Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Here is a video from a first year team in a brand new community. God gets all the glory but these two kids did an amazing job capturing their week through video.

Monday, August 12, 2019

In ministry, we vision, plan and then put a lot of effort into developing ministry programs. Our hope is that people who participate will grow and/or be encouraged in their faith. Often it involves hours and hours of preparation for these programs with much volunteer help. And yet, ministry often happens when you least expect or plan for it, sometimes right in the driveway.

Near the end of my time spent with a team before I headed to another community, ministry took place near the church entrance. A young man walked by. When I greeted him, he paused to ask what was going on.

We had just finished a community dinner. Kids were running around and several of the adults were talking in the rear of the church. There was still food on the table so I invited him in to have a meal. He said he had just eaten and then thanked me for “bringing a positive attitude into the community.”

This prompted me to say, “Well, that’s part of what we do. It’s where that positive attitude comes from that gives us a positive attitude.” He paused for a bit and commented something about him not having attended church in a while, that he was a pot smoker. His rationale was that “it was better than drinking.” I don’t remember exactly what he said next, but it was typical of a person when confessing that he/she has a drinking or drug problem -- the need to get “cleaned” up before going to church. Now, bear with me as I try to explain this next part.

I replied to his comment that I knew of several Christians who had smoked marijuana. I then shared that (if he had the time to hear our stories) he might be surprised how messed up some of us are, well, maybe I’m talking just about myself. When talking with anyone that has the idea he or she needs to “cleanup” their lifestyle before they can go to church, it’s easy to share that we are all in that same situation. We need Jesus to forgive our sins and be restored back to a relationship with God, knowing that the next day we might go back to our sinful ways. I explained to this young man that knowing what Christ did for me is what brings me that “positive attitude”!

This time, the young man paused longer to think. I asked if he wanted to come in, but he mentioned that it was too much noise. So I suggested he come back next year in the mornings or early afternoons when the group is usually hanging out and getting ready for the day. I know he will be back because he made a point to ask me my name. As I said, ministry happens when we don't expect it. Yet, God uses those times to create some of our most memorable moments.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

That one person...

Each community has that one special person. Often, it’s an older gentleman that comes and visits our LAMP team around meal times, particularly in the evenings. Most of our older visitors share a story of how they ended up where they are today. Some have or are struggling with alcoholism. Others are aging and experiencing memory loss.

Nearly all of our visitors retell their stories over and over again. The members of the teams are very considerate and listen to our visitors’ stories, again and again. Without fail, the team members offer to share food or a meal and pray with their visitor, much like Braban is doing here.
 It’s hard. The team members want to help in some tangible way.  Often there is not much we can do except to pray and listen.

Several of our visitors speak about the “bad” that they have done.  Some of these people apologize for the choices they’ve made.  It’s a humbling reminder of the sinful world we live in and the consequences of our sinful decisions. I remind our visitors that we all have sinned and struggle with temptations and choices we’ve made.

I am grateful to be able to share the hope that we all have, that God loves us despite our sinfulness and forgives our sins when we ask Him.  “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)

I am thankful for our teams of volunteer missionaries who show compassionate love and understanding towards our visitors that share his/her life story with us.  I also appreciate all of your prayers for us in the mission field as we, in turn, offer encouragement and pray for those in need.

Friday, July 12, 2019

It has been a while since many of you have heard from me. My apologies as it has been a busy couple of months between family events, daughter graduating and preparing to be in northern BC for most of the summer. 

Here I am in my third week in Canada with my home church in Gitanyow. So far two other teams have come and gone and three more still to go. As always, I am doubly blessed —with what I get to do and with some amazing teams. All teams are well prepared and offer their own unique talents when it comes to teaching VBS. Each team also has their unique ways of ministry to their communities. From sport camps, women’s tea and other events, it’s been fun watching how each team connects with the youth and adults.
In the cross-cultural training LAMP offers, there is a section taught about time in First Nations communities. One of the points stressed is being flexible (something we western people can struggle with).  We knew coming into Gitanyow that the school’s floor was being replaced. What we didn’t know was that they would also be running wires for a new fire alarm system, that there was a health class being taught where we normally keep our supplies, a bingo night on Tuesday and a grad celebration on Friday. 

However, this is the 13th year in Gitanyow for Christ the Vine’s team!  We have learned to be “flexible”. Turns out we could use another classroom for storage. The bingo was cancelled so we could use the gym. Grad night would wait until we are done. And the group has invited the workers to eat meals with them, which has been a great opportunity to witness. 
Days before arriving, we found out there would be a soccer camp for children during VBS. We decided to have some people help with the camp, and we would still run VBS for the kids that did not want to play. As a result of the soccer camp, there are ideas already in mind for next year on considering the creation of a camp for children along with VBS. All things we learn when being flexible.

God calls us all to be flexible. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul talks about being all things to all people. Meaning — when we are around different groups of people, we act according to their customs but keep our identity in Christ. “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them ...I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” 

Interested in learning more about being flexible in First Nations communities? Contact me, I’d love to share more. Want to experience being flexible? Join me with a group in the spring or summer and/or pray that God puts you in a situation that causes you to be flexible for the gospel. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Spring Fling 2019 Week 3

The final and last week of Spring Fling 2019, was awesome! One of the main reasons for such an amazing week is Catherine from the Edmonton LAMP office joined Kathleen and I for the week. Catherine combined with Kathleen as if they were a team of four people. Everything ran very smoothly, and there was a ton of energy in the room. We also stayed at Vicar Travis’s place with his cat Astrid.

Since school was back in session, we held VBS at the church from 3:30 -5:30 pm. We averaged around ten kids which was due, in part, to Catherine and Kathleen inviting a homework club playing at the playground on Monday. Many of the kids weren’t familiar with the Bible, so we had to take extra time to explain things.

We had assistance from Redeemer Lutheran in Kitimat through Vicar Travis and a member, Carol, who helped at VBS and another member, Ellen, who made cookies for the kids. It was wonderful to have their help and support. After a dinner break, the ladies held a women’s tea on Monday and Tuesday night. Each night there were different and new ladies that had not attended from previous years.
“But wait, there is more” -- Because of my time volunteering at JANT, I recognized most of the ladies that attended. The last two nights of our time in Kitamaat Village, we were invited to help prepare vegetables for the stew on Wednesday for a healing feast held on Thursday.

Back in October, a young man had a major accident working on the new board walk around part of the bay. As a way to get rid of his bad luck, the community held a cleansing feast. After the meal, one of the men from the village performed a smudging ceremony for this young man and his family. At the end of the ceremony, a prayer was offered. I was glad to hear the prayer was to Jesus thanking Him for life and His love. Everyone in attendance observed and received a bath towel as a way to wipe away our tears. The next morning, the three of us left early to fly back to our respective homes.

There is already talk of the next spring fling. I am hoping most everyone will return and hopefully the new groups serving in B.C. will join us.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Spring Fling 2019 Week 2

The second week is what I call a typical week serving with LAMP. It started by Shelly Ree’s (team leader from Barrhead, AB) flight being cancelled and rescheduled for the following day. The group from my home church arrive on Sunday, and we headed to the Airbnb house, which was farther than we liked...by 20 minutes! But, the views and the house was well worth it.

Later that evening, the group was treated to a Gitsanimx class, because I had been attending class with Dr.Jane who is also an active member at the Salvation Army Church. The group did better at picking up the language with one team member even surprising the grocery store clerk by saying, “Hamiyaa” which means thank-you.

The next day we scrambled to get everything ready since I had to get Shelly at the airport. We hurried back to the church where the group finalized plans for the VBS afternoon program at the Fire Church in New Hazelton. Although Christopher was the only child in attendance, he quickly bonded with one of the team members who shared a Harry Potter interest. Two days later, we doubled attendance when his cousin came, who also had a great time with a 3.3 adult ratio to students. The grandmother was very glad Christopher and Emma could attend, since her son doesn’t allow ‘religion’ in his house. We’re praying Christopher will be around in the summer when the group returns.

Originally, evenings in Gitanyow were going to be Tribal games for each of the clans. We were planning to hold VBS for the kids in the drop-in center while the adults played on Monday – Thursday. But, when I contacted the youth workers the night before, they had already started the games on Sunday and asked if we could join them. Hence, several of us and my young thirty-year-old self played several games of basketball most of the night.

 Later that evening, we offered a ride home to a person staying in the neighboring community. He opened up about being sober for five weeks, how he wanted to be a better dad for his two kids and an example to others in his community. Just before we dropped him off, we prayed with him and thanked him for sharing.

The next morning my body was reminded of my true age (45).  However, it had been a great night.  It was good to see so many familiar faces coming together for fun around being active.

Next evening, we helped with a feast intended to teach the youth and us the “guest”. What a treat and a very good time of “but wait, there’s more” experiences. Most people may never experience a feast in their time in the communities. Afterwards, a talent show was held, where one of our members sang a song, and we helped judge the different age groups. Although a late drive back, we were excited to share in the events. The next evening, we returned to hold a one day VBS since the tribal games were over. We had over a dozen kids and youth!  After the program and clean up, it took us awhile to say our goodbyes.

Our final evening of week two of Spring Fling was a youth game night at the Salvation Army Church in Hazelton. (As stated earlier, I met with Alex during my Gitsanimx class regarding us attending this). When we arrived, Alex and his wife Adrian were waiting for us. There was a table of refreshments and many board games stacked up.

Since most of the Gitanyow team are former youth at Christ the Vine, this brought back memories of my times with them in high school and youth group…maybe that’s why I haven’t been sleeping well lately. One of the youth who showed up was the Penner’s grandson.

The rest of the evening was filled with laughter, teasing and competitive spirits from both sides of the board. We prayed together, and Alex offered to help us get into Gitsegukla if interested in sending a VBS team there. Alex also assists at the Salvation Army camp in Houston, B.C. and holds some programs in Gitsegukla.

The next day I shuttled people and cars around to get ready for week three.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The week of March 15 - 22, myself, Andrew Miner (who is from Christ the Vine and serves in Gitanyow) and Doug Weinrich (who is from Redeemer in Spokane and will be serving in Laxgalts'ap or Greenville this summer) helped with the Junior All Native Tournament in Kitamaat Village, B.C.  We had offered to help where and when needed and were we put to work.  It’s been 25 years since Kitamaat was the host.  Each year during spring break, First Nation youth under the age of seventeen travel to different communities in British Columbia to play basketball, and these kids can play!

 The three of us arrived late on Friday in Kitimat and were kindly hosted by Vicar Travis of Redeemer Lutheran. The next day started early in the morning preparing vegetables for the stews that would be served to 600 plus people. Around dinner, we returned to the sports complex and helped served this stew and an array of desserts to the hungry crowd.  Later that same night, we helped unload a U-haul stuffed with merchandise. We counted and folded (and counted and folded some more) t-shirts, sweat-shirts, and other merchandise for sale during the tournament.
The next day, the three of us headed to a small elementary gym. From 8:30 am until 6:00 pm, we did not move from the elementary sized bench.  As you can imagine, it was a long day of game after game after game. Our original job was supposed to be keeping stats; however, not everyone showed up to run the scoreboard and/or maintain the score book. Hence, at one game, it was the three of us in charge.  Two teams had warmed up and were ready to start but no refs, no one to keep the scorebook and no person to run the scoreboard! I told the teams to keep warming up as we tried to figure out what to do. Thankfully, the refs walked in, and the games continued. About 6:30 pm, we tiredly left for dinner only to be reminded we had been assigned as security for the fireworks show. It was a long day.
The next day was a beautiful drive to Laxgalts’ap (Greenville) where Doug questioned our community contacts about his church’s forthcoming summer VBS trip. We met our contacts at the church, information was exchanged, and Doug was able to have most of his questions answered. We learned the Nisga’a people are no longer part of the Indian Act, and do not have a band office.  They are their own governing body with a government office. Learn more here about Nisga’a government. Their government manager helped Doug find housing for the summer.  It was an excellent visit, with Doug going home relaxed knowing the answers to his questions. If you have been following my blog, you will know that Laxgalts’ap (Greenville) is a new community to LAMP.  Doug’s church in Spokane is also new to LAMP.  I am very excited to see what God has planned for both groups. Doug left later in the day for Spokane while Andy and I relaxed and watched a couple of basketball games.
 The next day, Andy and I were back at it; this time in a larger gym. I ran the scoreboard most of the time with Andy handling the stats for both teams. The people who came to keep the scorebook were the same ones from the first day so our conversation just picked up from where we left off. Although it was another long day, it was fun to be around our new friends. As we left the school building, I heard someone call my name. Rhonda Kelman from the BC Mission Boat Society was also in attendance. A friend of mine who went on a mission trip to Klemtu and also LAMP had mentioned her name.  LAMP and the BC Mission Boat Society share similar ministries with First Nation people. We had a great visit and hope to support each other more in the future.
The remaining days were spent at the merchandise table organizing and selling shirts. We were security for the final games and stayed to the end to help move the remaining merchandise to a storage unit.

It was a blessing to be part of the Junior All Native Tournament. Andy, Doug and I were the only volunteers from outside the Haisla community. We felt encouraged serving in the many ways that we were able. It was really cool to recognize people and youth from the other communities LAMP serves such as Kincolith and Hazleton. I spied the tournament shirts everywhere I went.

Despite the way some parents can treat each other at games, I was impressed with how the teams at the end of each game would gather together at mid court to do a cheer for each other. When a player fouled out, the other team's bench would come over and high five the player to acknowledge their efforts.  Even though there was a distance in the miles the teams traveled, there was a definite feeling of community among the youth.

 Although I don’t know what seeds God planted that week, I know it was a very worthwhile experience, and I’m glad I was able to contribute.