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, August 1, 2016

Garden Hill, Cat Lake, and Red Sucker Lake

The summer schedule continues to march on, sometime at a pace that seems quicker than one can imagine.  It would be nice to be able to put things in  s... l... o... w...   m...o...t...i...o...n  every now and then.  It would also be nice if all the plans that get put into place would stay put.  But that is not always the case.

The visit to the Garden Hill team is one such case.  I decided to fly in and meet the team at the Island Lake airport when they flew in from Winnipeg.   The reason for that was sometime arrangements for transportation of the team from the airport to the community and the final accommodations can change without much notice.  People in the communities have obligations and sudden changes to their schedules just like each of us.   School buildings and teacher houses have to be renovated over the summer.  Plan A" is made but then plan "B" ends up going into effect.   The pastor who usually is in the community could not be there because he was scheduled for a class at a seminary in Vancouver.  So I wanted to meet the team and be with them to make sure that their transportation and accommodations were lined up.

We arrived at Island Lake airport early enough so that Andrew and I could add a section to the fuel hose and a new fuel nozzle.  The airport added lighting to the ramp area but it meant we can't pull up as close to the fuel tank as before.  Hence the extra length of hose.  The old fuel nozzle was leaking requiring a replacement.  With that work done and the plane refueled, we walked to the terminal with 15 minutes to spare before their flight arrived at 12:15 PM.   That would give us plenty of time to get the team over to Garden Hill, settled in, and leave to beat the bad weather forecast to move into Red Lake later that afternoon.  That was Plan "A".

I checked with the airline agent at the counter and was informed that all their flights had been delayed due to storms in Winnipeg.  Their flight wasn't due in until 2:10 PM.   I could smell Plan "B' going into effect.   I made a call over to Garden Hill to Karen Flett who had been contacted to help transport the team from the boat landing to their accommodations.  I let her know that the flight was late.  She asked me to give her a call when we were at the boat landing at the airport and then she would meet us at the boat dock in Garden Hill with her pickup truck.  Yeah.  You get from the airport to the community in a "water taxi".   They are your typical fishing boat with an outboard motor.  It's about a 5-7 minute ride and quite picturesque.

The team's flight arrived about 2:20 PM.  I met everyone in the terminal with handshakes and hugs.  We gathered outside to see a Kubota tractor connected to 4 carts stacked full of luggage including the VBS team's belongings.  The tractor pulled the cart train from the terminal parking lot to the boat landing where a half-dozen boats with outboard motors awaited to take people to Garden Hill.  Since the team had so much, we elected to wait until the other passengers where delivered since it was going to take at least 4 boats to transport the team and their stuff.

The Garden Hill team and "just a few items" to transport.
The empty boats started their return to the dock and we loaded people and supplies up for the trip across the bay.  I was in the first boat so I could meet Karen at the dock.  She was waiting patiently with her pickup truck.  We put the first load of baggage and totes in followed by the second boat.  By now it was closing in on 3:30 PM.   The weather from the southwest that delayed the team was also closing in as well.  The third boat arrived along with drops of rain.  I decided it was time to call flight service, get a quick weather briefing, file a flight plan, and leave ASAP to avoid the heavy weather.

So as the last boat arrived with Andrew in it, I told him, "Stay put.  We're heading back."  I said goodbye to the team who understood our predicament.  So Andrew got a nice boat ride for the day!

Back at the airport, we did our preflight, got our clearance, and flew back to Red Lake.  I did have to fly around some visible areas of heavy precipitation, but be got to Red Lake without difficulty and landed with a large pocket of good visibility and high cloud ceilings.  It wasn't the ideal trip I had in mind, but it's all part and parcel of doing the work of team and community support. 

With Monday being a down day for the front to pass, we were back at it on Tuesday, July 25th heading up to Cat Lake.  This team really has a heart for this community and others evidenced by a prayer vigil they held for the communities in the midst of the suicide epidemic a month earlier.  We arrived there bringing with us a bag full of a half-dozen quilts brought north by the Norway House team for us to distribute in communities.

This would be Day 1 of their VBS week.  We arrived early enough to help with the set up of the church.  The team has everything planned out using the small Pentecostal church since there was going to be a funeral at the Anglican church they normally would use.  After we got things ready, we had a hearty lunch and then headed back to the church ready for the children to arrive.

As the children registered, they would come into the church and be met by Jeff who was taking prayer requests.  Those were all put in a can for the team to pray for after VBS. 

Jeff taking prayer request from the children.
 A small room off the side at the back of the church was converted into a preschool age classroom.  This would help separate the activities from the larger kids and allow Lynne to have a less disturbed environment for the lessons and crafts.  As the children arrived, they were occupied with Lego blocks and coloring sheets.

The older children were divided up into three groups which were more manageable.  They rotated between craft, lesson, and game time.  The team started off VBS with everyone together to sing their repertoire of old songs the kids knew along with some new ones.

I'm always fascinated at how each team finds innovative ways to teach the lesson.  There's the story that's told first (The 3 Men in the Fiery Furnace).  Then each of the three men, "Shadrack", "Meshack", and "Abednego" were interviewed about their experience.

Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego being interviewed

Lynne teaching the lesson to some pretty active preschoolers using a felt board.
The lesson was done outside along the side of the church building.  Jeff covered the story and then asked questions to reinforce the meaning for the kids.

The preschoolers had a blast with the bubbles for their recreation time.  It was a windy day which made bubble blowing that much more interesting.

The older kids went down to the playground area for their game time.

Anna, Liz, and Pastor David worked with the children to make their angel craft.  It represented the angel that the Lord sent to protect the three men in the furnace.

The day went by very quickly.  After VBS was over and the kids disbursed,  the team spent some time at the church debriefing so they could make whatever adjustments to their program the next day.   We also talked about other ways they could minister to the community, including protocol for attending the funeral that week to support the family.   Then we all headed back to their apartment to relax before dinner.
The Cat Lake Team from Bethel Lutheran Church. (The dogs are not included!)
Afterwards, a number of the team (i.e. the "athletic" members) headed out to play ball with some of the kids.  We gathered for prayer asking that the Lord would bless their efforts in the community.  Andrew and I walked back to the airport to fly back to Red Lake.  Each year, the team develops more and deeper relationships to the community and individuals there.  Through social media, email, and messaging, they remain in contact and are able to pray for their specific needs and offer encouragement until they return the next summer.  That is Christ care for Cat Lake!

Another day...another weather front.  So on the 27th we were able to make it up to Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba.  This team has a core of John and Sue Folger who have been going north with VBS teams for years...like decade years!  Their connection to the people is strong and deep.  They even have made trips there over the winter road (i.e. Ice Road Truckers).

We got there and were met by Rev. Susan Evans.  I had done some grocery shopping for her and her brother, Gordon Disbrowe, who I got to know in my brief time with LAMP.  Instead of being reimbursed with money, I got a bunch of fresh frozen Pickerel!   Susan took us to the team apartment and we met the returning team members and the "newbies" who were just as excited to be there.

After lunch, we hauled the totes with VBS supplies over to the school gym.  As the children arrived a coloring sheet with the day's lesson were on the tables with markers.  The story for this team was also about the three men in the fiery furnace.  So as the children colored, the team members and I would explain the story.

A couple of the guys acting silly.
After most of the children were registered, the team got the gym rocking with a few VBS songs.

The team next did a story and a skit of the Bible story with Meshack, Shadrack, Abednego, and an angle who was dressed up as super hero to rescue the three men.   There was "fire" and everything to dramatize the account. 

The Angel (On the left) protects the 3 men from the "fiery" furnace.

A puppet skit followed to reinforce the lesson of the day.  The children really were engaged and enjoyed the different ways the team presented the Biblical account.

Then it was on to craft time.  The craft involved making a "fiery furnace" out of paper plates and then gluing a backdrop of the 3 men with the angel on it.  Colored markers brought the diorama to life!

Afterwards, the children lined up for recreation time, receiving a snack on the way out of the gym.  The VBS went by very quickly with great attendance.   The team posted examples of each of the crafts on one of the gym walls depicting Jesus as our Superhero, which was the theme of this year's LAMP VBS.

Of course, I had to get a team picture before the end of the day and heading back to the teacher apartment.  We had two women from the community along with 3 Mennonites who were visiting helping the VBS team.  It was quite a group that worked well together.

As the team debriefed and decompressed for the day, dinner was being prepared (beef tacos).  I diced up onions and tomatoes to help with the process.  It was a great time and a joy to see how attentive the team is to the children and the adults they know in the community.   I would love to stay longer, but our daylight was running out and we needed to head back to Red Lake.

Once again, God's love was demonstrated to the children and the communities of Garden Hill, Cat Lake, and  Red Sucker Lake through the team's compassion, dedication and care.   None of this would be possible if it weren't for the prayers and support each team receives from individuals and their church families, not to mention their own commitment to the ministry.

As the summer season progresses toward the last couple of weeks, the passage from Romans 12:5-8 is a reminder of the gifts the VBS teams use as they minister to the communities they serve;  "...so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

Until the next time...

God bless!


Shamattawa, Norway House, and Wapekeka

Week three of the LAMP VBS season is in the books for me as three teams came up from "south of the border" to conduct VBS in the communities they so graciously and willingly volunteer to serve.  This is also the first of four weeks in a row where three or more teams will be bringing the Good News of Jesus to the children of these communities.

This week of July 18 had a team that splits and goes to two communities in the same week.  A small group flies into Shamattawa and a larger group drives into Norway House, Manitoba.   The first visit of the week was to Shamattawa on July 18th.  If you've been following my blog, Dave Schneeberger, the team leader for Shamattawa, and I traveled there in mid-April for a visit to check on how the community was doing amidst the suicide crisis in First Nations communities this past spring.  So it would be interesting to see how many of the kids remembered me.

This would also be one of the longest trips for me to make by air requiring a fuel stop at Island Lake, Manitoba where LAMP keeps it's fuel stock...and it would be my first "solo" trip all by my lonesome.   After my arrival, I walked over by the old school and found  the team at their teacher housing unit.  One hiccup was that the old school building wasn't available.  So they were doing VBS outside behind the teacher housing.  Thankfully, they had nice sunny weather and would not be deterred.

We carried the totes with the VBS supplies to where VBS would be held.  Children had already started to gather.  Jessica was immediately busy with registration as the children linked up...

While standing in line, Dave asked the kids if they remembered me.  They looked at me with a quizzical look.  But as soon as I took my wide brim "cowboy" hat off, the recognition set in.   One of the girls said, "It's Mr. Clean!"  Then a lot of the children realized who I was.  How hilarious is that!

While registration was going on, Leon already started playing his guitar singing VBS songs with the children...

Leon entertaining the children with his playing and singing
After most of the children were registered (there are always a few stragglers) Leon and the team led the children in a couple of VBS songs.  Then Dave and I passed out Arch Books the team had brought with the Bible story of the woman at the well from John 4.   Lori led the Bible story page-by-page as the children followed along in their books.  It was a fairly attentive group.

Lori leading the lesson for the day
Dave helping one of the children follow the Bible story in her book
When the Bible story was over, it was time for a craft.  The team brought white cardboard crosses that had a peel-off side that was sticky.  The children then proceeded to scour the woods to find whatever they wanted to put on their crosses...sticks, wild berries, tree leaves, flower pedals.  You name it.  Some of them were quite creative.

The children looking for items to put on their crosses.
If you remember back in April, I had a little girl who walked with me from the school back to the teacher housing unit.  Well...little Mylee recognized me and came right over to give me a hug.

Mylee recognized me right away from my spring visit!

She had to come over and show me how she had decorated her cross.  She was so proud of it!

Mylee and her cross!
All the children had a really good time finding different natural materials to decorate their crosses.  It was neat to relate how God's creation provided what they needed, just like Jesus provided what we need through His death on the cross.  All the children gathered together so we could take a picture of all the crosses they had made.

Next was a really creative puppet show to reinforce the Bible story for the day.  The woman at the well was interviewed and asked all sorts of questions (all related to her encounter with Jesus).  

You couldn't have VBS without snack time...

Dave madly pouring juice to keep up with the demand!
 There was one final activity for the day...craft #2.  This one involved another cross.  They were coated with a thin layer of black wax.  Then you would scrape off the wax with a pencil or stick and it would leave a multiple colored line.  The kids were making designs and some of them scraped all the wax off so their cross was completely colorful.  It is a reminder that on the cross Jesus took the darkness of our sin upon Himself and away from us.

Children removing the black wax from their crosses.
There were also sheets to color too.
Slowly but surely, the children finished up their crafts and headed home.  The team policed up the area, packed all the VBS supplies back into the totes, and we carried them back to the teacher house.  Then it was time to unwind and relax a little before the next wave of kids came back later in the day to hang out.  They are doing a phenomenal job once again of taking the Good News of Jesus to the children and families of Shamattawa.

Team members Dave, Leon, Jessica, and Lori.
It was time for me to depart since I needed to stop in Island Lake to refuel on my way back to Red Lake.  The team decided to have a photo-op with the LAMP airplane.

After sweeping the gravel away from the ground under the propeller and doing the preflight, it was time to start the engine and take to the skies.  I don't think I have seen a day like today in all my flying in Canada.  It was crystal clear throughout northeastern Manitoba to southwest Ontario.  It's a gorgeous view that certainly demonstrates the breath and width of God's creation. 

The Lord blessed me with a safe, uneventful trip back and a restful night's sleep so I would be ready for my next visit the next day at Norway House.

I awoke July 19th to a mix of sun and clouds.  A call to Flight Service revealed an area of severe weather that developed quickly after the forecast has been released an hour earlier.  I would have to do some skirting around it, but it ended up not being a problem at all.  One of the more interesting aspects of this trip was that Andrew and Dave were flying in from Flin Flon, Manitoba to meet me.  Andrew was going to be back with me and retired LAMP Pastor/Pilot, Bill Ney, was coming out to spend a couple of weeks with Dave Smith, our new missionary pilot.

The first time in three years both LAMP aircraft were at the same airport in the mission field.
After we did the person swap, we were met by Myron from the team who took us to the church where one of three VBS's were taking place.  Yes.  You read that correctly.   Norway House is a large spread out drive-in community that does three simultaneous VBS's at three different churches.  It's quite an impressive operation considering the logistics.

The VBS team  group I hung out with was at Rev. Lawrence Moore's church.  It's where I was last year and where the team stayed last year for their accommodations.  The kids started streaming in to registration and then to one of the fellowship halls for pre-VBS coloring sheets.  When It was time to open, we herded them into the church.

During the opening, the team had a playlist of songs they were teaching the kids.  Then they introduced me as a guest.  Well, they knew they were taking a chance with letting me talk...and lead a couple of songs.  We did "Alleluia, Praise Ye the Lord" Pastor Dennis style.  One side sang the "Allelu" part and the other side sang, "Praise ye the Lord."  They could only stand when they sang.  It got the kids involved and was a lot of fun.  Then it was time for my signature VBS song, "the Little Red Box" which we did a few times.  Song and music are such a great way to teach the children about Jesus.

After opening, the kids were divided up into three groups to rotate through the Bible lesson of the day, craft, and play time.  I followed the "blue" crew.

The team had put together a nice Powerpoint for the day's lesson on the "Woman at the Well."  It also included a skit in which some of the kids participated.  It really engaged the kids and taught them that Jesus does care for them and offers eternal life no matter who you are or where you came from.

Then it was outside for activities.  The team brought plenty of things to do... baseball mitts, softballs, sidewalk chalk, coin toss games, rubber balls, and hulu hoops!

Then I got involved with a group playing kickball.  Needless to say, I got my exercise for the day!

Myron reaches and catches a direct kick!

Then there are the people I met from the community last year who were back to help with VBS.  Vanessa was there and had to show me the picture she took of me last year!  Some of the kids remembered me as well.  It's so great to make these connections.  The relationships that the teams build with the children and community are priceless and allow them to share their faith in Christ with them all, quite often on a personal one-on-one level.  It was definitely on display at Norway House!

My buddy Vanessa!

I helped with the snack which was the last VBS activity before the kids went home.  I had one of the older kids help me pour 120 cups of Kool-Aid!

Afterwards, I was able to spend some time talking with Lawrence Moore about ministry and some of the challenges the community and he faces.  In some ways, it's not much different than in our own communities.  The influences of the outside world, especially internet access and social media can make it difficult to get people to focus on their faith.  I prayed with Lawrence before leaving to head back to the airport for the flight home to Red Lake.   We wanted to stay longer to meet with the rest of the team, but a weather front was moving in and we needed to get back to Red Lake before it arrived.

The next day was a "down" day due to weather.  It was supposed to clear up within 24 hours but as in all things weather related, it was wait and see.

The morning of July 21st provided descent weather for us to fly up to the third VBS for that week at Wapekeka.  This is a team in which part of them from Big Trout Lake spend a second week and go to "Wap" as it's sometimes called.  There is a road between the two communities that makes transportation of the team and supplies easier, especially since there are no direct flights between Big Trout and Wap.

It's a bit of a walk from the airport to the community.  We were blessed with a ride half-way up the road.  We arrived at the house where the team has previously stayed in last year.   The door was locked, but this sign was on the door with the schedule.  It helps the team have some time to themselves, to rest, and it gives the children some structure to the week.

So we hung around since no one was there until someone arrived.  It is only a block from the church and almost within eyesight of it.  Unfortunately, while waiting a ginormous thunderstorm moved in.  We were able to get some protection standing on the downwind side of the house.  As the rain poured down and thunder boomed, the wind suddenly picked up and then we heard a crack, followed by a crash as an old dead pine tree toppled in the storm...miraculously missing the power lines!

I bet you can think of an account in the Bible having to do with a storm that could be apropos here.  After 20 minutes or so, the storm passed and the sun came out.   Around that time the team arrived at the church.  We found out that they were given a teacher house across from the new school that was constructed since last summer to replace the one that burned down.  One of the drawbacks teams face is that not all communities have easy access to the internet or mobile phone service.   The important part was that we connected!

Slowly but surely the children started to arrive amidst the rain puddles.  It was a smaller turnout that day than the previous ones, but the children were excited and ready for VBS.  Singing, craft time, and the Bible story took up their time.  Recreation was tabled for the day with a little bit later start and copious amounts of large puddles around.

The children worked on their crafts with help from the team
The children really got into the motions of the VBS songs!

I was able to spend time talking individually with the two team leaders, Kari Lewis and Jeanne Johnson as time allowed.  It's an important part of the process not only to find out how the VBS is going, but how they are faring individually.   It's not only the communities that need support from the missionary, but the team members as well.

As can happen in communities, schedules become fluid (no pun intended on this day).  The kids were to gather at the "old" house but plumbers from the community were working on the water supply to the house.  So we headed down the road a few blocks to the playground.

It would have been nice to stay longer with the team and children, but the skies in the direction of our flight were looking less friendly, and quickly.  So we said our farewells and started our walk back to the airport.  We made it about a third of the way when the rain started.  Thankfully, we got another ride from a couple of guys from the community who saw our plight and had mercy on us.

As we arrived at the airport, the sun was coming out in between the random thunderstorms.  Andrew filed the flight plan and I did the preflight on the airplane.  With our duties complete, we got on board and flew back to Red Lake without any weather issues.  The Lord was, as always, good to us.

Looking back on this week, I witnessed again the willingness, compassion, and gifts each of the team members shares with the children, along with their faith.  A Scripture that speaks words better than I could about these teams is from Philemon 4-7;  "I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints."

Please keep the teams that are traveling to and from communities over the next few weeks in your prayers along with their work of taking the Good New of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Until the next time...