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)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Summer Start - LWML Convention in Dryden, Ontario

Hitting the road to head north again brings a whole host of emotions.  The excitement of visiting my friends in the communities--the soon to be arriving VBS teams--flying across this beautiful landscape of northern Canada.  But it also brings apprehension.  Leaving family behind--concerns about their safety and well being--the long drive ahead--new accommodations yet unknown.

Yet we have a God who is able to take our cares and worries upon Himself to give us peace and confidence in serving him.  That's what 1 Peter 5:7 says; "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

My road trip took me through central and northern Illinois where I met a dear friend and LAMP supporter for lunch.  Then it was up through the middle of Wisconsin where I spent the night in Chippewa Falls.  The next day it was up to northern Wisconsin into Minnesota, a drive and part of the country I have never been through before.  I arrived in Superior, Wisconsin and crossed the harbor bridge into Duluth.  It reminds me of the harbor towns and cities in Michigan.  It was quite picturisque and made me miss living on one of the Great Lakes.  (I lived in Cheboygan, Michigan for a couple of years)

A freighter anchored in Superior, Wisconsin

Entering Duluth

A view of Lake Superior from the channel bridge.

After a brief lunch and shopping trip, I headed up US 53 toward International Falls where I crossed the border into Canada at Fort Frances.  It took longer to get across than expected due to the large number of guys heading north to go fishing and people in RV's.  They were from Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and of course, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  When it was finally my turn, I got my visa stamp in 5 minutes and was on my way.  About 20 miles out of Fort Frances, I got on the road to Dryden.   It was only 100 miles but took a little over 2 hours.  It was quite a curvy and hilly road with an 80km (50 MPH) speed limit.  Parts of the road were gravel for several miles too for surface repair.  The upshot was the scenery was beautiful (...and NO cell service too).

Dryden is on the way to Red Lake, but I would be spending the weekend with the ladies from the Lutheran Women's Missionary League--Canada (LWML-C), central district.  I got to the hotel and convention center and it was a buzz with ladies arriving from all over Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchwan. A good number of them came by bus.  I found and met Arlene Kish who is the president of the central district.  She was a very busy person with all the logistics, etc. required for a gathering of 120 plus people.

The ladies gathering before the trip to Our Savior for dinner and evening worship

I was going to be a speaker to the group during breakout sessions to present the ministry of LAMP and to update them on all the things I've been doing and the expanding role of LAMP.   The reason for doing this was due to two grants LAMP had received at their last convention--$12,500 to support a pastor/pilot (that's me) and another grant for the same amount that was used to help refurbish LAMP's Piper Lance airplane.

I received a warm welcome from everyone I met.  There's something special about the mission heart the ladies of the LWML have.  Their support of missionary work at home and abroad is truly inspiring.

Friday morning, I had set up a display with information and materials about LAMP including a drawing for the ladies to get an airplane ride in the LAMP Piper Lance.   They would get to see their mission dollars first-hand at work.   The drawing was for 9 ladies who would go flying in groups of 3.   We did the drawing at the dinner that was served by the host church in Dryden, Our Savior Lutheran Church.  We had a choice of chicken or Pickerel.  You can probably guess what I had.  Dessert was a northern delicacy of "Moose Balls," a round fried and glazed sweet dough with a toasted and carmalized wild rice topping. 

The dinner line for Chicken, Pickerel, and "moose balls".

Needless to say, all of the ladies whose names were drawn were excited.  Andrew Anstey, LAMP's aviation director,  flew the plane down from Flin Flon Friday afternoon where he had been with our other missionary pilot, Dave Smith.  The weather had been bad enough that Andrew couldn't drop Dave off at Winnipeg for his flight home.  So they came straight to Dryden.  The forecast wasn't great for Saturday early morning, but it was out of our hands and we would have to wait and see.

Saturday morning came and the weather people were wrong.  Imagine that!  The weather was  better than forecast with light winds and high overcast skies.  That meant smooth flying!  Andrew and I did a "divide and conquer" for this event.  He flew the plane while I shuttled the ladies back and forth from the airport in groups of 3.  It gave me time to chat with them about LAMP and answer their questions, especially about flying.

One of many photo ops by the LAMP airplane

After a couple of hours and lots of photos, we were all back at the hotel.  The ladies who had gone on the flight were showing their pictures they took to everyone they met.   They really appreciated the opportunity to go up and it was a way that we at LAMP could say, "Thank You" to them for their support.

That afternoon, we headed to the church for the afternoon sessions.  I had 3 back-to-back presentations about LAMP--all of them were packed to standing room only.   The women asked a lot of good questions about how to meet some of the needs of the people in these remote areas.  Some of those questions LAMP is already beginning to address (e.g. Parenting and Grief workshops). 

Overall, it was a great afternoon and I lost count of how many women thanked me for what I'm doing and for the work of LAMP.  I said, "It's not me.  It's you too!"  The Lord doing it through all of us.

On side bar is the decorations that were on the tables throughout the convention.  All of them were homemade including Inukshuks (you can read more about them here .   It went with the convention theme, "Christ Alone Is Our Rock".   One decoration that I thought was really clever was the evergreen trees.  They used green paper with hymns printed on them and cut to shape to form the tree.   I thought it would be neat to do them with green and red paper with Christmas carols printed on them and cut in the shape of stars for Christmas decorations.   Anyway... I digress.

One of the ladies was instrumental in the behind the scenes support and organization was Norma Kiiskila.   She was a bundle of energy and fun.  She dressed up as Einstein with hair, glasses, nose, lab coat...the whole shebang!  She got all the meals at the church organized and tirelessly kept everyone in line (including me!).

Norma (AKA "Einstein" with me

Sunday brought everyone together for worship at the church.  Afterwards was a great lunch of sandwiches and iced bottle water for the travelers.   Andrew was going to fly the airplane to Red Lake, but the weather was quite stormy.  In fact, as I approached Vermillion Bay where the turn for road to Red Lake was, I spied a dark rotating cloud in front of me.  Yup!  It was a funnel cloud!

I thought funnel clouds and tornadoes were a midwest US thing!!!

It never touched the ground, but it certainly kept my attention until I knew I was clear.  The stormy weather continued on the road to Red Lake as well.   About 10 miles south of Red Lake, this rotation cloud formation came into view...

Another rotating cloud mass threatening to drop a funnel

I didn't waste any time in getting past this rotating mass.  The other sightings were more Moose related than weather related.  A bull moose standing 25 feet off the road is really BIG!  Thankfully there were no threatening encounters with the two I saw.

I rolled into Red Lake around 6 PM and checked into the place Andrew and I are using for our accommodations for June.  Then it was grab a bite to eat and relax.

A view of the harbor at Red Lake from the south.

A view of the harbor from the park on the north side

For the next 11 days, we'll be visiting a number of communities to support them in their needs.  Some of them are continuing.  Others occurred after arriving in Red Lake.   With that being said, I would ask you to pray for the following needs....

* For the community of Cross Lake, Manitoba which is recovering from the suicide epidemic.
* For the community of Cat Lake who suffered the tragic death of a young girl Desiree Turtle.
* For the community of Muskrat Dam that is going through leadership challenges.
* For Andrew who has been under the weather the past few days.
* For safe flying over the next week and a half.
* That the weather would cooperate so that we would get to the communities we need to.
* Thanks for safe travel for Andrew and me to Dryden and Red Lake.
* Thanks for the ladies of the LWML-C central district and their commitment to mission work.
* Thanks that we have a gracious God who shows us his mercy and love every day.

God's Word encourages us in our service to his kingdom from Philippians 4:4-7 which says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God Bless.