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 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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

For this blog I wish to provide a video journal of my last trip up north. I do plan on sharing an update soon about Spring Fling 2019.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”  (Psalm 55:22 ESV)

Happy New Year and Happy Epiphany!

Before Christmas, I walked into our local grocery/retail store. The feeling of warmth greeted me through the sights, sounds and smells of cinnamon pine cones (kinda of a weird combo if you ask me), merchandise on display everywhere and the local middle school band playing Christmas carols. I could have stayed there all afternoon basking in the warmth and Christmas cheer as I sipped my eggnog latte, but I needed to get home to make my famous Chex mix.

Yesterday, about the same time of day, I was at that same store but had the opposite experience. It felt cold (even though it was likely the same temperature as usual). There were no pleasant smells, the store looked empty, and I can’t even recall if they were playing their canned music. Worse yet, they were out of eggnog lattes!

For the first time in months, I went home and took a nap. You might have guessed that I’m starting to feel the holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder. I suggest you re-read my blog from a year ago as I talked about this very subject and provided some good tips. I encourage you to always be aware and present for other people.

Depression and suicide hit harder at this time of year with the First Nation (Indigenous) communities in the North. For the past few weeks, both my wife and I have been encouraging a First Nations youth that often messages us that she’s depressed. Sadly, there have been two recent suicide deaths in First Nation communities in northern B.C. and several in other communities where LAMP serves. Thankfully, my experience with SAD has given me the ability to minister and empathize with others going through similar struggles.

There is good news in the Hope that we have in Jesus! He is deeply sympathetic to our struggles and can do something about our situation. No matter what we’re experiencing or what we are feeling, Jesus has been there.  He knew loneliness, suffered great pain and even grieved, but he showed great faith in God’s character and promises.   Some of these promises which are sure and steadfast (James 1:5, 1 Cor. 10:13, John 10:28-29, Hebrews 13:5, Phil. 1:6, Luke 12:40) we can celebrate with certainty, but more importantly, we are promised certainty in the God of our circumstances. And that is an anchor for our souls.

Please pray. Know that God hears your prayers, that He will comfort and strengthen us during our times of trial.  Pray for others that struggle, that they might come to a deeper understanding of the Hope that only Jesus can offer. Finally, pray that that the Holy Spirit would work in and through each one of us, that we can be there for someone else who is struggling.

In a few weeks (January 22nd - 29th), I plan to make my winter trip up north (a little earlier than normal) to encourage those who are struggling with depression and to organize the spring fling trips scheduled for March. None of this would be possible without the help of generous donors like you to not only help with my travel cost but the other missionaries and those who will be traveling with me this spring. Please pray for safe travels for me (don’t care to drive in snow) and that God would provide me with His strength and the Spirit of wisdom to encourage and assure others of His love.