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)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

July 2015 - The Summer VBS Migration

With the arrival of July it also ushered in the beginning of VBS teams migrating north to their specific communities.  Migrating seems to fit as many of these teams are returning to roost for a week in the community they have been serving to “Love, Care, Serve, and Share.”  That is the theme of the curriculum this year and it was evident the teams were prepared to do exactly that.

The first VBS for the season for my area was right here in Thompson, Manitoba the week of July 6-10. The team from Moorhead, Minnesota arrived on Saturday afternoon.  We worshiped together on Sunday at the church sponsoring the VBS.   On the first day, all the kids were excited and very attentive to the story of Zaccheaus ("a wee little man was he").  We made kites and then went outside and flew them. The children made 2 kites...one for themselves, and one to give to a friend as an invitation to VBS. The weather cooperated, though a couple of days kept everyone inside because of the smoke from the fires in Saskatchewan and western Manitoba.  Because of the proximity of the VBS, I was able to visit with the team each day.  It was great to get to know them and to see the love they have for the children.

The next week was the VBS at Big Trout Lake, Ontario July 13-20. It's one of the farthest VBS communities from Thompson at almost 350 miles. On the flight down, we saw a couple of small fires that had recently started. As we got halfway to Big Trout, there was literally a wall of smoke to our west. After crossing into Ontario the skies cleared due to the northeast wind off of Hudson Bay.

We walked in to the community and over to the church where the VBS was in full swing.  The Team did a 10 AM to 2 PM session.  The ladies in the community put lunch together each day for the kids and team.  The day I was there, it included Bannock. Yum!

After lunch, the children went over to the community playground a couple of blocks away for about a half hour. Then they returned to the church for craft time. I stopped by the band office to introduce myself and meet the Executive Director. The community is preparing to elect a new Chief and council and Don is overseeing the community until the new leadership is in place. He has a monumental task and responsibility. We talked quite a bit about the needs of the community and some of the issues they face. We prayed together for strength for him to complete his role.

Then I went back to the church. VBS was just finishing up. After the children left, I met with the team and we prayed together. The team has some veterans that have been going to BTL for years and a couple of newbies. They are doing a great job and love being able to conduct the VBS and share Jesus' love and be in the community.

The rest of the week was spent making contact with the teams and communities that were coming up in the next few weeks to confirm arrangements and to take care of any details that need to be worked out.

The next week (July 20-24) was the beginning of “the big push” with multiple teams coming.  Since many of them are fly-in only communities, the weather would determine our flying direction and the day we visited the communities.

The first VBS of the week was at Norway House in Manitoba.   This actually is one of only 3 VBS communities that can be driven to.   However, the Lord smiled on us and brought in clearing weather so that we could fly into Norway House and meet with the VBS team. But as in life, things do not always go as planned.  The new Catholic church where the team was supposed to stay and conduct one of the VBS sessions had a water issue. However, Lawrence Moore, the pastor of the United Church where one of the teams holds their VBS opened up his church to the team. They did have to go to the school for showers, but they had a roof over their head and a nice kitchen area.  Lawrence also picked us up at the airport and took us to the church.

We spent time talking with the team and then getting ready for registration of the kids. The team actually divided into two teams and conducts another VBS on the other side of Norway House at the Anglican church. That way, they can reach more children in this spread out community. We stayed for the entire VBS and learned a new rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" that was a little bit of Blues and a little bit of Soul. It was pretty neat. It was also the first time the musical instrument to lead the singing was a saxophone!

It was neat to see children from the community who had going to the VBS now be old enough to be helpers. And then the kids recognized some of the returning team members from previous years. I got to make a lot of new friends on the team and with the children. I'm fortunate I didn't throw something out by trying to do the hula-hoop! I won't say how long it's been, but it's been awhile.

After VBS, I went over to the Band Office and met with a couple of the counselors since the Chief was at a business meeting. The community is very receptive to LAMP and the VBS teams. I went back to the church where the other team was starting to dribble in from the other church. Before some of them took off for a game of kick ball, we prayed together and then headed back to the airport for the trip home.

It amazes me to see the talent and love the team members have for the children and to see the children respond positively to learning about the love of Jesus. Please keep the teams in your prayers as the VBS's at Norway House continue throughout the week.

The next day, Tuesday July 21, took us to the community of Wapekeka, Ontario. This is the community where the school burned down in May. The school year has been extended and classes are meeting in the community center. That has affected the VBS attendance some, but there was good attendance and those present were having a great time. We arrived around 11:30 AM with the threat of rain. On the walk into town, one of the construction workers on the new replacement school picked us up and gave us a ride. We found the team just up the road from the church. We met with them and got a tour of the community. Then it was off to the Band office to meet the Chief and counselors who were present. Unfortunately, the Chief was out of the community. 

The kids filtered into the church and worked on a sheep face mask craft.  After that, we headed to the playground for some fun and a game of "freeze tag" (remember that game?).

The time came for Andrew and me to depart back to Thompson as the day was getting longer and we had a fuel stop to make at Island Lake. All-in-all, it was a good day and the kids enjoyed it as well.

Wednesday, July 23,  was a "two-for" day...Garden Hill and Shamattawa. We were trying to beat the weather that was forecast to arrive later in the afternoon in Thompson. 

We flew into Island Lake and walked over to hire a boat taxi. It's a short 8 minute ride to the docks at Garden Hill. We found the team at the elementary school teacher housing and spent some time getting to know each other. Then it was off to the school to set up for VBS.

The team was well organized and had the craft tables set up quickly. 

Then because of our flight schedule and weather, we prayed with the team and headed off to the Band office. I met a couple of the counselors since the Chief wasn't there. I talked about the needs of the community and they desire to have Bible study materials. 

So that will go in my bucket of things to help them with. We happened to catch a waiting boat taxi and got back to the airport. Then it was off to  Shamattawa.

We arrived at the airport and took the short walk into the community.  We found the team in mid-VBS mode. They were outside with drinks and snacks. They saw "the red airplane" fly over before we landed. It was a fun time listening to Lloyd play songs on his guitar.

The kids were finishing up snack time and started doing crafts, one of which was decorating an airplane silhouette by using a scribe to remove the black coating. Underneath colors appeared. I did one to show the kids and then did a half-dozen more for the kids. They were all fascinated with my bald head!

The team then passed out New Testaments and crosses to the kids after I explained who I was, what I did, and what LAMP was about. The team posed for a picture after we prayed together. Then Dave Schneeberger, the team leader walked with us over to the Band office.  We got to meet the Chief who was very supportive of LAMP.  We prayed with him and then took another  short walk to the airport.  We were soon airborne back to Thompson where the weather was still good thanks to a front that moved north instead of east. So in one day, we covered two communities over a distance of 570+ miles in a day...a day of blessings and awe witnessing the teams serving the Lord's people.

The next week was going to be the biggest challenge of the summer… 5 VBS teams stretching from as far north as Tadoule Lake to as far south as Cat Lake, Ontario.   Looking at the weekly forecast meant we needed to get an early start.

With a plan in place based on the weather forecast (which is in a constant state of flux) we headed out early on Sunday morning, July 26,  to arrive at Cat Lake before the 11 AM worship service at one of the churches. We landed with 20 minutes to spare and walked into the community. Along the way, Chantal Wesley found us and gave us a ride to the church. The team had their Pastor, Dave Seabaugh, with them who conducted the informal worship along with team members who provided the music. Several members of the community and their families were in attendance as well. It was really nice to be present. Afterwards a number of the people who were friends with the team stayed and talked with them, some of them sharing their struggles. It was truly ministry in action.

Afterwards, we went with the team over to their housing and had lunch with them. Then it was time to haul all the VBS supplies over to the Anglican Church where the VBS would be held. Chantal again provided the transportation with her truck. After delivering the supplies, we walked across the street from the church to where a large dock and beach were located. A number of the kids from the community were swimming and hanging out. They all got invites to attend the VBS that would begin the next day. We walked back to the house and then headed to the ball field where a community softball tournament was taking place. Again, the team was greeted and reunited with people they had connected with in the past.

One of the struggles of Cat Lake is housing.  There is a shortage and therefore several homes were under construction.  Unfortunately, the warehouse that stored all the building supplies burned to the ground the beginning of July.  The good news is that insurance covered the loss.  The bad news is that replacement supplies can't be brought in until the winter road season opens.  So many of the homes under construction will sit like that until the spring.  Families will have to wait another year for their homes to be completed.  That is just one of the issues these remote communities face.

The day went be really quickly. We prayed with the team and then got ready to head back to the airport. Several team members walked with us to the airport so they could see the LAMP airplane up close and personal.

The distance to fly all the way back to Thompson and then return the next day to Ontario, plus the weather forecast made doing an overnight in Red Lake, Ontario the best option. We said Good Bye and headed south toward Red Lake. After fueling up the Lance, the shuttle from the hotel arrived. We grabbed dinner at the restaurant next to the hotel and then called it a night. It was a great start to the week with the team already ministering to the community beside the VBS. And that’s what it’s all about!

On Monday, July 27, we were going to do another “two-fer”—Wunnumin  Lake and Kingfisher Lake, Ontario.

Andrew and I were up early, grabbed breakfast and were back at Red Lake airport for an 8:30 AM departure. We arrived at Wunnumin Lake an hour and a half later and started our long walk into the community from the airport. Thankfully, one of the members of the community saw us and gave us a ride to the church where the team was staying and conducting their VBS.

They were making due with their accommodations that were somewhat challenging.  The basement of the church where they were staying was also where VBS would be held. There were also some water issues at the church which meant the team had to go to a store 5 minutes away to get water in containers. There was also going to be a wedding at the church on Tuesday. So they were going to do that day outside at a different location. The team was the epitome of being flexible and kept the focus on their mission of sharing the Gospel of Jesus with the children of Wunnumin Lake.

We had lunch with the team and then walked to the Band office to see if we could connect with Chief Rod. Unfortunately, he and the council were in a conference and were unavailable. We headed back to the church where VBS was getting started. We said our good-byes and headed back to the airport. Again, a member of the community stopped and gave us a ride. It’s amazing that people just stop without being flagged down. They see someone in need and stop to help. You don’t see that often back at home. We were grateful for the ride, especially since it was one of the hottest days here so far with bright sun and 30 degrees C (86 F).   Then it was off to Kingfisher Lake.

It’s a brief 25 minute flight from Wunnumin Lake west to Kingfisher Lake. When we landed, one of the members of the community asked if we were with the VBS. He got another person to take us to the community center where the VBS team was staying. Again, the local hospitality is awesome! By the time we arrived at the community center, the VBS had ended. But the team was glad to see us and share with us how things were going. 

We were not there long when a few of the adolescent boys came by and coerced Adam and Ben to go swimming with them. It was fun to hear the stories of what their families were doing and to see the interaction of the individual team members. It was obvious they enjoyed each other’s company. The guys returned from swimming and supper was almost ready. We were invited to stay and eat with the team. Afterwards, a couple of the young boys poked their nose in the door while we were having dessert—a peach cobbler that was a simple recipe. The boys tried some of it. Not all were fans of it, especially the crusty cake part (which I love!).

The day was slipping by and we needed to get back to the airport to head home since we had to make a refueling stop on the way back to Thompson. We prayed together and then Ruth (Bishop Lydia’s sister) gave us a ride back to the airport. She has a heart of gold and was a pleasure to meet. We got airborne and made our fuel stop at Island Lake. Then it was back to Thompson with us landing around 10 PM. It was still incredibly light out.

We dropped off the Lance at “Wings Over Kississing” where I had made arrangements for the 50 hour oil change, landing light replacement, and propeller dressing (filing the dings out of the leading edge from the gravel). Then it was back to the RV and hitting the hay to get our rest before the next day’s drive to Cross Lake, Manitoba. It was yet another day where it was evident the Lord is working through the teams in the communities demonstrating Jesus’ love and care.

Tuesday, July 28 we headed to Cross Lake, Manitoba.  We didn’t have an airplane today, but that was part of the plan. The weather was going to be stormy and this is one of 3 communities that has access by road. We headed out of Thompson for the 2-1/2 hour drive. It didn’t go to badly for the first half. But the second half was on gravel roads that were wet and muddy. We got to Cross Lake around 11 AM. Unfortunately, Google Maps wasn’t too helpful in directing us toward the school. Not only that, the traffic was jammed, especially by the Band office because of the “Indian Days” festival that week. We somehow managed to find Father Guru’s house. He got into his vehicle and led us over to the school. By that time, the rain was coming down in buckets.

After running into the school and getting drenched, we met the team and had arrived in time for “brunch.” We were introduced and I got to thank them all for the wonderful work that they do in the community. Andrew and I even got a team T-shirt! After brunch, it was time for everyone to disperse in the large school which was a blessing with the weather outside. Beside the VBS for the kids, they had a mother’s tea earlier in the morning before our arrival and were offering a teen Bible study simultaneously with the VBS. This is a large team of some 34 people reaching up to 300 children in the week. From observing things, everything was running like a fine oiled machine. 

The opening and closing music was well done with a host of team members playing instruments and singing. The rotations included the Bible story for the day, craft, and games. I was able to sit in on all the sections including the teen Bible study that had a turnout of more than a couple dozen youth that were divided up into 3 different groups. During my wanderings, I was also able to spend time with individual team members and answer their questions about LAMP and my part in the ministry.

I also spent some time with the two team “chefs” who fed this huge crew every day. “B.J” and Paul not only shared with me some of the insights of the community including some of the struggles and theological challenges that are there. Of course, being a “foodie” myself, we talked about recipes and cooking methods and styles. The school had a great kitchen and cafeteria for them to work in.

The day flew by (no pun intended) and supper time arrived. Dion Halcrow and his family were there. Dion is the main contact in the community and has a great relationship with the team. It was good to see him again and I got hugs from both Dion and his wife Zelena. Dion had also brought some smoked white fish to share with the team. Yum!

Time was running out and we needed to hit the road back to Thompson. Before we left, everyone gathered for a group picture. And then one of the team members prayed for us. After that, Dion prayed also in Cree to bless us on our way.

It decided to pour in buckets as we got in the vehicle to head back to Thompson. It rained off and on and we made it back to the RV around 10 PM. It was another long day, but well worth the effort. It was the end of another awe inspiring day of seeing God at work through His Word and Spirit in His people.

Wednesday, July 29 left us with the lovely front that dumped rain on us the day before and was then over Thompson. So we used this day to rest up from the previous 3 days of being on the constant go and the long hours. We were looking forward to making it north to Tadoule Lake…weather, of course, being the critical factor once again. We kept a watch on it through the Canadian weather and Aviation weather websites. It wasn’t going to be perfect, but definitely possible.

Thursday, July 29, we got up and going and did a final check of the weather at Tadoule Lake, Manitoba.  . Things were a “go” and I filed our flight plan. We took off around 9:30 AM for the 1-1/2 hour flight almost straight north. Tadoule Lake is located just south of the 59th parallel. So it is UP NORTH! And we’re still in Manitoba!

After landing at the airport, we took the 15 minute walk the into the community. We went by the Band office to find the directions to the where the team was staying. Unfortunately Samantha Powderhorn who was our main contact had to leave for medical treatment for the week. Taking a short-cut, we found the teacher housing units and the one the team was in. The team is actually one family—the Leinonen’s from the U.P. of Michigan. They were excited that we made it. They were just finishing up lunch and preparing to head to the church for the VBS.

As we walked to the church, some of the children and adults recognized the team and greeted them with hugs. By the time we got to the church, there were already a half dozen children waiting for us. With the doors to the church opened, the children started to trickle in. VBS started with singing songs and a prayer. 

Then there was “quiz time” that asked questions related to each of the stories for the week of VBS with prizes given out for the correct answers. Of course, everyone got an answer…and a prize. Story time followed and then came Andrew’s favorite part of VBS. You guessed it. Craft time! 

This turned out to be the highlight of the day. While all of us were helping some of the younger children with their “wind chime” craft, I heard 3 adolescent girls off to the side working on their craft break into singing “Jesus Loves Me”! All on their own! It was the Lord’s little gift to us that the work of the team is taking root in all those young lives!

I took a hiatus to go up the hill to the band office. Unfortunately, Chief Ernie and Jimmy Clipping (one of the counselors) were gone for the day. So I headed back to the church for the end of VBS and just in time for games. The one that was the most fun started with everyong standing in a circle holding hands. One person put their arm through a large loop of string. The goal was to keep holding hand while working this loop around everyone in the circle! It was quite entertaining seeing the gyrations some of the kids went through to get it past them to the next person.

Before we knew it the day of VBS came to an end. It was the last day of VBS as the Tadoule team started on Sunday. We helped in cleaning up the church since they were also doing a devotional service at the church that evening. We prayed together before walking to the airport for the flight home. As is so often the case, the Lord works through the team to bring the Good News of Jesus to a community where it is growing among the children and will bear fruit.

It has been an amazing and inspiring month.  To see all of the teams in action sharing the Gospel of Jesus with hundreds of children along with the care and compassion they exhibited was watching the Holy Spirit at work among his people.  As it comes to an end and the last few weeks of the VBS season are upon me, I am reminded that it is God who is doing the work.  We are just tools in his hands.  The passage from 1 Corinthians 3:7–9 is a reminder to us of this.  “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”