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, June 10, 2015

The Journey Begins…Literally!

The last couple of weeks and days have zoomed by at warp speed.   It’s hard to believe that the beginning of the summer season for me with LAMP is here.   The list of things to do before I left was long and distinguished.  There were items around the house that needed attention that couldn’t wait until September.   Other tasks included vehicle, lawn and garden equipment maintenance, and making sure that my wife, Teri, had all of the information she needed to run the household and a host of other things that I usually do without thinking about it. 

The list of things to take with me was slowly getting checked off including the items I thought I needed or wasn’t sure were going to be at the RV in Thompson.   I got my cordless drill, fishing gear, flight gear, guitar, and cooking things packed.   I knew there was a TV and DVD player at the RV, but not sure about TV service.  So I packed up a number of my favorite DVD’s thinking that should hold me for entertainment.   Teri helped organize my cloths and pack them in my new Uber-sized duffle bag.    I had my Canadian currency from the bank, pocket digital camera, Nook (real books too), laptop,  Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), iPhone, iPod, and iPad cables and chargers.   Then it was time to load everything up in the rental, a new 2015 GMC Terrain--with a Kentucky plate no less, for the trip north.

Loaded and ready to head north.
May 31, 2015

On Sunday, I attended worship with my family at the church I had served for over 13 years.  After church, we went home and had dinner.   Then after finishing up packing the last little things, it was time to hit the road.   We all  prayed together kissed and hugged and then said our good byes.   I can’t remember the last time driving away from home was as hard as it was.  But I trusted that the Lord will watch over Teri and her mother.

I had decided to break the trip up into three segments.   The first leg would be to Rochelle, Illinois to visit long-time friends of mine, Marv and Mary Jo Metzger  (Marv and I went to Concordia Ann Arbor and he's a Pastor/Farmer).   The next leg would be to Lakeville, Minnesota, a southwest suburb of Minneapolis to meet one of the VBS teams and pick up the VBS supplies from the team leader, Sue Folger, who also serves on the LAMP U.S. board.   The next leg would take me into Canada and on to Winnipeg where I would pick up my Canadian pilot license certificate.  I would then go north to Grand Rapids, Manitoba to meet with one of LAMP’s ministry partners, Rev. Steve Martin, who is a First Nations Anglican priest there.  I would do an overnight at G.R. and then drive the last 380 Km to Thompson.

So it was off to northern Illinois.    On the drive just west of Rochelle to the road my friend’s house is on, I could see damaged buildings and homes from the tornado a few weeks before that when through the area.  It was quite devastating.   The farm that used to be his dad's a quarter mile up the road was wiped clean.

There used to be a house, corn crib, machine shed, livestock building and yard here.  It's all gone.
Marv and Mary Jo showed me the post-tornado pictures from the area including hundreds of volunteers who came from Chicago to help pick up debris in the fields that prevented planting from taking place.  There were huge piles of branches, limbs, balled up metal, lumber, etc. that were stacked in the fields.  Farmers and even people from out-of-state volunteered and brought in front-end loaders to pick up the large piles of debris and haul it all away in trailers.   My friend’s house had $30,000 in damage and their fairly new machine shed had $55,000 in damage as it was twisted a couple of inches and needed a roof replacement from the massive hail damage. 

This is me in front of "Mary Jo's" tractor!!!
The next morning, I got up and made my way north toward Minneapolis.  Google maps had me routed through La Crosse, Wisconsin instead of on I-94 since Lakeville was off of US 52 on the southwest side of the Twin Cities.  La Crosse has a special place in my heart.  It was where I had my first engineering position after graduating from college, where we bought our first home, and where all of our 3 daughters were born.  So it gave me some time to reminisce about our years there.  

I was hoping to make it to Lakeville before rush hour, but that didn’t work due to road construction.   I got there around 5:00 PM.  That gave Sue Folger and me time to unpack my things from the Terrain and figure out how to get 8… yes… 8 Rubbermaid totes destined for Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba packed with all my stuff too.

After putting my Industrial Engineering hat on, and some trial-and-error fitting, I figured out the puzzle and got everything in.   There was little room for anything or anyone else!   This effort also saved the team about $400 in air transportation shipping costs too.   I’ll fly the supplies in to Red Sucker Lake before their arrival there in August.

After packing,  we grabbed a quick supper as the VBS team was due at Folger’s house at 6:30 PM.  The VBS team arrived and we did introductions.  The meeting was for planning their trip.  They have to take everything with them—EVERYTHING!   VBS supplies (in the blue totes),  food, etc.  They were also working through the VBS program itself.   I had gotten out my guitar and VBS song book to share some of the songs I'd used in the past..   It was a late evening with things winding down about 10:45 PM. 

June 2, 2015

I got up and Sue had a nice breakfast waiting for her husband John and me.   I hit the road around 7:15 AM.    Unfortunately, when I got to I-35 half-mile away, traffic was crawling and stopped often.  To make a long story short, it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to make it to I-94 westbound to Fargo.  I was going to have no holdups if I was going to make it to Winnipeg in time to the Transport Canada office to pick up my pilot certificate before their closing time of 4:00 PM.  .   So I called  Transport Canada.  Stacie, the person I’d been communicating with there,  said if I didn’t get there by 4:00 PM, she would give it to the security guard at the front desk.  That was a relief.   The only other slowdown could be at Canadian customs at the border.  Hopefully I would have little delay.  

I got to the border and did have my documentation reviewed.  I was granted an “exempt work permit”  that the border agent stamped in my passport.  And then I was on my way north with the clock ticking.   

As I came into Winnipeg, the traffic got heavier.   I find my way to the Transport Canada building and park on the street a block away.   I look at my watch.   It’s 3:57 PM.   I jog to the entrance, open the door and walk in.   The security office behind the desk sees me and says, “You wouldn’t happen to be Dennis, would you?”   I smile and say, “Yes, I am.”    He hands me my envelope with the coveted certificate and I thank him profusely.

I said, “Thank you Lord!” as I walked back to the Terrain.  Then it was time to weave my way out of Winnipeg to head north to Grand Rapids.   Traffic was heavy but moving.   After 15 minutes of driving, I make the exit for route 6 north to Grand Rapids and eventually Thompson.

At first, the road starts out as a divided highway.   Then about 30 miles later, the road narrows to a typical 2-lane highway.   It was good road…and virtually deserted.  It was flat and straight for miles and miles and miles and miles.  Actually, it was Kilometers to be more accurate. It was 4-1/2 hours to Grand Rapids.  I arrived around 9:00 PM and went to the hotel there.   I was pretty tired and fell asleep quickly.

June 3, 2015

The next morning,  I had plenty of time before meeting Rev. Steve Martin for breakfast.    I decided to take a little tour of the town before heading to our breakfast rendezvous spot.  I drove past the school which was a nice single story building on the Reserve.   Parents were walking their children to the school as it was close to 8:30 AM.  I drove another quarter mile and saw the church Steve serves as pastor—St James Anglican Church.

St. James Anglican church

This is the only view of Lake Winnipeg on the entire road trip at Grand Rapids
I drove back to the main highway and made a right turn to head south to the Pelican which was a couple of miles out of town.   About a quarter mile from the hotel is a bridge that crosses the Grand Rapids River that divides the community.   It emptied into a bay that opened up to Lake Winnipeg.  This was the only place on the entire trip I saw the lake.

I got to the restaurant early and gassed up the Terrain.   Steve arrived shortly after 9:00 AM and we had a nice breakfast.     We finished up our conversation and food around 10:30 AM.  After praying together, we said our “Good byes” and I headed toward Thompson which was a little over 380 Km away (240 miles).   Again, the road was deserted.  

The high-tension power lines were a constant sight as that is how Manitoba Hydro, the provincial electrical company gets power to the communities.  It was strange to see raw untouched nature with man-made utilities together for miles upon miles.

One thing that is a constant in the summer months is road construction even in Canada.  The exception is that the entire road surface is removed, a new roadbed put down, and then new asphalt.  There are sections where it’s one lane and it’s that way for a mile or so.   Waiting for my turn was usually no more than 10 minutes.  It’s an interesting way to handle the repairs.   Apparently it’s necessary because this is the main road that goes to the winter roads that are mentioned on “Ice Road Truckers” and they carry a lot of weight from hundreds of semi-trucks.

I rolled into Thompson around 1:30 PM.   I drove to the campground where LAMP keeps the RV for the pastor/pilots.  I spent the next hour setting up the RV…connecting the water, sewer, electrical, and the slide-out compartments. 

The LAMP RV in Thompson, Manitoba

Then it was time to unpack the Terrain and figure out where all the things would go.  I didn’t get everything in its place but had a plan. 

It looks a lot better than this picture shows.

With time closing in on 5:00 PM, I ventured out to the grocery store.  The Safeway has most of what I can get back home.   But the prices are higher than I’m used to seeing.  I also have to convert metric to Imperial (US).   Weight is in Kilograms (Chicken is sold in $/100 grams).  Volume in Liters.   I’m glad I got the Metric converter app on my iPhone.  The other thing is there are no plastic bags allowed.  So you either buy reusable bags or bring your own.  Fortunately I learned this from my April/May trip and have a half-dozen Walmart and and grocery store bags I brought from home.

After that trip, I made a sandwich and relaxed for the evening.  I ended up hitting the bed around 10 PM…and it was still light outside.   Welcome to life north of the 55th parallel.  

June 4, 2015

The next day,  I started making a list of things that would help me organize the RV more efficiently.  Then I took a walk to check out the campground.   I followed a path that led down to the river.   Guess what was sitting there?   Float planes!!!!  (Anyone remember the red LAMP Cessna 185 on floats???)

After that excursion walk, I went back to the RV to start the day’s activities.   A trip to Walmart and Canadian Tire got the majority of the items on my list.  

I got a text message on my phone and saw that Andrew was going to come out a day earlier.  He would be at the airport around 5 PM that afternoon.    I picked him up at the Thompson airport that will be our base of operation this summer.  We had supper and a relaxing evening.

June 5, 2015

The next day would be the start of my training and check out in the Piper Lance since the Cessna 182 is back in Edmonton with a sick engine.   I’m just glad they found it a couple of weeks ago instead of a week from now.   Here’s what my new wings look like…

We did some ground training and then headed to the airport.  The weather was clear, but the winds were wicked.  So we didn’t get everything accomplished on that flight.  But there would be tomorrow.

We woke to good weather for flying.   The winds were lighter and visibility good.   It was off to the airport to do some touch and go’s so I could get the landing configuration of the Lance sorted.   I did 11 takeoffs and landings.  Most of them were OK.  A couple of them were spot on.   Hopefully with a little more time, I’ll get it down pat. 

June 7, 2015

Sunday had arrived quickly.   Andrew and I attended the church in Thompson that hosts one of the teams overnight at their church.  It was very friendly and welcoming of LAMP personnel.  After worship and fellowship, We headed back home and spent the day resting.  After all, it is the Sabbath for us Resurrection people!

So now you have a little glimpse into the life of a LAMP pastor/pilot preparing to serve the people of northern Canada.

It is hard to comprehend that it had been a weeks since I departed home in central Indiana.  A lot had been accomplished.   And now, a lot is still ahead to accomplish…community contacts, making sure all arrangements are in place for the VBS teams, and then going to the communities to meet the teams and the people—people who are open, willing, and anticipating hearing the Good News of Jesus.

As the LAMP VBS season gets into full swing, please keep us in your prayers for…
  • Team preparations go smoothly.
  • Safe travel and good health for the teams and LAMP missionary pastors.
  • Good weather for flying and driving.
  • Arrangements being made for the teams and communities will be in place.
  • Receptive hearts in the communities to the Gospel message.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ"   (Colossians 4:3 NIV)