3 Days (consecutively)
5 Communities (not counting two stops at our fuel reserves)
1,700 miles (as the airplane flies)
Yup. In 3 days, we made it to 5 communities and covered 1,700 miles in the air.
I arrived in Sioux Lookout Sunday afternoon, May 21, with Keith Krueger, a long-time LAMP volunteer, who is going to be riding "shotgun" with me in the LAMP airplane for part of this summer season. The weather on the way was rainy and windy almost the entire way from Indianapolis. We got to the fishing camp and the cabin that will be called home. It's a small but comfy place right on North Vermilion Lake.
Monday was a holiday here in Canada (Victoria Day). We decided to go to the airport and check out the airplane that Andrew, LAMP's aviation director, brought here from the Edmonton area a couple of weeks ago. Before we went however, Keith connected with another fellow pilot he knew here from years ago.
|Keith with his old friend Glenn|
After getting back to the cabin, I followed up with my contacts in some of the communities I serve. I also started looking at the weather over this vast area. The next two days in Manitoba were going to be really nice. So with the green light on the weather and our visits arranged, we were ready to hit the friendly skies of northern Ontario and Manitoba on Tuesday.
Our first stop was Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba. This was the community which John and Sue Folger went to with me in March for the family and parenting workshop. It would be a quick stop to drop off VBS supplies and large-print Bibles for one of the pastor's there.
|Sean Harper with his SUV full of VBS supplies and Bibles.|
It's where LAMP keeps a 1,000 gallon aviation gas fuel reserve or "cache" as we call it. We needed to be sure that the pump was operational, that no one had broken into the container and took fuel, and that the lines were all purged and clean so we would not have contaminated fuel. If the pump didn't work or fuel had been "borrowed", it would not only affect the rest of our trip, but the rest of the summer.
|Stopping for fuel at Island Lake airport in Manitoba|
I was not able to go with the team in January and wanted to connect with two of LAMP's advocates for the team and community. Connie McIvor, principal of the elementary/junior high school, met us at the airport. We went to her house after stopping at Tim Horton's for a coffee. She shared her recent trip to British Colombia for a job interview at a school there. Thankfully (and somewhat selfishly on my part) she chose to stay in Cross Lake. Her strong faith in the Lord had helped bring more stability to the school and staff. It also gives her the strength to deal with some of the difficult situations there. After finishing up with Connie, who needed to get back to the school, she took us to Dion Halcrow's house. We prayed with Connie before she left and encouraged her to be "strong and courageous" in her position at the school.
|School Principal Connie McIvor and Pastor/Pilot Dennis|
|The Halcrow family with Keith and Dennis|
Thompson has a fond spot in my heart as that's where I spent my first summer with LAMP. We elected to fly the short 40 minute flight there instead of going all the way back to Sioux Lookout and then flying all the way back to Shamattawa. That would have been an extra 6+ hours of flying compared to 1:20 from Thompson to Shamattawa and then back home.
The next morning, the clouds and visibility were still holding on. But with an approaching warm front, the winds were starting to kick up. Thankfully the winds were blowing mostly down the runway length at Shamattawa with not much of a crosswind. We secured the airplane and then took the short walk into the community.
The remote community of Shamattawa has struggled in so many areas of northern life. A recent warehouse fire destroyed the materials to build 6 houses that were brought in on the winter road. There had been a death of a young man in his 20's a couple of weeks ago, and the day before we arrived, the death of a 2 year old in his sleep. The community is still living with their grocery store in the old school gym. The new store can't be built on the proposed site due to unstable soil. So the ground is being build up and compacted at the original location where it burned last fall.
|The warehouse that caught fire and burned the supplies for 6 houses.|
|The preschool through high school at Shamattawa|
One of the teachers we worked with last year during our last 2 winter trip was Denise Robinson. She ran the breakfast program last year. This year, she headed up the basketball program and took the team to Churchill, Manitoba for a tournament. She also has mad-skills in the kitchen! Our visit surprised her pleasantly. It was good to at least touch base (Oh...that's baseball. Sorry) to see how things went in Churchill and her school year as it was coming to an end.
|Denise Richards, a teacher and sports program organizer with Dennis|
The flight back required another stop at Island Lake for fuel which we did in a quick 15 minutes. On the way there, we got a nice glimpse of Red Sucker Lake. It looked quite peaceful. Little did we know that 4 hours later, a fire in the bush would spread rapidly forcing the evacuation of half the community! As of this writing 3 days later, the fire is still not under control. Hopefully with the rain that is passing through this weekend and early next week, it will help quench the fires. Anyway...I digress.
We landed and got our tanks topped off. With our flight plan in place from Island Lake to Sioux Lookout, we pointed the nose south and headed home for the end of a busy day.
The weather in Ontario was still good the next day although the winds from the day before followed us from Manitoba. On our agenda was a stop at Muskrat Dam and Cat Lake.
We weren't on the ground but 5 minutes and Gary Kakekayash pulled up to the Lance. We had brought with us some supplies for Gary and a quilt for one of the elders who is also pastor at the Anglican church there and a supporter and promoter of the LAMP VBS. We drove over and spent time with Rev. Jake and his wife Harriet. Gary was our translator since both Jake and Harriet are Cree speaking only. The community (e.g. the children) are getting very excited about the VBS coming this summer. Before we departed, we all prayed together for Jake and the ministry he carries out and for the community as well.
Then it was back to the airport for our next leg to Cat Lake. One interesting side note was that Gary and Keith knew each other through their aviation connections from years ago. It's a small world, even in northern Canada, eh?
|Keith and Gary reunited at Weagamow Lake airport.|
Our landing at Cat Lake was fairly uneventful even with the crosswind. After the 15 minute walk into the community, or first stop was at the band office. I was glad that the deputy chief, Ellen Wesley was in. We went to an office and spent some time talking about her concerns for the community. Paramount is the growth of native spirituality. She doesn't mind at all the encouragement of Anishinaabe ways of life regarding hunting, fishing, and using the land to provide for the necessities of life. However, she is afraid that people will gravitate toward native spirituality instead of Christianity. She mentioned that a bear skin was hung on the conference room as a sign of protection. She countered that by bringing her Bible into the office. She obviously isn't afraid to express her faith in Jesus. LAMP has a long and well established presence in the community thanks to sainted pastor/pilot Steve Dreher who used to fly in from Red Lake to conduct bible studies and worship services. Ellen mentioned how Steve's ministry was so important to the community and appreciates LAMP's continued presence. We prayed with Ellen for strength of faith and for the Lord to protect the community from false and harmful beliefs. I thanked Ellen for her dedication to the community and then headed off to her sister-in-law's house.
Upon our arrive, we discovered that both Edith and Charles Wesley had left to go to Winnipeg to be with family who had given birth to a son, but was suffering with grave health issues. So we walked along the shore to the dock and beach area to enjoy the scenery and rest from our walking the community before our meeting with the Larch family.
|Relaxing and resting at the main dock at Cat Lake.|
|The Larch family with a couple of the children from the community included.|
Once again, we gathered together and prayed for the Larch and the ministry they serve asking for strength, guidance, and wisdom in the future. We parted company and walked back to the airport for the 45 minute flight back to Sioux Lookout, bumpy air and all!
So as you can see, it was a full 3 days of ministry to communities in the north. I have another week left to get to a couple more communities, weather and schedules withstanding. Then I'll have a couple of weeks back home before returning in late June to continue community visits before the VBS teams start coming in the first full week in July.
As this busy season of ministry gets going, please pray...
* For spiritual wisdom and insight as the teams prepare to go to their communities.
* For safe travel for the teams and LAMP missionaries on the ground and in the air
* For the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of the children and the communities to strengthen their
faith in Jesus.* For good health for the teams and missionaries.
Until the next time...