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)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Season's Greetings???

By the time you read this, you are already seeing and hearing the phrase, “Season’s Greetings.”   Stores and companies start promoting earlier and earlier in the year what is becoming known as “The Holidays” instead of Christmas.   It may even seem foreign to hear this phrase in the context of LAMP ministry.    But there’s a different meaning  to it from my perspective.  “Season’s Greetings” is welcoming  and celebrating a new VBS season, especially for me being the newest LAMP pastor/pilot.  

If you look at a LAMP VBS in comparison to Christmas,  there are a number of similarities.   After all, VBS only comes once a year for most communities and teams.   Each of us spends quite a bit of time preparing for Christmas.   Various activities and tasks need to be done to make sure that everything is ready for the big celebration.  For some of us, it includes travel plans.   Shopping is on the agenda.   Food.  Decorations.  Gifts.  Packing for travel.  All of these undertakings are part of the preparation for Christmas.   The expectation… the anticipation… the excitement all builds.  Then Christmas arrives.  Joy and happiness abound.  It’s something that virtually everyone looks forward to taking place. 

Just like planning for the coming of Christmas,  I work on plans for the VBS teams to go into the communities they serve.   I’m talking with the team leader and contacts in the communities to be sure that arrangements for the team’s accommodations and location of the VBS are in place.  I prepare for the team’s arrival by visiting with the communities in person whenever possible and taking care of any remaining details.   Traveling to the communities is paramount with a large number of fly-in communities.   The anticipation and excitement by both the VBS teams and the children in the communities builds with the approaching time when VBS will begin.   It is something that virtually everyone looks forward to taking place.

 Then the week of VBS arrives.  Joy and happiness  abound when the teams are in their communities.   Team members and children who remember each other are greeted with hugs and smiles.     But the best part is that Christmas in the community has arrived.  How so?  Jesus has come to them in the VBS through God’s Word.   And the gifts given are hearing about God’s love, care and hope through Jesus Christ.  To be able share the Gospel with the children and the communities is priceless.  

Like Christmas, the LAMP VBS comes only once a year to all the communities.  But for me, I get to experience it every time I visit a VBS team and community.   The joy and happiness I’ve experienced is beyond description, especially seeing the children receive the gift of Jesus’ presence through His Word taught in the VBS and in the team members demonstrating God’s love, care, and hope.   I count it a special privilege and blessing to be able to serve the Lord with LAMP and the communities of the north.

For you, and all of my partners, I also count it a special privilege and blessing to have you with me in your prayers and financial support.  Without it, there would be no “Season’s Greetings” for these isolated communities.   But with your continued support, the Good News of Jesus is reaching the children and communities of northern Canada giving them the hope of the Christmas Christ in their lives.

May you have a blessed and joyful Christmas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

August 2015 – The Migration Continues

The end of July was fast and furious regarding VBS activity.  Sometime the schedule is packed tight and other times, is a bit relaxed.

The first week of August was a light week compared to the previous week with only 2 VBS's taking place. Andrew had the plane helping the other LAMP pastor at Flin Flon and got back to Thompson late Monday night, August 3rd.  His relief, Keith Kreuger arrived Tuesday night.

The first VBS visited was at Little Grand Rapids on Wednesday August 6. We flew down on an IFR (Instrument) flight plan since the weather in Thompson was 2 miles of visibility and 600 foot ceilings. 14 minutes after takeoff, we were on top of the muck in the sun. The weather got better the closer we got to Little Grand. This is a community that is accessible by boat. You even need a boat to go to the grocery store!

We had quite a walk from where the water taxi let us off to the church where the VBS and team were located. The 4 women on the team were doing a great job.  When we arrived in the late morning, they had a few local women doing a "stained glass" craft with colored paper. They enjoyed that time bonding with them.

After a nice lunch, we heard the kids knocking at the door of the church 15 minutes before VBS. They were anxious for it to begin. When it came to the time for singing, I got to teach the children the song, "Little Red Box" which was a lot of fun.   The time of singing was followed by the Bible Story and then craft time.

We would have loved to stay longer, but unfortunately, with a front moving closer that would give us some flying difficulties, we had to head back to the airport. Janine Cain, the team leader got us a ride back to the airport. This was Janine's 10th year of going to Little Grand Rapids.  It is people like her and the teams who have such unwavering commitment to the communities they serve that make a huge difference.  They are the face of Jesus in these remote places that need to see a face of love, care, and compassion.

We walked the short distance from the boat dock to the airport as the rain started to drizzle.  Due to the distance from Thompson, and flying on instrument flight plans, we have to carry a larger fuel reserve to meet the Canadian Air Regulations. That meant a side trip to Island Lake, MB on the way home. The rest of the trip was uneventful as I enjoyed the view above the clouds in smooth air.

Thursday, August 7, was a trip to Red Sucker Lake, MB. We left early on another instrument flight plan and decided to do our fuel stop first at Island Lake. It's only a 25 minute flight from there to Red Sucker Lake and when we were done for the day we could fly straight back to Thompson.
Sean, a youth pastor at one of the churches met us and took us to the school and teacher housing where the team was staying. We had a fabulous lunch of fresh caught Pickerel (Walleye for youse guys south of the border) courtesy of Gordan Disbrowe, one of the people in the community who has been a huge supporter of the VBS team and LAMP.

Gordan had a tote full of Pickerel (walleye) he was cleaning.  He gave the VBS team more than enough for lunch!

After lunch everyone gathered together for devotion time and then it was off to the school for VBS.  There were over 150 children there if not more. The team has been going in to RSL for years and it showed. The connection with the kids and the young adults who led the singing and did the "color race", skit and had the energy to keep up with all those excited children was fantastic. I enjoyed participating in the craft and I also was invited to teach the kids "Little Red Box" that is fast becoming a hit among the VBS teams. I helped out where I could but the team was well coordinated and experienced. When it came to the outside activity before VBS ended, I decided to steer clear of the "color race" as it was going to get messy!

The kids ran past team members who had bags of powder that they threw at the kids as they ran by leaving a rainbow of colors on them. Hence the reason they were asked to wear clothes that weren't nice. It was quite a sight!

VBS came to an end too soon for me. Before we knew it, it was closing in on 5 PM and time to head home. John Folger snagged a ride to the airport for us where Keith ran into an old flying buddy from years past.

Soon we were in the air and heading back home. I couldn't imagine a better day, especially  one to celebrate my birthday.   It only helped reinforce my faith that we have a great and gracious God who loves us and cares mightily for us through His Son Jesus Christ!

The next week would prove to be challenging in more ways than one.  I had five…yes…5 communities to visit...and 4 of them were in Ontario.   So our work started early in the week on Sunday, August 9th.

It was a short 20 minute flight to Pikwitonei from Thompson…and also the shortest runway at 2,200 feet.  The team of Esther and Howard has been going there for 12 years.  “Pik” is a very small community with only 70 residents.  They traveled there by train from Thompson.  However, due to crew changes and delays, it took 15 hours for them to arrive.  

That didn’t deter them from getting busy.   Keith and I arrived in the late afternoon so that I could attend the evening Vesper service that Howard and Esther do for the community.   Howard showed us around the community which is really quite picturesque with hills and a river running through it.

Then it was back to the church to prepare for the service.  When the time came, there were a handful of kids and adults who came.  This is another community where having a worship service is a rarity due to the availability of a pastor.  It was a very nice service and appreciated by the adults there.  Afterwards, Howard and Esther provided refreshments.  With the light waning and a short runway, we headed back to Thompson thankful for the dedication and love Howard and Esther have for the people of Pik.  (They also make a trip there on the winter road!)

The next morning, August 10, it was off to Bearskin Lake, Ontario.  We had to deal with low clouds but no stormy weather.  We got a ride from the airport from Genny Kam, one of the First Nation pastors serving at the Anglican church. 

Rev. Gerry Kam and Rev. Mary Ann Beardy are the two First Nation Anglican pastors serving at Bearskin Lake.

We met Tamera and Raven, the two women who came to spend time in the community and to put on an abbreviated VBS at the church.  Then we walked to their accommodations for the week which was a teacher housing unit.  After lunch, it was back to church and prepping for day 1 of VBS. 

About 2 dozen children came and were anxiously awaiting for VBS to start.   After opening and singing, it was craft time.   Unfortunately, some of the VBS supplies shipped in didn’t arrive in time.  So we improvised a craft using rocks, sticks, and switchgrass.  It all worked out fine and the children enjoyed it. 

After VBS was over, we cleaned up the church basement and then were welcomed with the two boxes of supplies that a member of the community delivered.   It was a full and enjoyable time.   The commitment that Tamara has to the community is inspiring and truly demonstrating the love and care of Jesus.  

We said our good byes and got back to the airport for our flight home.   As we took off, we flew by the community to get a bird’s eye view.   Then we climbed up through the clouds and headed back to Thompson.  You can see the aerial view of Bearskin Lake .Here

Our next community to visit was Weagamow Lake, or Round Lake depending upon whether you’re referring to the community or the airport.  Weather was good and we met up with the team at the teacher housing they were using for the week.  There were a couple of new team members that were experiencing their first VBS and life in a First Nation community.   The team was gelling well and ready for action. 

After walking over to the community center where VBS was held, the children started arriving and got busy coloring activity sheets until the opening.  The Bible story was done with team members putting on a skit.  The children were fairly attentive and entertained by the dramatic acting!   I took a break to head over to the band office to try and meet up with the chief and council.  Unfortunately, the chief was out of the community and no councilors were available.  I did get to chat with Olive Harper who manages the airport.  Then we walked by the new church that has been under construction for the past couple of years.  A team was ready to go in and help with the construction, but complications prevented them from going.  Hopefully the construction will continue so that the community will have a regular place to worship.  

With the VBS winding down and the thunderstorms cranking up, especially in southeast Manitoba, we headed back to the airport and to our base back in Thompson.  I once again saw a team of people who were selflessly caring for the children and community of Weagamow Lake, Ontario by sharing the love of Jesus.  As we took off, we flew along the shoreline of the community which you can see here.

The week was going really well.  The Lord was opening up the skies, the VBS teams were doing phenomenal work in ministering to the communities, and I was humbled and blessed that I got to be a part of it all.  I was chomping at the bit to get to Sandy Lake, Ontario the next day.

The weather would be picture-perfect on Wednesday, August 12th, with temperatures climbing into the high 20's.  Opps. That's in Celsius.  That translates into the mid-80's in Fahrenheit.  It would be one of the warmest days of the summer.  Heading out to Sandy Lake also meant a mandatory fuel stop at Island Lake, Manitoba.

The following day started out with a lot of promise.  But it would soon prove to be the beginning of a rather challenging 48 hours.  We got a good early start out of Thompson and would be at Island Lake by 9:45 AM.  A quick 20 minute fuel-up and we would be landing at Sandy Lake by 11:15 AM leaving us plenty of time to meet with the team.  We touched down nicely at Island Lake on a rain-soaked runway from the line of storms that came through the night before.  I made the turn onto the apron and taxied over the our fuel cash.  We got out, unlocked the container with our fuel, and began the process of pulling the hose out and plugging in the power for the pump.  That's when I noticed that something wasn't right.  The right main landing gear tire was flat!   That would make the 2nd flat tire in 2 months at the same airport.

Keith went looking for a mechanic across the airport and I started looking for tools to borrow.  Keith found a tire patch kit that the store gave to him at no cost after hearing about what happened and what we did for LAMP.   To make a long story short, we tried patching the tube but it was unsuccessful.  A call to the LAMP office in Edmonton was in order.  Andrew got a new tire and inner tube on order and shipped to us.  We could potentially have the airplane ready to fly late that afternoon.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

The aviation supply company in Winnipeg couldn't get the shipment to the airport in time for the last afternoon flight to Island Lake.  They would try in the morning.  So while I was working with Andrew and lining up tools to fix the flat, Keith found a place for us to stay on Island Lake.  It even had a washer and dryer so we wouldn't have to wear our sweaty cloths the next day.

The next morning I found out that there were bad storms in Winnipeg that caused a lot of flooding of roads.  Hence the shipment didn't make it to the airport for the morning flight but would be on the afternoon flight.  Well, it wasn't ideal, but at least we could get the plane flying later in the day. 

I went to the airport terminal and checked with the airline to find out if the shipment made the flight.  The news wasn't what I wanted to hear.  Because of the hot temperatures and a full passenger load, all the cargo was taken off the plane.  Even some of the baggage was left behind.  Oh boy!   We would end up spending another night there.  I was promised by the airline manager at the terminal that it would be on the morning flight.

The next morning I went down to the terminal to go out to the airplane and start the process of removing the tire and having it ready for the new tire and tube.  The airline manager saw me and said, "It's on the flight!"   It did arrive on the 10:30 AM flight and within an hour, the plane was back together and ready to fly.

Having a maintenance issue with the airplane during a busy week of VBS's and dealing with the delayed shipping was frustrating to say the least.  But then I had to ask, "OK Lord.  What is this whole deal about?   Why would this be happening?"  After some meditation and prayer, there were a number of reasons...

1.  Humility.  I was depending upon my expertise in flying and scheduling to make all my
                      visits happen.  It wasn't about me and my efforts.
2.  Patience.   I needed to learn that things don't always go according to plan and that I need to
                       let go and let God.
3.  Trust.        I needed to rely on the Lord and that He was in control of the situation, not me.
4.  Contacts.   You never know who you will meet and what connections you'll make with
                       people in the area.  It gave me a chance to share the mission and ministry of LAMP.

With the airplane ready to go, we took off for Sandy Lake, Ontario, even though it was the last day of the VBS.  It took us some time to find where the VBS was being held as it had changed locations.  We arrived just as VBS was starting.

The team was in full-on VBS mode.  Everyone was doing what they needed to do as several dozen children arrived.  I got to speak with a number of the team members before things got very busy.  I spent most of the time helping the children with their craft.  Then afterwards, we helped sweep and pick up to save the team that time and effort.

After VBS was over, Joan Gherke, one of the team members drove us back to the airport while the team got ready for their last night in the community.  It was quite a full day with our arrival back in Thompson around 8:00 PM--and quite a learning experience on many different levels.

The one thing that remained constant was, once again, the commitment and care the VBS team exhibited to the community, especially earlier in the week when they cancelled VBS to attend the funeral of an 11 year old who had died of health issues.  Their presence and compassion was priceless in ministering to the people of Sandy Lake.

After a good nights sleep and evaluating the unsettled weather, we departed for Sachigo Lake...with a stop at Island Lake for fuel.  I have to say I held my breath and prayed as we landed, "Please Lord, not another flat.  Not another flat."  My prayer was answered and we were on the ground just around Noon.  We got a ride to the teacher housing and met the team that included some new members.  It's always fun to watch how the dynamics of a team work.  The kidding and joking along with their understanding of the importance of their presence in the community is just a microcosm of how life in the Church should be.

All of us walked over to the community center where the VBS had been relocated due to a regional meeting of Chiefs at the school.  The team dealt with the change with a mentality of flexibility.   The rain started as the children arrived.  That meant that all the activities would have to be inside.  Again, the team made due with the space and adjusted.

The team as activity sheets for the children to work on as they arrived.  When most of the children had arrived, Pastor Brad led the kids in the opening with several songs.  I got to do "Little Red Box" that was well received by the children. 

The Bible story was done via puppet show.  That was a good way to keep the children engaged with the story.

After the opening, the children divided up into groups with each one rotating through story time, craft, music, and games.

As the VBS continued, I made a call to Flight Service to find out the front with thunderstorms that was expected to go through the area had picked up speed and would be arriving within the hour.   We unfortunately had to leave before the VBS was over.   As we crossed the Manitoba-Ontario border, the stormscope in the airplane was showing a large grouping of lightning behind us over our flight path.  It was a good thing we left when we did.  Once again, the Lord provided protection on our trip home as we dodged the approaching front and the buildup of thunderstorms.

That weather hung around for 24 hours and drenched southeast Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.  So flying was out of the question.  But that was a good break for Keith and me considering the challenging and full week we just had.  Besides, it was our last Sunday in Thompson and we were able to say goodbye to all the wonderful people at church who had supported LAMP by providing places for team members to stay as they traveled through Thompson on their way to and from their VBS communities. 

The weather cleared out on Monday, August 17th, for us to make our last trip of the VBS season to Ontario and the community of Muskrat Dam.  This was a late addition to the VBS schedule as the community was going through a rather large crisis.  The team that had previously served there before heard about the situation and decided to put together an abbreviated VBS and spend some time with the people to give them support and encouragement. 

That is what makes the VBS teams so important to the communities.  The relationships they develop and the willingness to go and stand with their First Nation brothers and sisters is living faith in action!  

We arrived around 11:00 AM and got a ride to the  school.  The team was finishing up a morning VBS session.  I walked down the road to the local radio station and made an announcement about the VBS and that the children were all welcome.  After lunch with the team, we all headed back to the school and welcomed the children who were slowly arriving. 

The children got busy with activity sheets and loved using the crayons and colored pencils to decorate their pages.


Rev. Roy Morris stopped by and I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with him.  He and his brother were both taken from the community as young children to one of the residential schools the government had set up.  We talked about the issues facing Muskrat Dam and then spent time in prayer together.  He is quite a special guy!

I returned to the gym in time to do the music with the children.  This is second-nature to me as I was the "music guy" at my previous church during VBS.  Of course, we couldn't leave out my VBS staple song, "Little Red Box" along with a half-dozen other songs.

Craft time was making necklaces and bracelets with bead of various shapes including letter beads.  I helped a few of the children finding the letters to their names so they could put them on the line.

Then after craft time, we played a number of games.  One was standing in a circle and then passing a "hula hoop" from person-to-person without letting go of our hands and not using our hands to pass it around the circle.  It's harder than it sounds if you want to try it.   Then a few rounds of "Red Rover" and freeze tag finished up the VBS.  

Again, we helped with clean up and arranged for a ride back to the airport.  We said our goodbyes to the 3-person team as our ride arrived at the school   The Lord was using them not only with the VBS, but also to bring comfort to the community.  

The weather had cleared up leaving us a nice smooth ride home to Thompson.  As we left Ontario behind I couldn't help but pray for the team and people of Muskrat Dam along with the other communities LAMP VBS teams served that the Lord would give them strength and hope.

Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba is below on our way back to Thompson from Muskrat Dam.
The next day would be the last day the LAMP airplane would be in Thompson.  Andrew would be arriving to fly it back to the Edmonton area with Keith.  The weather on Tuesday, August 18th, brought a mix of sun and clouds.  With the last community of York Landing just a brief 30 minute flight from Thompson, we elected to stay low and did some sight-seeing, especially over some of the beautiful waterfalls and rapids. 

It was a short walk from the airport to the community of York Landing.  It's an interesting place as it's accessible by either air, or ferry.  In the winter, an ice road serves the community.

We found the team of 3 at the school conducting a morning VBS session for younger children which was drawing to a close.   Then we headed over to the teacher housing where the team was staying for lunch.  We had a good discussion about some of the challenges the team and community faced.   Then it was back to the school for the afternoon session.

Pastor Terry was a new member of the team, but you would have never have guessed it.  He related well with the children and had his guitar for music.   The lesson was doing using Powerpoint which kept the children's attention.

Pastor Terry led the children in song, one of them including actions that got everyone moving!

Craft time is always a favorite of the children as they don't often have the materials at home to draw and make items.  The children would probably stayed much longer, but the time had passed and it was time to close up.

There weren't as many children as the team hoped, but the community was also celebrating "Indian Week" and had a lot of community activities going on.  Keith and I stopped by the band office on the way back to the airport, but as expected, no one was there with "Indian Days".

The flight back was uneventful but also bittersweet.  It was officially the end of the VBS season. Praise the Lord I made it into every one of my communities. I'll miss the flying but more so, I'll miss the children and the people in these remote First Nations communities and the friends I've made.  I would be heading back home in the days ahead.

So here's a quick summary for the summer:

* 11 Weeks
* 20 communities visited
* 146 Teams members visited
* 1600 children served (final tally still remaining)
* 97.4 Flight hours (Including 2 flat tires!)
* 11,643 statute miles traveled by ground and air
* 320,000 Square miles covered
* 7,200 calories burned participating with the kids  (could be lots more)
* Countless prayers offered to the Lord by supporters
* God's Word proclaimed across Manitoba and Ontario

What an awesome privilege to serve the Lord in such a unique way. This is what makes LAMP such a critical ministry to these communities, especially for those with no pastor serving even on a part-time basis. It also makes it even more important for the continued prayers and financial support so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can continue to be proclaimed to the First Nation people of Canada.