So where am I going with this? Well, it seems in my quest to chronicle the summer VBS season, I suffered a brain burp and managed to leave one entire week out! And it was the week before the last post. It was also a busy week of 4 community visits including 2 overnight stays. It was in some ways, the kickoff to intentionally spend more time in the communities and with the missionary teams. Hence, this post is a prequel to the last one. Got it? Excellent!
So where was I... or where should I have been?
First of all, one special event that took place this week was that my wife, Teri, was able to take a week off from her incredibly busy schedule as Executive Director and President of St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, an oral deaf school headquartered in Indianapolis. This would be her first time up north visiting teams and communities, not to mention flying with me (which she does when I'm back home). She arrived on Saturday in Thunder Bay. I drove down and picked her up arriving back in Sioux Lookout around 9:00 PM due to a rather bad accident on the Trans-Canada Highway that forced us into a detour.
However, that didn't prevent us from getting to work right away. With our overnight bags packed we headed out Sunday morning to Norway House, Manitoba. This is what I call a "divide and conquer" team. Norway House is quite spread out with a population around 5,000 people. So the team does 3 simultaneous VBS's at 3 different churches. Up until this year, I had only met the part of the team that did VBS at the Pentecostal Church. With the overnight stay, I'd get to be with everyone!
This trip required a fuel stop at our LAMP fuel cache at Island Lake airport. The goal was to arrive around the time the team would get there putting us at the airport in the 1:30-2:00 PM time frame. The flight for the most part was uneventful. Visibility was poor due to smoke from all the fires out west in British Columbia. Yes, it drifted that far east. We also had gusting winds at the surface which put both Steve and my piloting skills to the test. But all was good and we arrived on time.
|Smoky skies as we flew north to Island Lake for fuel and then on to Norway House|
|The Catholic Church where the team stayed and where 1 of the VBS's was held|
|The old Catholic Church across the parking lot from the new church|
The team was in the unpacking and prep mode for Sunday afternoon, especially considering the VBS's all started the next day. Steve, Teri, and I were pressed into service stuffing ziploc bags with a Bible story booklet, a book marker, and a cross & bead necklace kit.
|(L to R) Steve, Teri, and Dennis stuffing VBS giveaway bags|
We also got to meet Sister Una who is one of the contacts for the team and the church. She is quite helpful with a gentle spirit. She is a joy to work with. After supper, we worked on more VBS preparations and then we gathered for a devotion. It was a great time of getting to know each other and to discuss the community and some of the challenges they face as a team and ministering to the large community. Before we knew it, it was time to hit the hay and get some rest. There's something peaceful about sleeping in a church sanctuary, but that's where most of the team had set up their beds.
|Devotion time after breakfast.|
|Steve, Teri, and Dennis ready to depart for Shamattawa|
|Loading up the Lance for the next trip leg to Shamattawa|
The Shamattawa team comes from the same church as the Norway House team, Trinity Lutheran at Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It's a smaller team that flies in from Thompson. This is also the team I made a winter visit with this past February.
We landed at the airport and walked over to the teacherage unit the team was staying in for the week. The one huge difference in the community was the construction underway for the new Northern Store building and the new Band office. The old store and offices burned to the ground in a fire last September. It was good to see positive growth in this isolated community.
We found the team and did a "walkabout" of the area. Unfortunately, the band office was closed. We did run into some young adults who were there for a youth program at the school. These kind of programs are a great way to help the children stay healthy and occupy their time.
It was approaching lunch time. So we walked back to the team digs and Leon, one of the team members, fixed us up with some gourmet hash. After filling our bellies, it was time to get ready for VBS. The team held it literally out their back door on the large porch area since there were no buildings available due to limited resources. But this team dealt with the same thing last summer. So for them, it was no big deal.
The children slowly started to arrive. Leon got the children occupied with singing as they finished registering for VBS. He has quite a "groupie" following!
|VBS registration in full swing!|
|The kids were glad to see "Mr. Clean" back!|
|Leon at his best singing to the children|
|The 10 plague crafts|
|The Shamattawa team with Teri, Steve, and Dennis|
|Teri sleeping after a long day of VBS and travel|
On Wednesday, we gathered up our things and drove to the airport. The Lance was loaded up again and off we flew north to Wapekeka. This is a community that was rocked by the suicide of three 12 year old girls who made a suicide pact earlier in the year. If there was one thing they needed, especially the children, it was the hope found in Jesus.
The team is unique as it's made up of 5 members of the team that goes to Big Trout Lake. They travel on the unimproved road between Big Trout and Wapekeka to do a second week of VBS. They are truly dedicated to both communities. We met them at the house they usually stay in and did some catching up on the rest of VBS at Big Trout Lake and what they saw differently at Wapekeka. We had lunch and walked the couple of blocks to the church for VBS.
|Kari coloring with one of the children. (Kari designed the artwork!)|
|Steve telling the children about Jesus with a story card|
|Jeanne is using the puppets to entertain some of the children.|
|The children gathered to listen to the Bible story for the day.|
|The children used ribbons to dance to Christian songs|
|The Anglican church at Wapekeka|
|The children were dancing to VBS songs using streamers.|
|The rain forced everyone inside, but the dancing continued.|
I had met with this team as they passed through Sioux Lookout on their way north. Since it was Wednesday, they were more than half-way through their week of VBS. However, there was a little wrench thrown into the works. The community was having a huge Family Days celebration that was starting on Thursday. So... There wouldn't be any VBS the rest of the week. That, however, presented another opportunity.
The team would be able to spend time with a lot more people from the community, including the relatives of all the children they had at VBS. That is a rare opportunity and one in which the community can see in action Jesus working through them.
The morning started off early for a couple of the guys on the team were invited out to participate in the fishing derby. They departed at 6:30 AM with Dwight, one of the local fishermen to participate in the derby which ran from 7:00 AM to Noon.
In the mean time, the rest of us walked down to the community park where there were fires going to start cooking breakfast. People had brought sausage, bacon, potatoes, eggs, onions, and other goodies. They were slicing and dicing it all up and putting it into giant fry pans over the open fires. As food was coming off the fires there was a pause for prayer. Then the lines formed and the food was dished out with plenty to go around. Oh. Did I say there was bannock too?!?! Yum!
As breakfast (or more like brunch) was ending, the pans needed to be cleaned for the next round of cooking. That would entail all the fish that would be coming in from the fishing derby. To help scrape the bottoms, I used a wadded up piece of aluminum foil, an old trick from camping in the woods.
While waiting for the fishermen (and fisherwomen too) some more guys from the team helped Deputy Chief Roy Fiddler move tables and sound equipment from the school to the park stage for the bands that would be playing over the next few days.
As we finished transporting and setting things up, the boats started arriving. The boat the guys from the team were in had a pretty nice haul of Pickerel (A.K.A. Walleye).
|A net full of fish the guys from the VBS team caught.|
|The team's fish were being weighed in|
It didn't stop there though. The guys jumped right in and started filleting all the fish. They were among good company too as the Deputy Grand Chief of the tribal nation from Thunder Bay was helping as well. I got to spend some time talking with him and getting a pulse of how things were going and how LAMP was willing and able to assist in any way we can.
I also ran into Joan Winter from Wapekeka. Her sister is married to Pastor Roy Morris at Muskrat Dam. It's a small world indeed. Relatives had come in from other communities to enjoy the festivities.
|Pastor/pilot Dennis with Joan Winter|
|The egg toss drew a lot of participants and spectators|
|Pans frying Pickerel were hot and ready to go.|
In spite of feeling sad about leaving, it's a good feeling to hear people ask, "So when are you coming back?" That is a testament to the Lord working through LAMP to bring spiritual support and care to the communities of northern Canada.
It doesn't get much better than that!
Until the next time....