2020: A Year of Unique Challanges
The year 2020 will be remembered for its many ups and downs, its demands for flexibility, and not least of all, for the copious use of apps like Zoom! Living Hope Native Ministries was not exempt from the stresses that people and organizations felt this year, but with thankfulness we can say that God has carried LHNM through the unknowns.
As the year comes to a close, we also come to the time of year where we celebrate that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. As you read these reflections from the LHNM staff, notice how the Incarnation is mirrored in the hearts of these faithful workers. The characteristics of the God they serve become flesh in the communities and churches they serve with deep commitment.
Thank you for your faithful support of the LHNM team through your genuine interest, intercessory prayers, and financial partnership. Your involvement is a piece of the interactive partnership that we pray reflects the heart of God to the world.
Ken and Sondra Funk, Nipigon:
We are enjoying semi-retirement and finding lots to do. Our year has been very unique with all the events going on in the big picture. We have lived by the internet and stayed connected with mediums such as Zoom. We have been active in maintaining relationships from New Hope Fellowship with friends visiting our place in Nipigon and also our church attendance in Thunder Bay. Our involvement on several boards has resulted in a lot of Zoom meetings. We are also enjoying a growing number of meaningful relationships in Nipigon, including a small home church that we connect with weekly.
Rob and Joy Weaver, Morson:
Rob’s ministry is focused on Morson Community Bible Fellowship and outreach to the community. As with many churches, the small fellowship faced challenges related to COVID restrictions in 2020. Thankfully the church is reopening, and Rob and Joy also find connections in other community activities. They are grateful for God’s provision of a house for their family when they needed one!
Rob and Sharlene Dilts, Golden Lake:
It’s been particularly challenging during these Covid-19 restrictions to build and encourage community in a world where physical distancing and isolation has become the “new normal.” We shared the Good Story in many new ways: an online Sunrise Easter service on the river; meeting in smaller groups outside or with masks; learning new technologies (Zoom, Facebook Live, etc.); and participating in the opening of a food bank in the community to meet the growing physical needs as a result of the pandemic. In spite of the adjustments we were blessed by the deeper relationships as a result of smaller gatherings. This summer we converted Pinaaz-I Zibi Maamawi Indigenous Camp to an online and “camp in a box” experience, with the help of a summer student.
Arthur and Iris Lyndaker, Red Lake:
Arthur is the property manager for LHNM in Red Lake, which involves communication with tenants and the maintenance of buildings and grounds. He and Iris are deeply invested in ministry through the local church with an emphasis on compassionate care. Visiting with people, helping with practical needs, bringing meals, and encouragement are all a part of that ministry. They are also part of the church leadership, small groups and teaching. A Bible study with another family is another connection they value. Their vision for building a place of discipleship and mentoring is taking shape through the hard work of the development of their property and market gardens.
Merle and Rita Nisly, Red Lake:
The Nislys are part-time workers, serving as advisors to the LHNM office team from their home in Red Lake. They also encourage people in personal relationships, and respond to requests for teaching, mentoring, and leadership coaching in church settings. Merle has the opportunity to record messages and does some writing. Rita is involved in leading the thrift store operated by their local church.
Colleen Estes, Pikangikum:
The response of Pikangikum First Nation to COVID-19 was to lockdown the community with no non-medical travel out, to enforce quarantine for those coming back in, and to PRAY! As God's people have prayed together in unity, the revitalization and restoration that began in the churches about a year ago has continued. Believers are gathering with joy to worship the Lord, hear the Word of God as shared by local people using the gifts God has given them, and fellowship together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Hallelujah!
With school closures, Christian Ed classes have not been consistent. However, with homegrown VBS this past summer and now Sunday School, we have the opportunity to teach kids that “we all gotta trust in Jesus." A particular joy to my heart has been leading a small gathering on Sunday morning (there are no local morning services), in which we study the Gospel of John and worship. Those that come, I am convinced, will be teaching others also!
We are very grateful that this past year has not been filled with as many tragedies as past years. However, in response to the unhealed grief in the community, Philip Warner and I have started a weekly GriefShare support group, believing that the Lord will use it to help hurting people.
Jeff and Mary Kirkpatrick, Pennsylvania:
We are in the process of raising funds to be able to join LHNM full-time, with a target of moving to Thunder Bay in May 2021. Mary has been working part-time on the LHNM website, having launched a redesign towards the end of 2019. Our church family has been supportive, encouraging, and even excited about the work to which God has called us. COVID has made meeting together difficult, but we have still had some opportunities to meet in smaller groups. We are still learning how to communicate what LHNM does, our place in that work, and our need concisely, but we have been able to speak with a number of people.
Philip and Anne Warner, Pikangikum:
Philip, Anne and their three boys enjoy living and working in beautiful Pikangikum! Philip works to support the students at the school. Anne spends a lot of her time caring for their sons and visiting friends.
Stuart and Delores Swartzentruber, Thunder Bay:
The past year has been one of continued growth and learning in office tasks for Stuart. Beyond that, he looks forward to coffee with a number of men each week. Both of us have ongoing opportunities to visit individuals with health issues and share meals in our home. We enjoy being involved at New Hope Fellowship and love building relationships with both people from here, and many international students who attend the services.
LHNM Office, Thunder Bay:
Behind the scenes, the office in Thunder Bay aims to care for the staff of LHNM and connect with supporting individuals and churches. Stuart Swartzentruber (Executive Director), Mary Keesic (Bookkeeper), and Rhonda Slaubaugh (Administrative Assistant) focus on details such as the budget, processing and responding to donations, and sending out communication like the monthly prayer updates. Many tasks are annual, such as the financial audit, staff gathering, mailing the calendar, and hosting LHNM board meetings. Some areas of the work are challenging, such as keeping up with changing technology and policies, but it is a real privilege to have the connection with staff.
Kevin and Norma Moore, Sudbury:
Sunday services are still going on each week at Sudbury First Nations Church, although COVID has changed some of the ways people connect. In person attendance is down, but many people view the services online. A recent series of discipleship classes for young men went well, and will hopefully be offered again soon to include more people. Derek and Gord have recently joined the church leadership team, and Kevin is excited for the new partnership and vision they bring. One area of ministry that they are helping to develop is traveling to encourage believers in surrounding First Nations communities. Visiting these communities and spending time in conversation is uplifting to everyone involved!
Eun Sik Lee and Chun Ok Kim, Grassy Narrows:
Due to the coronavirus, we have been struggling spiritually, financially, and mentally right up to the end of October 2020. But despite our struggles and hardships, we are grateful to God for allowing us to continue our in-person Sunday worship service every week at our community church here. This truly has been a year where we really felt the importance of worship, and how God loves and protects us. This also has been a year where some of our church members are learning to thank God and learning to cooperate with me, in terms of developing our church and in building a stronger relationship with God.
Wendell and Lila Graber, Sault Ste. Marie:
This year the COVID-19 virus has changed ministry a lot for us, but everyone at The Lighthouse has been patient and supportive. Sunday morning attendance has not dropped and it has been all the more meaningful to gather for church and in more informal ways occasionally. We are also very encouraged with how the Lord has brought together a small group of people with a passion to pray for struggling friends and family members.
One of the frustrations has been the 14 day quarantine we have done a few times due to travel outside of Canada for family reasons. Although slowing down is always nice, a short time away from home became a long time away from church friends and the people we love in our community. We are thankful for God’s faithfulness through all the challenges we’ve experienced in ministry and in our family.
Stan and Sally Bragg, Southampton:
Prayer ministry and mentoring young leaders are two key activities for the Braggs. They connect with many people through community activities, and are encouraging others through the disconnection that has come from the pandemic.
LaMar and Janice Weaver, Red Lake:
It’s been a challenging year to have a store in Red Lake, with very few tourists and First Nations customers. So I had plenty of time to again produce the Hopelines and Calendar. Understandably it’s been an off year for hosting mission teams. We continue to be involved in leadership and teaching at Grace Community Church, and Janice still works as a nurse, albeit part time.
Sebai and Beverly Yaman, Thunder Bay:
The Yamans lead New Hope Fellowship and are excited about how God is working and answering prayers. New Hope faced the common challenge of online church earlier this year, and other changes because of COVID. In spite of this, many young people are growing in their faith and stepping up to lead in the church. During the COVID shutdown there were concerns about the church’s finances, but God has provided generously! Pray for Sebai and Beverly as they balance family time with their three children and the responsibilities of church leadership.
A quarterly publication presenting news and stories of Living Hope Native Ministries, a partnership dedicated to serving the First Nations of Ontario.
Merry Christmas from the Board and Staff of LHNM! May your holiday season be worshipful and meaningful, and may God bless and guide you in 2021.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
John 1: 14
Faithful to Jesus
God calls each of us to faithful living. The word faithfulness can elicit ideas of predictability, steadfastness, loyalty, and duty. These are great descriptions, but can come across as if being faithful to Jesus is unexciting and never makes waves. Faithfulness as described in the Bible meant radical living and upsetting the status quo.
The faithful men and women recounted in Hebrews 11, although loyal to God, were anything but predictable to onlookers.
For Noah, faithfulness meant standing alone with his family and not succumbing to the pressure of the humanistic, evil thinking of the culture around him. It also included a radical building project!
Abraham left the comforts of an established home and chose a lifestyle of being led by the voice of God, not knowing where he was going. For him it included drastic obedience to God in his willingness to kill his son as a sacrifice, with the belief that God could raise him from the dead.
Moses endured mistreatment with God’s people as part of faithfulness. He radically gave up the incredible wealth of Egypt, choosing rather a deferred, greater reward that was visible only with kingdom eyes.
Moses and Abraham lived with a longing for a future kingdom with God reigning supreme. They kept a sharp focus on that country, even as they lived faithful and engaged lives in the present reality.
Faith is walking in the “between.” That is the position where our feet are securely on this earth but our eyes and heart are receiving direction from another place. It is believing that God’s way is best even when we can’t imagine how the current process can possibly get to His purposes. Faithful people persevere because they see what is invisible to many others.
We long for completion, and are desperate for results we can measure. Being faithful to Jesus necessitates being content that completion is coming, but not demanding that we see the whole picture now.
Hebrews 11:1, NET sums it up like this. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.”
It is a joy for me to see our staff walking boldly into uncharted territory. I see them persevering in spite of not seeing measurable results many times. As I listen to them talk, I can tell that they are seeking to walk that radical life of faith, seeing God’s invisible kingdom and bringing it to earth. I feel privileged to work with people who are faithful to Jesus.
As you read about the ministries of our staff, pray that all of us would be faithful followers of Jesus, walking with joy the life “between.”