Hopelines July 2019

Forest Fires

A large forest fire this spring threatened the Pikangikum First Nation and forced an evacuation by air to many host communities. The nearly 4,000 hectare fire was only several kilometers away from the community and took two weeks to bring under control. Pray for rain as another fire is causing another evacuation in July.

LHNM Staff opportunities

North Caribou Lake First Nations, on the shores of Weagamow Lake, is a community of 800 people located 320 km north of Sioux Lookout, Ontario. This opening is ideal for a married couple who could partner with the local churches to connect with the youth and children of the community. Relationships would be built through activities such as after-school programs, youth groups, teaching Sunday school, or hosting summer camps. This placement is for a minimum of two years.
Thunder Bay is a small but busy city (110,000) with many people coming and going from the northern communities, especially for education and healthcare. This job description will be developed with the candidate from many opportunities including partnership with ministries to Indigenous youth, hospital visitation, and contributing to the local church. Additional opportunities exist in the LHNM office, including IT support and assisting with public relations. This placement is for a minimum of two years.

A Home for The Lighthouse

Story and Photos by LaMar Weaver

Guillanume and Christina Williams and son Elijah arriving at The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse church in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is still a lighthouse - shining for Jesus and striving to reflect God's glory in that city. Its spiritual foundation is still the same, solid and unchanging, but the church family has finally found a brick and mortar place to call home.

It was a beautiful spring day on June 9, 2019, when the Lighthouse church met for the first meeting in their very own space - a bright and newly renovated building just north of downtown Soo. "I'm over-the-top excited!" said Vance Henson as he welcomed the congregation and opened the service. "We're all thankful," Vance said and then prayed that God would "anoint this place...that it would be a lighthouse."

Dawson and Kristin Soucy lead the worship in music.

Since its beginnings as a church plant in 1996, the fellowship has met in five different rented church and school buildings. Living Hope Native Ministries pastor couple, Wendell and Lila Graber, have been with The Lighthouse from the beginning as the founding members, and have done the weekly set-up and tear-down that renting required. "I'm happy we don't have to go every Sunday to set up," said their 13-year-old daughter, Alisha.

Vance opens the service with welcome and prayer.

The Grabers first came from Indiana to Canada in 1986. After living at the Deer Lake First Nation, the Red Lake area, and a stint back in the states for school, Wendell and Lila moved to Sault Ste. Marie.

Wendell Graber preaches at the first service at the new Lighthouse building.

Since being in the city, the Grabers have experienced the joy of seeing people come to the Lord. The challenges are often related to the transient nature of urban life. Some are baptized and discipled, but then leave to return to home communities. "I suppose we need to advertise that we have our own building," Wendell said. "We're praying that the neighbours will get curious and start to come!"
The Lighthouse is welcoming to all, but is especially partnering with the First Nations people. The church community is blessed with several young families attending, but pray for more. There are challenges between cultures, as well. "We need to examine ourselves, and consider other points of view," said Lila.

Daniel Hermann teaches a Sunday school class.

The Lighthouse found the building, a former day-care, and made an offer to purchase in 2017. The purchase was finalized in the fall of 2018, and the hard work began. There have been numerous delays and roadblocks with zoning, severances, a new HVAC system, and commercial building codes with specific safety requirements.

The potluck celebration after the first service in the new building.

Much of the renovation work fell to Wendell and Lila, along with several work crews from churches in Indiana and Michigan. These teams helped with building walls, installing drywall and ceilings, and other projects. Volunteers from both the church and community gave their time to work at the Lighthouse.

Jo-anne Thiessen with her daughter Avery. Jo-anne and her husband Ernie and family attend the Lighthouse.

The new building features a beautiful skylight that welcomes the sun, a kitchen, nursery, office, and a multipurpose room used for children's ministry and potlucks. The sanctuary is spacious, with a floor-level stage in a corner, framed by large windows and exposed trusses with directed lights.

Thirty people attended this first service, and after worship in music, Wendell brought the message. He spoke from Philippians on Kingdom living, being citizens of Heaven, and having the mind of Christ. Most stayed for a celebratory potluck after chairs were moved around and tables were set up in the multipurpose sanctuary.

Another prayer summed up the joy and expectation of the Lighthouse congregation, "Bless this property!"

Sam's Journey From a Hudson's Bay Post to a Lighthouse

Story and Photo by LaMar Weaver

"We have a place to call home!"

Samuel Ferris is excited as he talks about the new building for The Lighthouse church in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. After being a part of The Lighthouse for 19 years and its many moves, Sam is glad for their very own space for meeting.

Sam, 61, is originally from the English River Hudson's Bay post, a one day's boat ride from Constance Lake First Nation, where he lived until he was in his thirties. His parents, George and Madeline, had 14 children although several died as infants while the family lived in the remote bush area.

George was a trapper and a guide, an organist for the Anglican church, as well as the chief of Constance Lake for a time. Madeline tanned moose and deer hides and did crafts. Alcohol was a problem for his family-a brother drowned while drinking-and when Sam grew up he drank as well.

"I wish it was better," Sam says of his childhood. "I wish we would've known God sooner." Sam went to church as a child but quit attending when he reached his teens.

Sam moved to the Soo in 1992 and worked for a Metis and Native organization as a receptionist and in fundraising. But he partied on weekends. "I was only happy when I was drinking," he remembered. "but then I was sick and sad and full of regrets."

Sam first met pastor Wendell Graber in 1997, and kept running into him at the Station Mall. "He gave me his business card," Sam recalls, "and he never stopped visiting me."

Then Sam found himself in Toronto with his sister, who was waiting for a liver transplant. When she passed away, Sam quit drinking. When Sam returned to the Soo, he came to the Lord and started attending The Lighthouse, and is part of the leadership team today.

Sam is fond of the Graber family. "They welcomed me into their family, a family that loved me and cared for me." he said. "I saw their kids grow up, graduate, and get married."

Sam wanted to help more with the building renovations but couldn't do much as he waits for hip replacement surgery. Today Sam is happy to be a part of not only the Graber family but also the Lighthouse family as they enjoy their new home in the Soo.

Merle Nisly: Joyfully Grateful

Join us in praising God for answered prayers on Merle and Rita Nisly's behalf. Last September 8, just as we approached the intense phase of the LHNM leadership transition plans, Merle suffered a severe head injury when he fainted while up on a step ladder. He hit the concrete floor in a horizontal position, and fractured his skull in three places. By God's grace, he survived the injury and began the slow journey of healing. He had no spinal or skeletal injury other than the skull fractures.

The first months were mostly restful, with very limited mental exertion. This meant that the new office crew had to figure out a lot of things with limited input from Merle. It also meant that they had to manage the office move from Red Lake to Thunder Bay, which he had been planning to manage.

Merle writes, "In February of this year, the extensive neurological and medical examinations were completed to the point where they allowed me my driving privileges again. That felt like a big step toward normal living again. Others aspects of my recovery have gone ahead at very encouraging rates, and Rita and I are very grateful to God for undeserved healing and peace.

"Today, Rita and I live and act in, what for us are, normal patterns of life and relationships much as before. We are in a very different stage of life, and are enjoying the changes in responsibilities immensely. This has included our being available to the new LHNM office team for coaching and advice. Our intent is to be fruitful in life and relationships, as Jesus intends for us. We thank you for praying for my healing and for our adjustments in transitions. We are joyfully grateful for the health and freedom we currently enjoy."

Restored, but for What?

By Stuart Swartzentruber

Tractors were a necessity on the dairy farm where I grew up.  For small tasks around the farm, we had an old 8N Ford tractor.  It seemed old when I was born and was ancient when I left home at 19. I have many sentimental memories of that tractor.  My older brother apparently did as well, as he has totally restored it. Today it is a beautiful, clean, well-running tractor.

In this issue of Hopelines, there is a story of an old day-care building which was renovated and restored. It will be used as a facility for The Lighthouse church in Sault Ste. Marie.
Some restoration projects are for sentimental purposes. Others are embarked upon so that ideals and ideas can move ahead toward reality.

The restoration of God's kingdom is the grand theme throughout the whole Bible. God's plan is always about redeeming and making things right. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose. He conquered sin and death. Restoration has come and continues to come.

God has brought us back to wholeness with him. We are not called to be restored human projects in God's museum, but are called to join with him in the task of seeing all creation restored to God's original intention. Paul writes "For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross." (Colossians 1:9-19, NLT)

We have joined God's kingdom, not just to wait for heaven, but to be the instruments God uses in this world to see "everything" being made new. The secret that is now out in the open is this: "Christ lives in you..." (Colossians 1:27, NLT). We are privileged to be the hands and feet of Jesus in his amazing kingdom.

The new home for The Lighthouse is not about a building.  It is about creating a space where Christ's body in Sault St. Marie can join God in his amazing restoration work.