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)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tokens of Love

After our marathon run from the previous week (see last post), we ended up with a weather system that moved in and dumped rain on us for 4 days straight.  That was a good thing from the standpoint that a rather large fire burned for a couple of day just outside of Red Sucker Lake where we had been the previous week.  Hopefully the rain will stave off any other fires near communities in the near future.

Ariel view of the fire at Red Sucker Lake courtesy of CBC news.
When the rain eased up and the weather system began to retreat, we headed out for a "two-fer" again.  We were going to Big Trout Lake first and then stop at Muskrat Dam on our way back to Sioux Lookout.  We filed an Instrument flight plan since the ceilings were hovering around 1,500 feet and we had a cloud deck to fly through to get to our cruising altitude.  It's a pretty S.O.P. thing for me back home.   And it's not much different up north.

Cruising to Big Trout Lake, Ontario above the clouds.
The further north we flew, the more the clouds were beginning to break up.  We had an uneventful flight, secured the airplane, and then walked the 15 minutes to the community in search of Stanley Bluecoat, one of our contacts in the community.  We were also carrying a hand-made quilt for Josiah Begg's family.  He was a young adolescent who went missing in Thunder Bay and was found drowned in the river there.  It was a sad incident that is still under investigation.  We took a quilt to give to the family as a token from LAMP of our love and concern for them.

We walked past the church where the volunteer team conducts VBS in the summer.  It's a great location and women from the community usually help prepare a light lunch for the children as the VBS runs from 10 AM to 2 PM.  It's a full day for everyone.

After arriving at the band office, we found out that Chief James Cutfeet had just left the community on the morning flight.  I enjoy meeting with Chief James and listening to how things in the community are improving and thankful that he is forward-thinking to make sure the community is positioned to be successful and strong in the future.  We also found out that Enos, one of the band counsilors who handles spiritual life in the community was medivaced out with a serious health condition.  He was hospitalized and in stable condition according to the receptionist.  We left the band office and headed to the store where we did finally connect with Stanley.  However, he had a list of duties thrust upon him that morning and was quite busy.  So we only got to spend a few minutes with him.  He was going to Wapekeka, a community east of Big Trout, that's accessible by road.  He was also going to be driving past Josiah's house and offered to deliver the quilt for us.   With our meetings in Big Trout somewhat curtailed, we started back toward the airport.  As Divine intervention would have it, two women, Josie and Daphne stopped and offered us a ride to the airport.  These ladies work for the counseling center in the community.  I hope that when I return, I can meet with them to find out what assistance LAMP and I can provide for Big Trout.

With our flight plan filed and clearing skies, we took off for the 30 minute flight to Muskrat Dam.  I called up Deputy Chief Roy Fiddler once we landed and he came and took us to the band office.  We were able to meet with the Chief, Stan Beardy, Rev. Roy Morris who works with the school and is pastor of the Anglican church, and a couple of the councilors.

Our meeting with the band council,  (L to R) Brian, Keith, Roy Fiddler, Roy Morris, and Stan Beardy.
We were able to listen to the needs of the community and especially how LAMP could help outside of the week of VBS.  Rev. Morris was interested in the Family and Parenting workshop.   The Chief wanted to be sure that the teachings of the VBS were about basic Christian doctrine.   They are glad that the team is returning and arrangements are in place for them when they arrive in August.

After we finished up there, Roy took us to visit Esther Beardy.  Her husband, Jake, had been the founding father of Muskrat Dam and had died the week before last.  We wanted to stop and give her a quilt to let her know that we were thinking about her.  We spent time with Edith and her daughter Harriet just enjoying the company and stories about Jake.  We all prayed together before we left and headed over to visit another community member, Ernie Harper.

Ernie's wife, Debra, died in April from complications of Diabetes.  She was only 40 years old, the mother of two children, and was quite a gifted musician.  Ernie and Debra had a makeshift recording studio in their bedroom.

Roy introduced Keith and me and we gave him the quilt.  He appreciated the gift and took it and laid it across his bed.  Keith and I sat down with Ernie and listened to his story...a story about his life with Debra and music.  He said something that many of us who still have our spouses may not appreciate.  He said, "She was the last face I saw when I went to bed and the first face I saw in the morning when I woke up."   That was really profound.  He said he's adjusting to life and didn't realize all the little things she did for his children and him.  But he knows that she is with the Lord and that gives him a semblance of peace.  

Ernie and me at his dining room table as he told me his story.
While Ernie and I were talking, Roy got one of the guitars out of Ernie's bedroom and started singing.  They were all hymns and songs we've all heard in worship.  What a background for our time together.

Roy Fiddler playing and singing Christian hymns and songs.
As our conversation was coming to a close, we all gathered together for prayer for the Lord to uphold Ernie and his children in their faith and life.  It was one of my more memorable visits with a member of a community.   Afterwards, Roy told us that he as sung at over 300 funeral.  He said when he hears a song that touches his heart, he has it memorized...after the first time hearing it!   Roy certainly is being used by the Lord to minister to communities with his gift of music.

Our next and final stop was at the house of Tony and Diana Simpson.  This is a missionary family from the "To Every Tribe" organization who was living in the community for a 3 month trial.  Tony wasn't home as he is managing the store helping it control cost and organizing it.  Diana was at home with 3 of their 5 children.  I introduced myself and LAMP's ministry to Muskrat Dam.  I'm not sure what their long-term plans are or if they will remain in the community after the three months are up.  Only the Lord will be able to lead and direct them to where he would have them serve.   Actually, that applies to all of us!  We need to trust in the Lord to direct us in his work among the First Nations people.

When we arrived at the airport, another plane was parked on the ramp.  It was from the company that built the Triplex units that were brought in on the winter road.  What was interesting was the registration I.D. on the airplane.  Their Cessna 185 is C-GGSS.  The Lance is C-GCSS.  Only one letter separated our I.D.'s   That's a rare occurrence even outside a remote norther community!

C-GCSS and C-GGSS parked next to each other at Muskrat Dam
Keith and I said our goodbyes to Roy and look forward to returning to Muskrat Dam when the team is there in August.  (Ernie promised me one of his new CD's too).   This would be our last trip for our first 2 weeks as the airplane was getting close to it's 50 hour oil change.  I will leave it with Northern Skies Aviation at Sioux Lookout for maintenance while Keith and I headed back home.

Giving the quilts that women's groups across the U.S. and Canada have made to families in need of comfort and care is a way to give a token of love to them.  Those quilts become a tangible extension of Jesus and his love for us that he demonstrated on the cross to take away the punishment of our sins. 

Leaving the north always gives me a little sadness.  Once you connect with people in the community and relationships start to develop, you miss being with them.  On the other hand, I will hopefully be back to all these communities I've visited along with the rest over the course of the summer.

I'll be heading up north June 23 for the rest of the summer.  I have 14 teams coming north this year to provide not only VBS for the children, but other ministries to the communities as well.  Women's Bible study.  Teen Bible study.  Family nights.  Worship services.  And all of them are ways of sharing the love of Jesus through personal relationships the teams make.

As our summer season prepares to kick into high-gear in the next couple of weeks, please pray for...
* Safe travel for the teams and the LAMP staff
* Open hearts in the communities.
* God's Word to take root and spread even more.
* Comfort and peace for those families in the communities who have lost loved one.

God's Word reminds that "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth."   (Col 1:6  NIV)

Until the next time...