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...