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)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Community Visits Continue

After a hiatus in June to go back home to take care of a few things, I arrived back in Sioux Lookout, Ontario for the last week in June.   The Piper Lance had been serviced by our new friends at Northern Skies Aviation and is ready for another 50 hours of flight.   So we were ready to hit the skies and communities of northern Ontario.

For the time from June 23 through July 6, a pastor and long-time friend, Sam Leiter, from the Indianapolis area came north to keep me company.  Sam served on the mission team to Tadoule Lake, Manitoba last summer.  So now he would get a different perspective of ministry to the communities from the pastoral side.

We had a lot of rainy weather that finally broke on Tuesday, June 27.  We were able to go to Wapekeka, Ontario and visit with our main contact there, Joan Winter.  Joan lost her 12 year old granddaughter, Jenera to suicide just two weeks before on June 13th.  She was the third of three girls who formed a suicide pact last year.  Jenera's two friends, Jolynn and Chantall commited suicide back in January two days apart.  It's a sad reality that happens far too often in northern remote communities.  You probably recall the suicide epidemic in Cross Lake, Manitoba that LAMP responded to a year ago this past winter.  Continuous prayers are needed for these communities for hope.  That is the main reason LAMP missionaries and the volunteer missionary teams go to these places to offer the children and their families hope in Jesus Christ that transcends the hopelessness of this broken world.

Joan and her grandson, DeVon, and her youngest granddaughter, Maddie, met us at the airport and took us to Joan's house.  We brought quilts with us for Joan, and for family members of Jolynn and Chantall.  Joan was very glad we had come.  She was able to share her story and the pain of losing Jenera along with Jenera's two friends.  It was a pain and concern that has rippled through Wapekeka.  Joan is also concerned about Jenera's 14 year old sister Diamond and 15 year brother Tyreese. 

Pastor/Pilot Dennis listening to Joan Winter tell her story

I was able to share Scripture from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  "We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words."    Then we prayed together for peace and comfort for the families who experienced loss and for the safety of Diamond and Tyreese.

Afterwards, Joan had visitors from the Tikinagin agency who were there following up on Jenera's suicide and to find out how Diamond and Tyreese were doing.  I got to explain what LAMP is and what we do in First Nation's communities.   They appreciated our work and commitment to Wapekeka and the other communities we serve.

Pastor/Pilot talking with the counselors from the Tikinagin agency
I was also able to meet the wife of Rev. Roy Morris who is from Muskrat Dam.  We started talking and joking about all the "Roys" we know.  Somehow the conversation turned and I asked if they knew Rev. Solomon Beardy from Sachigo Lake.  Joan said to me, "He's here!  He's at the motel."  So we headed over to the motel around the corner from Joan's house.  Joan went back and got Solomon who was also there with his wife.  He came out and was surprised to see me.  What a small world it is, even up north.

Pastor/Pilot Dennis with the Beardy's

We were able to sit in the small family room and talk about things in Sachigo and the VBS team plans for there.  After our discussion, we prayed together for the work Solomon does in the communities to support them spiritually.

Pastor Dennis praying with the Beardy's
After our prayer time, we gathered in the lobby with Joan, DeVon, the Beardy's and with a half dozen social workers who were there to work with the children and families to try and stem the suicide attempts.  The Canadian Rangers were even posted in Wapekeka to patrol the area especially for children out at night and by themselves.  We all got to get to know each other and how all the pieces of the puzzle all of us make up to help the community through this difficult time.

Conversing with the various agency counselors sent to help with the recent suicides

We had finished up our conversations (and coffee) and headed back to the airport.  It was a really good and meaningful visit, especially to spend time with the families of Jenera and Chantall.  Everyone is also looking forward to the VBS team coming later in July.

(L to R) Joan, Pastor/Pilot Dennis, DeVon
As we flew home, it was obviously apparent again how critical and important the ministry of LAMP is to the communities up north.  It's quite humbling to be able to participate as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring his comfort and hope to people who really need it.

On June 30, a weather window opened up for us to fly to Kingfisher Lake, Ontario.  This is a community that has not had a LAMP VBS team there for the past 2 summers.  I wanted to meet with Lydia Mamakwa who is the Anglican Bishop for the diocese Kingfisher is part of.   It's important that even though we don't have teams going into communities we serve, we want to keep the relationships and support continuing.

When we landed, Peter Kitchekesik met us at the airport.  He is the husband of Ruth who is Lydia's assistant.  It was great to make a new friend.  Peter has known about LAMP going back to the days when Al Anderson flew into Kingfisher (That's quite a long time ago!).   He drove us to the mission house where Lydia's office is located.

Pastor/Pilot Dennis, Peter, and Sam

We were able to meet with both Lydia and Ruth and talk about how LAMP can continue to support Kingfisher and her in the ministry she serves.   She would definitely like to see a VBS team come to the community.   Lydia also sees the advantage of the Family and Parenting workshop I've been doing in communities, not only for Kingfisher, but for other pastors to be able to take to their communities.  So Lydia invited me to be a speaker at the Ministry School next February to teach the pastors about the workshop.  It will be a "train the trainer" class which will help spread the workshop out further and faster in northern communities, especially those LAMP currently isn't serving at the present time.  This will be an incredible opportunity to support more communities than imaginable with my available time.  It's quite a door of blessing the Lord has opened for LAMP and the communities.  I'm really excited and looking forward to participating in the ministry school.

I also spoke with Lydia and Ruth about how I could pray for them and the community.   After talking about their needs, we all prayed together, especially to bless Lydia and the work she does in spreading the Gospel of Jesus to the communities in her Diocese.

Pastor/Pilot Dennis meeting with Lydia (left) and Ruth (right)

When we were done, I mentioned I'd like to see James, her husband.  She said he was outside and opened her window and yelled down at him (we were on the 2nd floor).   I said, "Tell him Dennis the Menace is here."   She did... and we could hear the laughter from outside.

Dennis and James updating each other since the last visit
I went downstairs just as Peter was helping James unload a huge catch of whitefish for a gathering later in the day.  James had been Chief of Kingfisher and "retired" from the position at the last election.   He decided it was time to take it a little easier and was enjoying the free time he had.  I could spend all day talking with James.  He's such a character but also a strong follower of our Lord.

As James and I talked, Peter took the cases of whitefish inside.  He started cleaning them and enlisted Sam to help him carry the tub of water he was using in the process.  When they had returned, we all gathered around and prayed together for Jame's and Peter and thanking the Lord for their blessing they are to Kingfisher.  

The catch of Whitefish James caught in his nets that morning.

Sam helping Peter dump the water used in cleaning the fish.
It was time for us to head back to the airport.  The time went by so quickly, but there was another front moving in and we needed to beat it to Sioux Lookout.  Another community visit was in the books.  But it was also another visit to connect, support, encourage, and pray with the people who have in a way become part of my church family up north.

Sam and Dennis winging their way back to Sioux Lookout.

We got back to Sioux Lookout with plenty of time before the front moved in with rain.   And again, we were blessed with good flying weather and able to connect with friends.

It can't be expressed enough how important it is to support the communities in their struggles and encourage them in their faith walk with Jesus.   That is how LAMP began from humble beginnings back in 1970.   And that is still part of the main mission of LAMP to continue this vital ministry to the almost four dozen communities spread out in northern Canada.

The passage from Colossians 2:2-3 is one verse that proclaims LAMP's mission to the people we serve.  It says, "My (our) purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

Through your prayers and financial support, you are an active participant in this ministry of encouragement.   What a tremendous privilege it is to take the Gospel of Jesus with the hope that only He can offer to the First Nation's people of northern Canada.

Until the next time...

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