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)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Off to a Quick and Great Start in 2019

I trust y'all had a great and blessed Christmas and New Year.  I'm sure it was full of family, fun and faith.  Our God is an amazingly loving Father who sent His Son to this world as a human.  He became one of us.  He felt every emotion like all of us.  He experienced every temptation like all of us.  But the one thing Jesus did was to suffer the punishment of the sins of the world for all time for all people.  That is something that none of us could do.  And that is THE main reason Jesus came.

That is also the reason LAMP goes to northern remote communities so that this wonderful news can be shared with the people.  That is also the reason why your support in prayers and monetary support is so important, especially as we kick off the 2019 year.

With only 4 days under our belt for the new year, 9 members of the team from Trinity Lutheran Church in Billings, Montana and I made our 4th winter visit to Cross Lake, Manitoba.  Since our first visit back in 2016 during the suicide epidemic that gripped the community, we have been compelled to keep going back and are welcomed with warm embraces (which is especially good when it's snowy and only 10 degrees Fahrenheit.)

We all arrived on Friday afternoon on January 4th.  That evening was spent relaxing after traveling there and hanging out with the kids who knew we were coming.  It was a fun evening for me to reconnect with the team and the kids that came by.  I also was taught how to play Cribbage and was thoroughly trounced by one of the teenagers Trent.

I learned how to play... and lose at Cribbage
The next morning, we did a "divide and conquer" maneuver.  Most of the team headed down the road to the community of Norway House for a hockey game.  As you can guess, hockey is a major sport for these communities and a way for them to join in together with a common interest.  A few team members went ice fishing with one of our contacts in the community.  I stayed behind and met with the principal of the school.  We have become like brother and sister and communicate regularly.  Connie looks forward to our face-to-face visits.  I spent the better part of the afternoon listening to her challenges, both at school and within her family.  We prayed together and both felt lifted by God's Word and Spirit.

Soon everyone returned and kids started showing up at the school and playing in the gym.  We all had supper together and then had an open gym night.   I quickly forget how much energy the kids have and how much I don't.  Also, I'm not normally a late night person and that was put to the test.  I have to admit I was usually the first to go to bed, but let's face it.  It was after Midnight!!!

The one important task that ends gym night is gathering everyone for a devotion.  Members of the team take turns putting them together and usually focus on some of the issues they face such as bullying and depression.

Roger did a devotion with the kids at the end of gym night

Sunday brought a day of worship and a mini-VBS to the children who came to the school.  It's always a moving experience to worship together and to share the Epiphany message of Jesus being revealed to the world.   Afterward, the kids did a craft of the team's design of Christmas trees and angel figures.  All weekend, the team was handing out age appropriate Bibles they had brought to the kids that came to the school.

The children made Christmas trees and angel figures.  Some "children" were acting up, however!

Kids of all ages enjoyed the crafts.
Again, kids drifted into the gym for activities.  Everyone gathered for supper before the second and last gym night.  More kids came as the word got out and the hockey games ended.

Volley ball and basket ball were the games most everyone joined in on.

The team from Billings, Montana

The team and some of the kids at gym night

My young friend Ripkin who is always good to see
We had advertised the Family and Parenting workshop.  The first gym night, no one came.  But 2 young mothers came the second night.  I didn't have time to go through the entire workshop, but was able to hit the high points and was able to talk with them about their families (one was expecting her first child and the other had 3 ages 5 to 1).  The team had brought Bibles and gave each one of them a copy.  I promised I'd send them the workbooks to that they would have something to reference in the future.

Our time in Cross Lake goes by so fast.  It was time for us to leave early on Monday before the start of school, especially since the school was where we stayed.  We all said our goodbyes and then they hit the road for the 2-day trip home and I got a ride to the airport to fly to Winnipeg.  Or so I thought.

The ceilings were low and so the plane couldn't land that morning.  I was re-booked on the afternoon flight.  Dion, one of our contacts and my friend picked me back up and I spent the day with him and his family.  Dion and I were able to talk about some of the trials and challenges he goes through.  So it was good to be able to listen and support him.  He dropped me off at the airport for the afternoon flight.  But the weather worsened with freezing mist.  There was an evening flight that was still on the schedule.  So I decided to stay at the airport to find out if it would land.

As has happened in the past, whenever I've had some sort of delay, the Lord puts people in my path.  One of the airport workers came in for a break from working on the plowing crew.  With a cup of coffee in his hand, we started to talk.   Then Kenneth began to share some of the spiritual struggles he and his church were going through.  At the end of the conversation when he had to go back to work, I told him I would add him to my prayer journal.  He asked if I would also pray for his brother William.  I have another new friend and brother in Christ.

Well, the evening flight was canceled.  So Dion came by and picked me up.  He took me to his house which has become a home-away-from-home for a dozen young adults.  We all had dinner and spent the evening together watching movies, playing video games, and playing guitars.  It is truly and honor to be invited into a home and treated as part of the family.  Dion made arrangements for a place for me to sleep that night too.  So I was well cared for.

Thankfully, the next morning, the ceilings lifted and the precipitation turned into light snow.  Because there were a half-dozen of us who missed our flights the day before, a larger Dash 8 aircraft was flown in to accommodate us all.

While I was waiting, my friend Connie came to the airport to meet a group of people who were supposed to fly in the day before.  So we got to talk some more.  Then Kerry, the vice principal of the school came in with his uncle and aunt.  His uncle was flying out to Winnipeg for cancer treatment.  I went over and Kerry introduced me.  He told me he had stage 4 cancer.  At that point, I offered to pray with him and his wife Lynn.   He and his wife are 2 more names to add to my prayer journal.

It came time to board and I said my goodbyes to Connie and Kerry with hugs.  Even thought I was glad to be flying out, I feel I'm leaving a part of my heart behind.  

Clearing skies allowed the morning flight to arrive to go back to Winnipeg for my flight home
I don't know when I will see my friend in Cross Lake again.  I know I probably will this coming summer during the VBS.  Thanks to technology, I can keep in contact with them.  They know that they can always ask me to pray for them or for whatever is going on in Cross Lake.   It's truly and honor and privilege to be their long-distance pastor and friend.

It is the trips like this one that your prayers and financial gifts support.  It's obvious it's a critical need, not just for Cross Lake, Manitoba, but for the 40 plus communities that LAMP serves throughout Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.  Your support allows teams and myself to keep ministering to the communities with the Good News of Jesus.

Please keep these people in your prayers, especially during the winter month which are especially hard emotionally on them with the dark winter skies and isolation.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Christmas Reality

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.   (Jn 3:16–17  NIV).

The verse above is one that’s very familiar to many followers of Jesus.  It’s referred to as “the Gospel in a nutshell” and is the reason why God sent Jesus into the world and what Jesus would do.   It’s not your typical Christmas Scripture passage that proclaims the birth of Jesus.  However, it is still an appropriate verse if not an essential verse for Christmas.

This was made evident at the community of Kingfisher Lake this past summer.   This community had been without a LAMP VBS team since 2015.  We were blessed this year to have a new team from the Buffalo, New York area to start going to Kingfisher.  The community was glad that a LAMP team was back and the team was excited as ever to go.

The Kingfisher Lake team conducting VBS
While I was there, the team had prepared a game for the children to play.  It was a modified version of “T” ball baseball game.   After the children hit the ball, they advanced around the bases, but there was a catch.  At each base, they had to answer a question related to the Bible.  I was on 1st base.   As the children ran up to me, my question to them was this: “Whose birthday do we celebrate on Christmas Day?”.   What surprised me was that 2 out of every 3 children didn’t know the answer to that question, that Jesus’ birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

At that moment, the full realization of the importance of taking the Gospel of Jesus to these northern communities became a huge “Ah Ha” moment.   Yes, of course, that’s the reason LAMP goes into these remote communities.  And yes, as a missionary pastor, I know that’s the reason I go into these communities and why the teams go there.  But this particular situation just put an explanation point on it.

Imagine that this is the reality in each of the northern communities LAMP serves.  Imagine the tens of thousands of children (and adults for that matter) who still don’t know about Jesus as their Savior.  Imagine the work necessary to keep proclaiming the Good News that Christ the Savior is born… that Jesus came to die on the cross to suffer the punishment for our sins… That Jesus rose from the dead in victory over Satan and death… that Jesus ascended into heaven to take His place on His throne… that Jesus will return to take all his followers to be with Him forever. 

Jesus is the reason, not just for the season of Christmas, but for all seasons and times so that people in these northern communities can experience the same mercy, hope, and joy in a Savior who loves them, who desires to live in them, and to adopt them all as his children.  This makes LAMP of vital importance to the children and their families by taking the Gospel of Jesus to them all.

Romans 10:16-17 reminds us of the importance of taking the Good News of Jesus to others.  It says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 

Because of your support in both prayers and financial gifts, you are also the “beautiful feet” that walk along side of me and the other LAMP missionaries and volunteers bringing the good news of Jesus to those who still need to hear about the one they can believe in.  

Again, I wish to thank you for your support and pray that you will continue to partner with me so that I will be able continue this work of serving the people of northern Canada with the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord.

May you have a very blessed Christmas.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Summer Twist and Turns - Part 2

Week 1 of VBS turned out to be a blessing in disguise as previously chronicled.  Week 2 would be the busiest week of the summer with 6 teams coming north.  That meant hitting the week hard up front, especially considering that the communities were in 2 different Providences and  ranged from 50 degrees  to almost 56 degrees of latitude and from 90 degrees to almost 98 degrees of longitude.  That's a lot of geography to cover!

But the Friday before, the Muskrat Dam team and the U.S. side of team that goes to Sandy Lake came to the cabin for supper.  It's really enjoyable to catch up with everyone under a relaxed environment.  And if there are any issues or concerns before the team gets to the community, then we can talk through them beforehand.

The Muskrat Dam and Sandy Lake teams after supper at Pastor Dennis' rental cabin.
The next morning, I met the teams at the airport and helped them get their cargo checked in.  Then I headed over to the Lance to make sure it would be ready to go on Sunday for the flight up to Norway House.  Everything was looking good... that is until the weather forecast started painting a bleak picture for the flight.  Sunday morning came with weather fine where we were, but worse than forecast up at Norway House.  So that trip was unfortunately scrubbed.  Hopefully the front would move through quickly and the skies would clear enough for flying up to Shamattawa.

Monday morning, the forecast was better with skies clearing up north.  With my new SiriusXM GPS and weather device, I could get live reports from airports.  Things were looking up.  We took off and headed straight north for Shamattawa.  And then with 30 minutes left in our flight, the Volt and Ammeter in the Lance dropped to Zero!

I could only guess another alternator belt had broken.  There are procedures to follow when something like this happens.  A good thing was that my Portable GPS and electronic aviation software on my iPad provided most of what I lost when everything electrical was turned off to save battery power to lower the landing gear later.  To make a long story short, my training and procedures for this type of emergency worked and we landed safely at Shamattawa.   Then it was off to find the teacherage the team was in.  A quick stop at the band office took care of that and got us going in the right direction.

The team was excited more than usual because for the first time in 3 summers, they had an actual building to conduct VBS instead of outside with no protection from the weather.  After lunch, we walked over to the building they would be using for the week.  We quickly got set up just in time for the throng of children that came.  It was a good thing there were a couple more of us as they broke an all-time VBS attendance the first day of  VBS with 88 children registered!!!

Lori reading the lesson book for the day.  Each child got one to take home.
This team, even though it's small, is very gifted and committed.  They have Leon who loves to play guitar and sing with the kids.  Lori and Eric love the interaction with the kids, particularly the puppet shows and the lesson books they give to the children and read through each day.

Lori and Eric captivating the children with the puppet show.
Dave is the master of the games.  This year, they brought water balloon balls.  These are small balls that absorb water and then are thrown like a water balloon.  Then you put it back in water and it soaks it up like a sponge.  They're reusable and are easy use and transport.  And you get just as wet just like the real deal.

The kids were having a splashing good time with the water balloon balls.
The VBS progressed with snack and craft.  The bead necklace crosses were a hit and kept us all busy helping the kids string their beads and tying knots.  The VBS went by really fast.

My trip to Shamattawa wouldn't be complete without little Miley giving me my hug!
Even though I wasn't able to get to Norway House, this was a special year for the 2 teams from Trinity Lutheran Church at Fergus Falls, Minnesota.  It marked their 10th year of serving these 2 communities in northern Manitoba.  What a great blessing they have been.

The two teams were celebrating their 10th year of service with LAMP and their communities.
After VBS was done and cleanup was over at the building, we headed to the airport to take a closer look at the Lance.  The alternator belt was shredded for sure.  After a couple of phone calls, taking the Lance to Thompson was the best course of action.  I filed a "NORDO" (no radio) flight plan with flight service, said goodbye to the team, and took off for Thompson.

There was no way to fix the broken alternator belt except to get the Lance to a maintenance facility.

The flight there was uneventful and the next day, arrangements were made at an aviation maintenance operation to have the Lance evaluated.  However, that would require leaving it behind at Thompson.

So the next day Andrew, LAMP's director of flight operations had a break in his schedule and flew over from Flin Flon to Thompson.  Then we headed south Wednesday morning to Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba.

The community had been evacuated in mid-May due to a severe fire in that area.  The people were out of the community for 6 weeks until repairs could be made to the power grid and station.    This year, a new priest, Father Aurl, was assigned to the community.   I had been in communication with Father Aurl during the evacuation and with the team leader Janine Cain to keep her apprised of the situation and if the VBS would be possible.  I did manage to locate one of the band counsillors who was in Winnipeg, Clinton Keyper, and discuss when the people would be moving back into the community and if the VBS would be possible.  With their moving back in starting the end of June, that would leave two weeks before the team would arrive.  Both Father Aurl and the counsillor said the team should come, especially with the trauma the children experienced during the evacuation.

The sheer mass of forest burned around Little Grand Rapids was astounding.
We arrived mid-morning.  We secured a boat ride to the dock near the church and arrived just before lunch.   We met 2 of the new team members and Father Aurl.  The team stayed at the rectory which is attached to the church where VBS is held.  We all ate lunch and then set up for VBS.  

The kids love singing all the songs the team prepares each year.
This is the team's 12th year at LGR.  The VBS turnout is always good, especially this year after the evacuees returned to the community just 2 weeks before.  It was a typical day of fast-paced activity.  For opening and music, I was asked to do a song I have taught the kids before called "The Little Red Box".  The team did the lesson for the day with the children.  Then it was on to splitting the group of kids for logistical purposes for craft, games, and snack.

The LGR team and Father Aurl (right)
With Andrew's and my day getting quite long, decided to head back just before supper.  A call to one of the community members nearby got us a water taxi ride back to the dock by the store.  Then we walked back to the airport and departed for Sioux Lookout.

This was one of the worst fires in northern Ontario we encountered over the summer
The trip was somewhat challenging as we had to fly about 50 miles off course to avoid the heavy smoke from a major forest fire northwest of Red Lake.  The smoke stretched for almost 80 miles.  It was just another indication of the type of fire season we were having in northern Manitoba and Ontario.

We got back to Sioux Lookout in fine fashion sans the smoke dodging.  Unfortunately, after we landed, we noticed a small streak of oil on the left side of the Cessna 182.  It turned out one of the oil drain lines was rubbing against a bracket and wore a pinhole in the tube.  It wasn't catastrophic, yet, but needed to be repaired before flying it again.  It just wasn't our week for LAMP aircraft.

Thursday arrived and my plan was to fly up to Sandy Lake, Ontario to be with the team and community for their annual memorial service.  I had prepared music to play on my guitar and was really looking forward to going.  But I would have to fly on the regional airlines and early in the day, there were no seats available.  Then I got a call from Shelly at the LAMP office and a seat had opened up.  Thank you Lord!   I packed my overnight bag, grabbed my guitar, and headed to the airport.  I checked in and all was looking good.  But as the minutes passed, I could see that the weather was not looking good to the north.  More planes were landing and not too many taking off.  Flight delays were being announced.  But then I heard announcement after announcement of flights that were being cancelled.  I was hoping to dodge that bullet, but then my flight was called.  I would not be going to Sandy Lake.

The tarmac was full of aircraft going nowhere due to weather related cancellations.
This week was becoming one of the worst I've experienced as a LAMP missionary.  Some of the people in the communities and teams I only get to see but once a year.  I really looked forward to it.  But at least I was able to fly into Sandy Lake in May and visit with my friends and meet the new Chief and council.

With the cancellation of the Sandy Lake trip, that pretty much finished the week for me.  I only made it into 2 of the 6 communities.  This would be the first summer in 4 years that I didn't make it into all the communities.  In a way, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut over and over this week.   It was hard to take, but I kept looking to the Lord figuring He had a reason for all this.  Maybe it was to teach me to trust Him more than my elaborately engineered schedule for the week.  The teams would be fine as they were all experienced.  And their ministry to the community was much more meaningful than mine.  OK Lord.  I get it.

The next day, Friday, Andrew left to fly back to Edmonton on the commercial airlines.  We would have to wait to find out about getting word on the necessary repairs on both the Lance and the Cessna 182.   Saturday, would be another day of teams coming through Sioux Lookout on the way back home.

I pulled up the flight schedule for the teams coming from Sandy Lake, Muskrat Dam, and Wapekeka.  I was able to meet all of them and at least get a quick recap of the week in between their flights and drives heading south.  I met the Big Trout Lake team members that stay an extra week and go Wapekeka, which is a community that's drive-able from Big Trout.   I helped them with their cargo and getting it packed in their vehicle for their drive back to Nebraska.

The Big Trout Lake/Wapekeka team packed and ready to head home
It was a week to end all weeks.  But when you strip away all the airplane and airline schedule issues, the work of God's Kingdom in the communities went on.  The Gospel was proclaimed, peoples lives touched and changed by the love of Jesus, and the ministry of LAMP was fulfilling its mission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

And in the final analysis, that's what it's all about anyway.

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Summer Twists and Turns - Part 1

It's hard to imagine but another VBS season arrived so quickly.  As is my usual routine, I began making trips into communities to visit with leaders and friends and to follow up on VBS team accommodations the last 2 weeks of May.  That included flying to Norway House and Shamattawa in Manitoba and to Sandy Lake and Wapekeka in Ontario.  I would have made it into several more communities, but weather and airplane maintenance plagued travel plans.  However, the visits I made were well worth it.

Sandy Lake was one of my stops in Ontario.  I got to see a number of people there and visit with a few of the newly elected Councillors and the new Chief.  We talked about the struggles including a string of deaths from illness, age, and suicide.  I prayed with them and they appreciated it along with looking forward to the LAMP team coming.  The team also conducts a memorial service for those families in the community who have lost loved ones in the past year.

Doreen Fiddler and me at Sandy Lake airport.
The weather finally cooperated for me to make it up to Shamattawa in northeastern Manitoba.  The community suffered the total loss of the Anglican church by fire due to a furnace malfunction.  I was able to get the word out back home and got donations for communionware, altar paraments, and stoles.  The altar cross was too large and heavy to ship.  So I brought it up with me when I drove and was able to deliver it in person to Rev. Mary Ann Miles.  She appreciated all of the items we were able to get to her.

Rev. Mary Ann Miles with the new altar cross
I was able to get to two other communities.  However, on the return flight from Wapekeka, the alternator belt on the airplane failed.  Thankfully, the engine keeps running because it has magnetos for the ignition system which produces it's own power.  I turned off the Master switch and conserved battery power to lower the landing gear and power up one radio to fly back into Sioux Lookout airport.  It would take several days get the Lance in for maintenance.  So that would require an alternate plan.

I was scheduled to return to the ministry school for the first week in July.  Since the plane was unavailable, I flew up on one of the regional airlines to Kingfisher Lake.  I would be doing another training on the family and parenting workshop.  It's always great to see Bishop Lydia and her husband James who interprets for me.  Leon Dawkins, a U.S. board member and team member to Shamattawa was with me.  The goal is that Leon could take the workshop and possible do that along with VBS in the future.  The attendance was great and I got to reconnect with a few of the people who attended in February.

James Mamakwa (Lydia's husband and my interpretor), me, Bishop Lydia, and Leon Dawkins, LAMP  US board member

The worship service during the week of the ministry school in Kingfisher Lake.
 We made it back in time for the "shift change" with my next flying buddy for the next 2 weeks, the first week beginning the actual VBS season.

One of the things I've tried to do is to host the teams upon their arrival at Sioux Lookout.   That way, it takes the pressure off the team to find a place to eat since all of them stay at local hotels.   I would have the Big Trout Lake team and a brand new team from Indianapolis which was heading to Bearskin Lake, Ontario.  Or so I thought.

Just hours before the teams arrived, I received a phone call that the accommodations at Bearskin Lake had fallen through.  There would be no place for them to stay.   Suffice it to say, I was not looking forward to telling the team that they had no place to go after a 17 hour drive.  But through divine intervention, the Lord provided an alternate plan.  The Big Trout Lake team was down 5 members from last year.  The Bearskin team had 5 members.  So after a couple of conversations with the team leaders and with Shelly at the LAMP office, the two teams combined at flew up to Big Trout Lake.
That was a huge relief for everyone involved, including yours truly.  Thank you Lord!

So the next morning, I met the teams and helped them with airport parking and getting all of their cargo to the airline counter.  Thankfully, the flight was a larger Dash 8 aircraft instead of the usual Beech 1900.  That meant ALL their cargo would make it on that flight.  Another round of Thank you Lord.

ALL the cargo for 2 teams heading to Big Trout Lake, Ontario

The combined teams going to Big Trout Lake.
 The next Tuesday, with the backup alternator belt installed, we flew up to Big Trout Lake to visit the team and community.  It was good to see my friend Stanley who made sure the team was well cared for.  And it was even better to see that the joining of the two teams was amazing!  Everyone gelled together so well you would never know there were two different teams.  In fact, the teams were already talking about coming back together next summer!

BTL team leader Kari Lewis made the illustration of Jesus the children stood next to for pictures
It was a long day but one that was incredibly encouraging and educational.  Encouraging because of the synergy of the two teams.  Educational because I learned (again and again!)  that the Lord has everything in His mighty hands.  No one could have scripted a better outcome than these two teams coming together to serve Big Trout Lake.

The flight home was uneventful and with the old adage of "killing two birds with one stone" this week, I prepared for the next week which would be busiest week of the summer with 6 teams heading north into communities; 2 in Manitoba and 4 in Ontario.

And that's when more twists and turns took place.  But that's for the next installment.

Until the next time...
Pastor Dennis

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.