A quarterly publication presenting news and stories of Living Hope Native Ministries, a partnership dedicated to serving the First Nations of Ontario.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
That in every First Nations context the local church would reach its full potential--worshipping in full devotion, attracting the seekers, mobilizing believers, restoring families, changing communities, affecting the world.
Celebrating God's Provision
Over the last year, the board and staff of LHNM have been praying for God’s provision for a new director, and waiting to see how he would provide.
Stuart Swartzentruber took on the role of interim Executive Director in 2018, and has been a dedicated leader through the last 4 years. He and Delores moved to Thunder Bay from Sudbury, where they had been living and working with LHNM for over 25 years. After many years of local church leadership, the office role was a big change. As in any season, there were ups and downs, including new staff and the challenges of the pandemic. Stuart shared his reflections, “It has been an amazing ride! I’ve felt inadequate in many ways, but saw God helping LHNM to grow and move forward. The whole LHNM team has been so supportive. Delores and I are extremely grateful to God for expanding his kingdom in this part of the world and allowing us to be a part of it.”
At the same time that Stuart and Delores were feeling led to move away from this role, Andrew and Kristin Lang moved their family to the Thunder Bay area and began attending New Hope Fellowship. Andrew’s experience in leadership lent itself to discussions and consultation with Stuart in regards to the future of LHNM and the change in leadership.
As Stuart, Andrew, board chairman Clarence Meekis, and other members of the LHNM board spent time in conversation and became acquainted, it became clear to everyone that God was putting the pieces together for Andrew to work with LHNM at this time. In September the decision was finalized, and Andrew and Stuart worked together in the office for the month of October.
On November 1, 2022, the transition was official, and Andrew has stepped into the role of interim Executive Director. He comes to LHNM with experience in leadership, and a vision for leading LHNM in growth, including the search for a permanent Executive Director. In his words, “I’m honoured to be partnering with the amazing staff team at Living Hope, and am excited about the opportunities available for partnering with churches. Most of all, I’m looking forward to what God will be doing through LHNM, building his kingdom here.”
Praise the Lord for his faithful guidance and for making the path clear for this change in leadership.
Living Hope Staff Celebrate God's Faithfulness as they Reflect on Blessings and Challenges in 2022
Jamie and Rhonda Thornton live in Parry Sound, where God has faithfully opened doors for new relationships in the communities in the Georgian Bay area. They are blessed to reconnect with young people after the pandemic, and enjoy talking about faith and answering questions about Jesus. Their hope is to start a drop-in centre for First Nations youth. Jamie and Rhonda thrive on stepping out to journey with friends through the highs and lows of life, all the while pointing them to the hope that can only be found in Jesus.
Kevin and Norma Moore share the highlights of 2022 in Sudbury, “After talking about it for years, Sudbury First Nations Church finally affiliated ourselves with not one, but two, larger organizations. We joined the Northern Lights Association of Churches as a full member, and we also joined the Native Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as associate member. We’ve also started a Sunday soup and bannock supper in our home, and it’s so encouraging to see body life happening again. Pray for wisdom to know how to reach the younger crowd. Miigwetch!”
In the past year, Merle and Rita Nisly engaged in many rewarding conversations with friends, leaders, and parents. Helping others process their own life experiences keeps them learning and growing, too. Contact with friends in northern communities is special, especially as they pray for each other. “Aging and a few health challenges remind us that life is precious, that relationships are priority, and that God's love is everlasting.”
The three main things that Jeff and Mary Kirkpatrick focus on are volunteering with the New Hope Youth Centre, Jeff's outreach to people on the street, and having friends (often young adults) over for meals and hangout time at their house. They also work in the LHNM office part-time, helping with IT support and communication with supporters. At the close of this year, they are thankful for friends who have become like family!
Paul and Esther Lee live in Grassy Narrows, and share the following, “For the year of 2022, it was inspiring to see faith grow through our daily morning prayer meeting. It is a challenge to battle our community’s struggles with addictions and people losing their faith. We would like to request continuous prayers for our community. It is encouraging to see our community trust us to lead services at our church, and having their support for our ministry motivates us to continue our work.”
Beverly and Sebai Yaman lead New Hope Fellowship in Thunder Bay, and feel that 2022 was a rewarding year. “It's been amazing to have ministry back in full-swing after two years of start-stop ministry during the pandemic.” They're blessed by young people in the church who are excited about their faith and want to be baptized. As they complete their seventh year of pastoral ministry, they are planning a sabbatical to relax and renew their vision of what God has next.
As Stuart and Delores Swartzentruber recently stepped down from the leadership of LHNM, they will be taking a sabbatical to discern God’s direction for their future. The past year has primarily been filled with seeking God’s will for the future leadership of LHNM, and then watching the wonderful way he brought Andrew and Kristin Lang to lead LHNM through the next season. They ask for prayer as they navigate this transition.
This fall Colleen Estes celebrated the faithfulness of God after 25 years of ministry in Pikangikum. However, it was a very different year, with a late Covid outbreak shutting down Christian Education in the school, Sunday School, and Bible studies for six months. Medical treatment also thwarted in-person outreach for two months later in the year. All of this strengthened her resolve to seize every opportunity to bring God's Word and love to people's lives. Her fervent prayer is for additional labourers for the ministry now that additional housing has been provided.
This has been a year of blessings and challenges for Stan and Sally Bragg in Saugeen. They launched a healing discipleship ministry called Eagles Wings Freedom Sessions, after seeing how badly it is needed. Jesus is the answer, and this outreach is merely a tool to invite him into the midst of grief, abuse, addiction, and trauma. They are thankful for the faithfulness of a great God, the prayers of his people, and they long for a supernatural move of God across Canada.
In Red Lake, Arthur and Iris Lyndaker prioritize time spent in one-on-one relationships, often over coffee or in a shared activity. In 2022 they were encouraged by the connections the Holy Spirit led them to – both in giving and receiving. Arthur is also the property manager for the LHNM buildings in Red Lake. Over the last year, the uncertainty of Iris’ health and her surgery has been difficult, and they appreciate prayer for peace and healing.
Rob and Joy Weaver and their family live in the small community of Morson, where their ministry centres on their church family and the weekly service. They also reach out to their community, building relationships and hosting a summer day camp for children. Several people have believed in Jesus, and the Weavers are delighted to encourage new believers as they follow Jesus! They are praying for another young family to share in the ministry there.
Rob and Sharlene Dilts lead the Pinaaz-I Zibi Maamawi ministry in Golden Lake, and write about the last year, “The return to overnight camp and community involvement was rewarding, despite the challenges of fundraising and volunteer recruitment. We saw new and strengthened relationships through camp and community gatherings such as the Christmas feast. An important community connection continues to be hiring a local summer student as part of our Reconciliation Action Plan. Our partnerships continue developing with LHNM, as well as CRC, NAIITS, Teen Challenge, EMCC and many others.”
Wendell and Lila Graber live in Sault Ste. Marie, where Wendell is the pastor of The Lighthouse. They both make it a priority to meet with people for conversation and prayer. Hearing from people about how God is working in their lives, and about spiritual growth is what encourages the Grabers in their ministry. Their prayer is that God will direct their connections and friendships and use them as a light.
In Nipigon, Ken and Sondra Funk share that they have seen the Lord's favor and blessing in 2022. “Our semi-retirement lifestyle continues to be full with no boredom. We are encouraged to see people we have prayed for returning to the Lord, and seeking to restore their relationship with Him. The principle of sowing and reaping are unstoppable Kingdom forces. We have fully enjoyed relating to our natural family and our church family and feel rich in relationships.”
LaMar and Janice Weaver live in Red Lake and operate the Treasure House store. LaMar continues to do photography, and designs both the Hopelines and the yearly LHNM calendar from his home office. Both are involved in the ministry of Grace Community Church and Janice is a part-time registered nurse. Both welcome the challenge of representing Jesus in their community.