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)

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Overnight Visits Continue...

The weeks march on as volunteer missionary teams head to their communities.  For myself (and Steve Morley) it was a week of back-to-back overnight visits to the teams this week.  The first up was Garden Hill, Manitoba.  This community is unique as access is by water or winter road.  Island Lake airport is a short 5 minute boat ride away. 

On Sunday morning, we arrived at Island Lake hoping to catch a water taxi and meet up with the team in time for church.  Unfortunately, there were no taxis running anywhere at the airport dock since there were no incoming flights until after Noon.  We walked the half-mile to the Northern Store and thought we might catch a ride there.  Again, the store didn't open until Noon.  However we did finally catch a ride but arrived in Garden Hill too late to attend church.  Bummer.

We met up with the team at the elementary school where they were conducting the VBS and using the school for their accommodations.  The first task after lunch was to get set up for the start of VBS the next day. 

Shane, Matt, and Aaron joyfully work on VBS crafts.
Things were going along just fine until... the lights went out!  The gym was in pretty much total darkness with some residual light coming in from the hallway doors.  Not to worry!  The LAMP LED flashlights that each team member received as a token of appreciation for their hard work came in handy.  (There's a sermon in this about the light of Christ shining in the darkness.)

Letting the light shine on the darkness of VBS craft making.
Thankfully, the power was off for a short time.  The work continued as the first day craft covered the 10 plagues in Exodus.

Lindsay, Julie, and pastor Dennis hard at work making frogs for the 2nd Plague

This was posted in the entrance hallway of the school.  You wouldn't find this in a public school in the U.S. or Canada!
After we finished up working on crafts, we heard that the reason there weren't many kids around was that there was a community festival at the "south beach".  So we struck out to find where it was so we could connect with them.

This is the bridge the kids would jump off of into the lake below (which is not allowed anymore)
A friendly lady saw us and asked us where we were going.  She said, "It's a long, long way.  I'll take you there."  So a group of us piled into the back of her truck and off we went.

She was right!  It was at least a 15 to 20 minute ride one-way.  I can say that my body discovered every bump, rock, dip, and rut on that ride.

A panoramic picture of those of us who went to the south beach (that's rather jumbled because of the rough road)
Once we arrived, we were invited to come up to the stage and sing.  However, we graciously declined.  Some of the team members got a chance to chat with some of the children and the parents. 

We didn't stay very long as our ride was going to leave and return an hour later.  With supper in the works, we elected to ride back to the school.  With the temperatures heating up, the guys decided to take a dip down at one of the boat docks.

Catching Matt in mid-dive.  Island Lake airport is across the shore.
With a full day, we all turned in for the night camping out in various locations of the gym and adjacent rooms.  The next morning we walked to the band office to meet with the chief and council at 10:00 AM.  However, they were not going to arrive until 11 AM.  We continued to walk past the church and cemetery to the north shore.

The United Church where Rev. Don Little is pastor and our main contact
It is a beautiful vista of the area at the north shore.  Pictures can't begin to illustrate the beauty of the area.  Yet among such beauty is the struggle of the communities face with poverty, limited resources, and hopelessness that the Gospel of Jesus brings.

After our community walk, it was time for us to get back to the airport for our flight to Winnumin Lake, Ontario.  We easily got a water taxi since it was a weekday and the scheduled flights were once again landing at Island Lake.

On the open water in a boat taxi back to Island Lake from Garden Hill
With the latest weather briefing and flight plan filed, we pointed the LAMP airplane due east toward Wunnumin Lake.   We were met at the airport by our main contact, Rev. Joey Bluecoat.  He and a friend took us to his church where the team was staying and using for VBS.  We arrived during the last half-hour of VBS where the children were playing games outside.

After VBS was over, I was invited over to Rev. Bluecoat's home.   He introduced me to his wife and youngest daughter who will be a Senior in high school this fall.

Joey also gave me a gift of a wood carving that he said I should varnish so it shines like my head! 😊

He also drove me out to the landfill to see if there were any bears hanging out.  Not to be disappointed, there were a handful there feasting on some of the refuse.  I'm glad we were in his truck (with the windows rolled up too!). 

A black bear was napping after his evening supper at the landfill.

We drove back to the church for a 6:00 PM VBS hot dog supper.  Things got started slowly but eventually the church basement filled right up. It was good to see some of the parents come with their children.  That was another way to connect with the families.

Bobbie was a "newbie" to the team and blended in like a pro, especially in the hot dog production line.
Part of the evening activities was a bead craft the children could design.  Then an iron was used to melt them all together.  The kids seemed to enjoy the unlimited designs they could make.

Pastor/Pilot Dennis was the holder of the hot iron to keep everyone safe.

Yes, that is the outhouse the team used for the week.  They willingly make sacrifices for the sake of ministry to the children and families of Wunnumin Lake.
After a busy evening with the supper and craft, we got the basement cleaned up for another day of VBS the next day.  We all bedded down for the night for a well-deserved rest.  The next morning, we grabbed some oatmeal for breakfast.  Then we walked down to the nurses station where we met one of the nurses.  I talked with her about some of the issues the community is facing and left a copy of the DVD "Through the Pain" which is to help a person contemplating suicide.  She was very glad to have it.  I gave her my contact information in case she had any other questions or needed other resources.   We went to the band office, but found out Chief Rod was out of the community.

Looking at the skies prompted a call to flight service.  We decided to head out immediately since a storm front was headed toward Sioux Lookout.  It would be a race, but we should (and did) beat it by an hour. Joey happened to drive up and took Steve and me back to the church where we loaded up our things and took us to the airport for our flight home. 

The weather moved in and would delay us for a day.  Thursday was also the "changing of the guard" as Steve had to go back to BC (British Columbia) and Keith was flying in within a couple of hours of Steve's departure.

Friday would take us to the other community accessed by water, Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba.   This community is also unique as you go to your grocery store with your boat!  In the winter after the lake freezes, it's by snowmobile.  It brings a whole new meaning to convenience.  We were fortunate that we got a water taxi after a brief 15 minute wait and got dropped off at the dock nearest the Catholic church where the team was staying and conducting VBS.

The team which comes out of the Kitchener, Ontario area had one new member.  The other 3 were veterans at VBS in the community.   Shortly after our arrival, I met with the team leader Janine Cain to discuss a few of the issues with a couple of people in the community that the team had relationships with.  It's another indication of the trust in the teams and the hope in Christ that teams can offer to those in need of it.

We gathered for lunch and then geared up for the children to arrive for VBS.

We sported Canadian flags as part of the VBS recognizing the blessings God has give us.

Jeff, the new team member, prepared name tags for the kids.

Lois was getting items ready for the gift bags each of the children received for the last day of VBS.
The VBS theme for the LAMP curriculum

Janine is leading the Bible story for the day.

Part of recreation time was a water balloon toss.  Needless to say, not many of us were dry afterwards.

The children were enjoying making Jesus buttons.

The children signed and left messages on the banner the team would take back to their home church.

The VBS team and the children of Little Grand Rapids.

(L to R) Janine, Lois, Elaine, Jeff, and Pastor/Pilot Dennis
It was a full day of non-stop VBS activity with lesson, music, craft, play time, and snacks.  The team finished strong and was a blessing to the children and their families.   We also ended up spending time with Father Rheal and a one of the men who was having a difficult time.   Then it was time for us to grab a water taxi and head back to the main land.  The weather was good for the flight back to Sioux Lookout. 

It was a fast and full week of ministry to teams and communities.  The extra time spent with them allowed individual one-on-one conversations to take place that normally would not be possible under a tight one day trip, especially to communities that were far away.   It was a privilege to be an encouragement and supporter in the lives of fellow brothers and sisters in ministry partnership.  I can't imagine a higher calling or honor that the Lord allows me to carry out on His behalf.

Please remember to keep the ministry in your prayers, especially as team members minister to the people in need in the communities they serve.   And also keep the LAMP staff in your prayers in the last part of the VBS season.

Until the next time...
God's blessing to you all.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Unexpected: Big Trout Lake and Sandy Lake

My Oh my!  It's already here!  The VBS season has arrived.  The teams in Ontario began their trek north the second full week of July.  The first two teams in communities were heading to Big Trout Lake and Sandy Lake in Ontario.   These two teams have been going into these communities for a decade or more.  So the connection between team and community is quite strong.   It is especially important when the unexpected takes place in the community, the team, and for me.

A few days before the team arrived at Big Trout Lake, I had called our main contact there, Stanley Bluecoat, just to check on arrangements.  He let me know that he wouldn't be available when the team arrived because his sister had suffered a stroke and was in a Thunder Bay hospital.   So he gave me names of people who could help with the arrangements, especially keys to housing and transportation of their supplies and baggage from the airport.  To make a long story short, Stanley's sister went to be with the Lord that following Sunday.

On the way up to Big Trout, the team did an overnight stay at Sioux Lookout, which most Ontario fly-in teams do since they usually have morning flights the next day.  So I took advantage of this and invited the Big Trout team out to my cabin for a supper of burgers, beans, and salad.  They arrived late in the afternoon and appreciated it as they didn't have to worry about where to go to eat.  It also gave us time together to talk about the happenings in Big Trout.

We also had time together sharing a devotion and singing before they departed for the hotel for a night's rest before heading to the airport and flying up to Big Trout the next morning.

The team arrived and was taken care of thanks to a handful of people who provided access to the church, arranged for ladies to provide lunch for the kids during VBS, and a vehicle to use.   Everything was going according to plan until...

Stanley's sister, Rita, would be brought back to Big Trout for the funeral and burial in the community which would be the coming Wednesday.  I had arranged my schedule to fly up that day to visit the team and at least try and visit with Stanley.  However, when I arrived, I found out that the visitation and funeral were at the church where VBS had been held.  That was an unexpected change for the team who adapted and held an abbreviated VBS outside near the church. 

The team did a phenomenal job of being flexible and desiring to still provide some sort of VBS for the day.  They went to just the morning 10 AM to Noon session.  They broke for lunch and headed back to the teacherage.  The funeral would start at 1 PM.  So I headed over to the church with a quilt as a gift to Stanley to let him know we care and pray for him.  He was glad that members of the team would be at the funeral.  In fact, 4 of us were pressed into service as lay readers and to share God's Word of the hope of the resurrection.

After the service, Rita's casket was carried to the cemetery for burial.  Stanley then invited us to the community center for the meal after the funeral.  I also unexpectedly discovered that Rev. Joey Bluecoat, who is our main contact at Wunnumin Lake was Stanley's brother!  It is a small world in northern Ontario.

It was another opportunity to mingle with members of the community including Chief James and council members.  When the feast was over, we walked back to the teacherage to hang out for awhile to debrief about the day and the rest of their week.  This team has a good pulse on the community and would serve them well with God's love and Word.   We got a lift back to the airport and flew back to our home base at Sioux Lookout to be ready to go the next morning to Sandy Lake...or so I thought.

Steve and I got up early, checked the weather for our flight to Sandy Lake, Ontario, filed our flight plan and drove to the airport.  We preflighted the Lance and set to go.  I started the checklist items and got to the point where I start the engine.  Master switch "on".  Throttle open 1/2".  Mixture lean cutoff.  Propeller area clear.  Turn on the fuel pump.  Um... turn on the fuel pump.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  The engine will not start without the electric boost fuel pump.  Another unexpected surprise.

So I cancelled the flight plan, talked to the local mechanic to find out when he could work the plane into his schedule.  We didn't know if it was the pump itself or the switch, or something in between.  We didn't know how long the plane would be down.  Plan "B" went into effect.  I called Shelly at the LAMP office and said, "Could you check and see what flights there are to Sandy Lake today and what's available tomorrow?"   I was determined to get there one way or another.

Shelly called back within 20 minutes with the flights.  It was possible to fly out that afternoon and then come back the next morning.  So I had her book the flights.  I took my overnight bag and repacked them for airline travel.  By mid afternoon, I was winging my way to Sandy Lake.  Yay!

As I made my way across the ramp at Sandy Lake, Chief Bart Meetis was there and greeted me.  Unfortunately (as was the last time I was at Sandy) he was leaving on the flight I just came in on!  Oh well.  One of these days we'll get to sit down and actually have some time together.

I got my luggage and made my way to the church where the team has been holding a memorial service for the community for the past 5 years.  It's a time to remember those who have died within the last year...similar to our All Saints day in the Lutheran Church.  As the memorial candles were set up, some of them also had pictures and names of the people no longer in this world.  I was shocked to see Eddie Fiddler's picture.  He was a gifted artist and I was hoping to meet with him and purchase on of his pieces.  He died in October, 2016.  Besides Eddie, there were almost 3 dozen others being remembered from infants to elders.  That's a lot of people considering the size of the community (approx 1,800 in community).

The service had Scripture reading and songs led by talented musicians.  I was asked to say a few words.  I read the passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that speaks of our hope in the resurrection which was the same one I read at the funeral in Big Trout Lake just the day before.

The service had a good turnout and was emotional as everyone there...team members, community members, and me all had someone we knew.  After the service had ended, we gathered for refreshments and listening to songs with Pastor Zach on his mandolin playing with 3 of the team members.

Then it was back to the teacherage for an evening of relaxation.  That included a lot of laughing and shouting and screaming during rather ruckus games of Dutch Blitz and Ono until we decided the neighbors would probably like to go to sleep.  (So much for "What's said in Sandy Lake, stays in Sandy Lake!!!)

The next morning, we got up, had breakfast and then went over to the band office to meet with those present to have prayer and to thank them for allowing the LAMP team to come to Sandy Lake.  For some of the team, it was their 12th year going to the community!  Afterwards, the counsilors walked past the team members shaking hands and thanking them.  Then the team did the same thing.  It's a cultural way of thanking each other.

When we had finished at the band office, it was time for me to get to the airport to catch my flight back to Sioux Lookout.  It was sad to part company in less than 24 hours, but the time together was absolutely amazing.  It's being with teams like this, witnessing their love and care to the community, and their commitment to Sandy Lake that makes LAMP what it is today...taking God's Word to the ends of the earth.


On Saturday afternoon, I drove to Thunder Bay to pick up my wife who was coming north for a week for the first time.  While at the airport waiting for her luggage, the Canadian contingent of the Sandy Lake team had just flown in from Sioux Lookout!  What would the chances be of that!  So we had one more good bye before we headed off to our respective destinations.  

So there were a lot of unexpected events over the past week.  But the Lord was gracious and allowed us all to minister to His people in various ways.  And that is what this ministry is all about.

Please continue to keep the teams in your prayers for safe travel, good health, and lots of energy as they minister to the communities of northern Canada.  Also pray that our LAMP aircraft can go through the rest of the season with no major maintenance issues.  

And remember to thank and praise our Lord for all that he done for us and allows us to do as followers of our Savior, Jesus.  "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name." (Hebrews 13:15)

Until the next time...