opportunity to meet with teams on their way to and from communities.   All of the above came into play as the first week of VBS teams going north, we had an issue with the LAMP airplane.   The place we kept the plane could work it in later in the day, but I still needed to get to Sandy Lake.  Within 15 minutes of calling the LAMP office, I had a round trip flight booked leaving 3 hours later and returning the next afternoon.  Mission accomplished.   I was able to meet with a half dozen teams on their way to and from the communities which allowed me to update them on current situations and to debrief with them after their busy weeks in the community.  Another mission accomplished.

But a surprise gift came this fall.  People in these northern Ontario communities come to Sioux Lookout for medical care since it is a major hospital hub for so many of the northern communities.  Therefore, they come for doctor appointments, surgeries, and emergency medical care.  So, one evening, I got a text message from one of my friends in Weagamow Lake that her brother was flown out on a medivac flight and would be in the emergency room at the hospital.  I drove into town and met with him in the E.R. and was able to pray with him.   I met his sister at the airport the next day and took her to the hospital hostel where her brother was staying while undergoing tests.   Then a couple of days later, I received another text that a man from Sandy Lake had fallen and cracked his hip.  He also had been air lifted from the community to Sioux Lookout.   Again, I drove up to the hospital and met with him and his wife, visited with them, read Scripture and prayed with them.   This gift was that I had become hospital chaplain for First Nation people in Sioux Lookout!   That was a true blessing and allowed the ministry to expand even more beyond the boundaries of the communities.

The gift of a place called Sioux Lookout, Ontario has allowed the ministry of LAMP to touch the lives of the volunteer missionary teams and the people of the communities in ways not previously possible.   And as relationships develop more broadly and deeply, it’s only going to become a vital ministry the Lord will use to serve His people up north.   This is what LAMP is all about… to not only take the Gospel message to the people up north, but to tangibly live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that His people can experience his love and care personally.  And this would not be possible without the support of LAMP’s many donors and partners in ministry.   As God’s Word from 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

As you celebrate the gift of the Christmas Christ, celebrate gifts God has given to each of us to serve His people, especially so that the Gospel can touch the lives of more and more people in northern Canada.