Hopelines December 2023


A quarterly publication presenting news and stories of Living Hope Native Ministries, a partnership dedicated to serving the First Nations of Ontario.

If you or your church are interested in being part of a VBS partnership team like Brent and Raya wrote about, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Jeff at jkirkpatrick@lhnm.org to talk about Summer 2024.

Our Vision

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.

Watch for upcoming events in 2024 that are being planned to strengthen Indigenous churches and create connection between believers. Kingdom Builders is one event designed for encouraging and connecting workers in Indigenous ministries.


Living Hope hired Rodney Martin in August as Public Relations Director. He is originally from Constance Lake and pastored in Sachigo Lake for a time. His contribution to the organization is invaluable. Here is his perspective on partnership: 

Rodney and Betsy Martin

What does partnership look like? The question when posed seemed to baffle me, because it was something I never really thought about. So when I looked up the definition, this is what I found: A partnership consists of two or more people who combine their resources for a greater purpose.

And that was when I began to feel very uncomfortable. “Two people combine their resources…” What could I, as a First Nation person, possibly bring to the table that has any value? My native mindset is telling me, “this will be a very unbalanced, one sided partnership.” (Kind of like my partnership with Christ…but that’s another topic.) But if I’m honest, in my mind this will seem more like a white dominated partnership where once again I’m defaulted to live on handouts and sympathy, having made no real contribution to this relationship.

But to truly understand the dynamics of the contribution, you have to define what that “greater purpose” is. The greater purpose in this case would be the “great commission”--to go out and make disciples of all nations. Similarly, LHNM's vision states, “That in every First Nations context the local church would reach its full potential - worshiping  in full devotion, attracting the seekers, mobilizing believers, restoring families, changing communities, affecting the world.”

In essence, the contribution of the pastors for these native communities and the church would be that they become the hands and the mouth of this commission. Northern pastors know the needs of the people; they know individual struggles; they have the contacts; they know the language and how to best communicate to avoid misunderstanding. They have the much-needed information that  outsiders do not have. That is their strength.

As a pastor who has formerly worked in the north, I’ve faced a lot of struggles. But none more unnecessary than feeling inadequate and under equipped. With proper partnerships, I feel we can put an end to some of these challenges–by providing lessons and training for the pastor and congregation, supplying access to all the up-to-date reading material and new information about the advancements of the church. I believe partnership requires constant communication and encouragement. With the continual progress in technology, communicating has never been easier.

What is partnership? In my opinion, it is a strength that we can all benefit from as we work together in this great commission. If you want to be a part of this partnership, we invite you to contact us here at LHNM.

Many of the LHNM staff at the fall gathering at Dorion Bible Camp

Pastoring a Church in a Remote Community

Steven Keesic is the son of our bookkeeper, Mary Keesic, and the late Jim Keesic. Two years ago we shared an article about a pastoral opening in Whitefish Bay, Lac Seul. Today, Steven Keesic and his wife Noemi pastor at that church. We thank God for answering that prayer and continue to pray with him for people to bring the Gospel to the North.

Steve & Noemi (right) with Jerry & Edna Quequish

Pastoring a church in a remote First Nation community is a daily challenge. Previously, I served in a front-lines ministry called Adult & Teen Challenge of Central Canada for nearly ten years. Although I have observed many similarities and challenges between my past and present ministerial role, there is one major difference: not the ‘feeling' of being ‘alone & isolated’, but in fact being alone and isolated. Previously, I was blessed to have a team of others surrounding me every day, encouraging, praying, supporting one another. Now I do not have that. As a result, I have become acutely aware of the importance of partnerships and support from churches/believers.

My wife and I have been extremely blessed to have many strong relationships with the body of Christ from many areas. We have been blessed to have a variety of church groups, guest speakers, and ministry teams visit our church and encourage us in the Lord. Prior to moving, we had been advised that New Hope Fellowship church in Thunder Bay wanted to support us financially each month. This was a tremendous encouragement for us, as we had discerned the Lord was leading us to Whitefish Bay, Lac Seul. At that time, we had no financial support but we trusted God to provide for us. The Lord surely has! There is much I could relate about the challenges that we face, but I pray that there would be readers who will be prompted by the Holy Spirit to find ways to support remote First Nations churches.
Please pray for us as we labour and love on people who have endured generations of tragedy and trauma. Many First Nation communities are looking for pastors. Church buildings are sitting vacant. Reader, perhaps God is calling you to deny yourself, take up your cross, and bring the Gospel to the North. The question becomes, will you heed the call?


Partners in Christ

Brent Kipfer, pastor of Maple View Mennonite Church, Wellesley, Ontario

Our southern Ontario church, Maple View Mennonite, has been deeply enriched by our partnership with northern followers of Jesus. Over the past three decades, our closest connections have been through New Hope Fellowship in Thunder Bay. This past July, a team of eighteen from our two congregations answered an invitation from Pikangikum First Nation to offer a week of Vacation Bible School for children there.

God has blessed us in these relationships (not just this summer but over the years) by enabling us to:

  • Experience his family beyond our local congregation. Again and again, the Holy Spirit encourages and inspires us through our brothers and sisters as we worship, share meals, talk, and hang out together.
  • Have the joy of serving with multicultural teams on mission with Jesus, sharing the gospel, trusting God together.
  • Learn from the wisdom, faith, and perseverance of believers in communities different from our own.
  • Receive hospitality from people who welcome and provide space for us in their community, giving us the privilege of seeing both beauty and brokenness in their world.
  • Have some of our assumptions challenged and corrected so that we can grow into more mature disciples of Jesus.
  • See God at work in unfamiliar circumstances.

Our partnership in the gospel includes far more than running ministry programs together–as important as they are. Through our shared bond in Jesus Christ, our northern brothers and sisters spur us on in our own walk with God and our experience of his goodness.

Pikangikum Vacation Bible School Team

Additional Thoughts by Raya McClean

Partnership with Living Hope, Maple View, and the Pikangikum people was such an awesome opportunity and experience. It was a great way to get to know others, build experiences, and learn things we didn’t know before. Even though this was the first time we had worked together, we all had the same idea--loving the kids. It was amazing to see how we brought Christ’s light to the kids and others in Pikangikum. I find that such a blessing.

I pray and hope that this partnership can continue, so that Christ’s light can continue to be seen by those who don’t know Him.


By Andrew Lang and Merle Nisly

September 5, 1972 – August 31, 2023

Many of you reading this will have some amazing memories of Iris. I don’t know how you could spend any amount of time with her and her family without getting the impression that her love for others was genuine. She also exuded a deep love for the Lord. I was only able to get to know her for less than a year but I saw her character and love for God, that she lived what she believed and will be leaving a legacy of faith, spiritual strength, and love for those she leaves behind.

Arthur was on an Akwachink trip in 1990 and a year or two later Arthur and Iris came to be involved with the ministry. A short time later they were married. She was a substantial support to Arthur on trips and in his ministry. On one of the late nights on the trip with Arthur, Merle remembers Iris worshiping through dancing on a rock point.

Arthur & Iris and their family

Another strength Iris demonstrated was not shrinking back from tackling difficult situations. She approached challenges with a confidence that came from her solid faith in God. She showed amazing adaptability in taking on new challenges like moving from Red Lake to Poplar Hill, owning and embracing the task of engaging with the community where she found herself. She was also eager to discuss theology and her views on faith and would discuss the reason for her beliefs with anyone who wanted to learn more. She has been a role model in the ministry by how she parented, raised her kids, and consistently pursued God.

Iris will be missed. We look forward to the day we can celebrate with her again with our Lord.
If you’d like to share your memories, there is a Facebook group for Iris’ celebration of life. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can send a message to the office and we will pass it on, or you can send it directly to the Lyndaker family. Please keep Arthur and the family in your prayers.

Looking Forward

By Andrew Lang

The mission of Living Hope is to equip and empower local churches that matter. We are shifting energy as an organization so that we can more effectively do that, specifically with partnership in mind.

I’m excited that we have been able to trial a number of events, and are building relationships to help build up the local church in northern communities. We’re hoping to build on the momentum we’ve gained this past year, reach even more people, and be a resource to more First Nations Christians in Northern Ontario.

This summer we’re planning on running more VBS Programs than last year. We will continue with another Kingdom Builders event–a time where believers working in indigenous communities get together and encourage each other. Some energy is going towards building a national training network with other First Nations ministries in Canada. We have been making connections so that we can run Akwachink trips for northern camps and communities and are taking steps towards running a discipleship training program led by First Nations believers.

This is our way of acting out the Great Commission to make disciples who make disciples. Thanks for being part of this ministry by praying, joining in on our initiatives, and funding the mission to build up indigenous believers who will be able to lead the church for the coming generations. May God richly bless you this season and inspire you with how you can partner in your community to accomplish what God has prepared.