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, September 27, 2016

Cross Lake, Little Grand Rapids, Wunnumin Lake, and Muskrat Dam

It's hard to describe the time slipping away so quickly on the last 4 weeks of the VBS season, let alone how it got to be the end of September.  It must be what a Navy pilot experiences when taking off from an aircraft carrier--a catapult launch going from 0 to 165 MPH in 2 seconds!   It's over in what seems like the flash of an eye.

As of the beginning of August, I was half-way through the team visits.  Eight teams and communities were still on the schedule with it getting a little pinched the first week with 4 visits planned in 6 days.  

My first visit was not officially in August even though the team from Billings, Montana would be at Cross Lake, Manitoba that first week of August.   If you recall from last spring, this was a community in the midst of a suicide crisis.  Nine members of the VBS team and I went there to minister to the kids and community however the Lord would lead us.   I would be interested to see how things were going since our visit.  They arrived on Saturday evening July 30th and would leave to go home August 6.

Since the team does such a phenomenal job of conducting the VBS, there was not much I could contribute to helping them.   However, I did want to spend time with the team along with some of the key leaders in the community before they left the community on Monday.

Sunday morning July 31 had fairly good weather for flying.  I needed to make a stop at Island Lake to refuel so I'd have enough to get back to Red Lake non-stop.   My plan was to arrive around 11 AM to spend some time with the team before we attended worship together.

I was picked up at the airport by Myron, one of the guys on the team.  I went to Mikisew School where the team camped out for the week and did the VBS.   I got there just in time to snag some brunch.  They literally had everything they would need for the week with them at the school. The cafeteria is their main common area for the team to hang out.  It's also their dining room, game room, prayer room, and planning room.


This team is so large (35+) that they bring their own dedicated "chefs" to make all their meals for the week.  The planning and menu are quite a task.  But the team has been doing this for a few years now and does an expert job of it.

Paul (left) and B.J. (right) getting ready to make stuffed pork loin for Sunday dinner

For a team this size, their commitment and energy are evident.  There is a wide range of ages and even generations of team members.  Families.  Young singles.  Seniors.  And they work so well together for the purpose of sharing the Gospel of Jesus to children who need to hear that they are forgiven for their sins through the death of Jesus on the cross.

Some of the team members were hanging out in the cafeteria after Sunday worship

It was great to reconnect with those who had come the previous year and with those who were there in the spring during the suicide epidemic.  Most of us attended church that afternoon while a handful of team members went to the local radio station to talk about the VBS and inviting the children to come.

Afterwards, we went back to the school and hung out while B.J. and Paul prepared dinner for us.  It was a few hours of time well-spent.    I got to have one-on-one conversations with team members who were dealing with ways to effectively minister to some of the kids they had become close friends with.  Some of those kids had contemplated suicide or were going through some tough situations at home or personally.  This is where the compassion of the team members along with sharing God's Word give the children and their families a sense of comfort, hope, and guidance in their lives.  I wouldn't have been able to do this if I was there during a day of VBS.  The Lord knew exactly what He was doing with my schedule change.  God's Word and prayer are always a noble privilege to share with believers to strengthen them in their faith and service.

I was also able to meet with Connie McIvor, the principle of the elementary school.  She has been a rock of faith for that school.  It's always a joy to talk and pray with Connie whose dedication is indescribable.

The plan was to spend the night with the team, but the weather forecast forced my hand with a strong storm line moving east.  A window opened up for me to fly back to Red Lake around 7:00 PM.   Before I left, I wanted to thank the team for their dedication to the children of Cross Lake and pray with the them.  

Afterward, Connie dropped me off at the airport and off I went.  Thankfully the Lord cleared the skies ahead and I got home before the weather turned for the worse.

Circumnavigating some of the cloud build-ups on the way to Red Lake

The next day, the weather moved in and kept me on the ground.  That didn't mean it wasn't an exciting day.  The texts started coming early in the morning with updates for the next several hours.  Early evening I got the culmination of the days texts.  My youngest daughter and son-in-law welcomed their first child into the world!  Arliss Edward Shelman.  I only wish I could be there, but alas I would have to wait to hold that little bundle of joy until I got back home.

My newest grandchild wearing the toque I got him in Dryden, Ontario

So after the first day of August excitement in my family and with clearing skies, I was able to fly up to Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba.  It's a brief 40 minute flight but also into one of the shortest runways up north.  It was quite windy after the front went through but within the capability of the airplane (and pilot!).   This community is unique from the standpoint that the main grocery store is located on the land the airport is situated.  So to go to the grocery store, you either take a boat in the summer or snow machine in the winter.

I was able to get a ride from a young couple in the community to the main dock.  It was a very rough, choppy, and somewhat wet ride with the wind and waves. After getting to shore, I started walking toward the church where the team of 4 was conducting VBS.  I didn't get too far down the road before Father Rheal saw me, stopped, and gave me a ride.  We had talked many times on the phone but had never met.  He said, "There aren't too many white men wearing a Jesus shirt in the community.  I figured it was you!"   We had a good laugh over that.

At the church rectory, I connected with Janine and Lois whom I had met last year.  They had two young women with them, Shannon and Brittany, to help this year. 

We had a nice lunch with fresh greens from Father Rheal's garden.  We all got (re)acquainted and talked about how the first day of VBS went and how the team was doing.   Afterwards, it was time to go to the church to set up for the VBS.

As is typical, the children showed up 10 minutes early and rearing to go!  This would be the 11th season for the team going to Little Grand Rapids.  They were familiar with their routine and have seen quite a few of the children grow up over the years that started coming to VBS when they were little.

Shannon had the children's attention as she shared the Bible story for the day
I enjoy seeing the creativity of each team in how they conduct their day--the Bible story, crafts, music, recreation.  All of it is done with the focus on the children and sharing Jesus' love.

The children were making angels for their craft.  (3 men in the fiery furnace + an angel)

VBS ended and the children reluctantly started to head home.   The team retreated to the rectory and relaxed a little bit before supper.  It was a good way to debrief and talk about the blessings and challenges of VBS and to brainstorm ways to handle some of the situations that arise.  With fairly nice weather, a couple of the team members changed into their swimsuits and headed for the dock to swim with the kids.  Since I was without swimwear, Father Rheal took me next door to hook me up with a boat ride back to the dock.

The boat ride back was about the same returning to the dock by the store and airport except dryer.  I flew back to Red Lake and arrived before twilight.  The next day would be another community.

With another good day to fly, we headed north to Wunnumin Lake, Ontario.  We got picked up on our walk from the airport to the community by Rev. Joey Bluecoat who is our main contact for VBS coordination.  He took us to the church where the team not only stayed, but conducted the VBS in the basement.  After lunch, we helped get the area prepared for the start of VBS.   As the kids streamed in, they had a coloring sheet that was an illustration of the Bible story of the day. 

"God Is So Good" in both English and Cree
 Then the Bible story was told with a brief introduction, followed by the puppet show.

And of course, VBS wouldn't be complete without the craft.  The kids were given strips of construction paper.  They wrote the sins they commit on them and then they were put together as a chain to hang on a cross to signify that Jesus as freed them from the bonds of their sins.

Singing songs is always a great way to teach the children about Jesus.  The team came prepared with quite a repertoire of prerecorded songs for the children to sing.  They really enjoyed the motions for the words.  They would also be able to easily remember these great songs.  Take a look...

How awesome it is to see the children so excited to sing about their Lord Jesus!

VBS cam to and end and the kids left.  That was my queue to pick up a broom and start cleaning up the floor.  (Remember, the team lived here too.)   After cleanup, we sat and chatted about all kinds of topics to unwind, especially the need for a bigger place for VBS since it was growing each year.  That's a great problem to have!!!

Joey stopped by and we had dinner before heading back to the airport for our flight home.

The VBS team with Joey Bluecoat

It might be another day and anther VBS in another community, but it's also another day to witness the love and commitment these dedicated team members have, not only to the children, but to faithfully sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We had a couple of "down" days so that the schedule could catch up to us...or is that the other way around?   Anyway...  

Saturday, August 6 would be busy.  The first part of the day would be flying to Muskrat Dam to meet a brand new VBS team that was going there for the first time.   I want to meet with the new teams to help get them settled into the community, introduce them around, and make sure all the arrangements are in place for the week.

We arrived about a half hour before their flight from Sioux Lookout.  Deputy Chief Roy Fiddler was at the airport to meet me and the team.  I also ran into Kyle, one of the local police officers I met last summer.  

Kyle and Roy at the school

The team arrived and we got them and their stuff loaded into Kyle's police truck and Roy's car. Well... almost all of their stuff.  One tote with their cooking utensils wasn't on the flight due to room and weight restrictions.  It would arrive the next day. 

The team would use the school for their accommodations and to conduct VBS.  They were well prepared and had a luxury that some teams don't have--WiFi!   As the team was moving their stuff around, I heard a guitar and a voice from a distance.  Being a guitar player myself, I went looking for the source of the music.  I found Roy with a team member's guitar singing "God With Us" by MercyMe...

It was a real blessing to hear and see Roy sing with such passion.  Sometimes God uses others to minister to me.  Roy left shortly after his concert to scrounged up some pots and pans for the team to use in the interim. 

The team put a simple lunch together.  Afterwards, Roy returned with some kitchen hardware and was ready to take Andrew and me back to the airport.

The team was in good hands and I expected to hear good things coming from Muskrat Dam.  At the airport, we said goodbye to Roy and thanked him for everything he had done to make the team feel at home.

Our flight out of Muskrat Dam would not take us back to Red Lake but 30 minutes away to Sachigo Lake where we would spend the night with the VBS team from Winnipeg.   But that's another saga.

As I look back on the past few weeks, God's Word provided through the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:3-6  speak well of my thoughts and prayers for these VBS teams.   "I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."