Vacation Bible School During COVID
by Christine Jantzi, Wellesley, ON
“For the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12b
We were blessed to truly experience the Lord’s presence and leading this summer as we worked with New Hope Fellowship to offer a children’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) in the city of Thunder Bay in August.
I find myself reflecting on various figures in the Bible who responded to God’s call on their lives. Consider Moses. God had set him apart from the beginning of his life; his purpose was led of God. What a journey! In Exodus 3 and 4, there are instances where Moses essentially says, “God, why me?” He even goes as far as to say, “Send someone else!” To God be the glory, Moses stepped out and was obedient to the Lord’s leading, even though his life, including the season of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, as well as the years leading up to that time were messy! Then consider Jonah. He was so fearful of the people of Nineveh that he ran away from God! After a big mess, he repented and followed the Lord.
Over the past many years, New Hope Fellowship (Thunder Bay) and Maple View Mennonite Church (Wellesley - in Southwest Ontario) have had a really special relationship. Groups from Maple View have worked with New Hope to offer children’s ministry in the summer in various parks and community spaces, and in more recent years at New Hope’s church facility.
Starting in the early weeks of 2020, we sensed the Lord’s leading for a VBS to take shape for the upcoming summer. We stepped out in faith and began making plans. Then, unlike anything any of us have ever experienced, COVID-19 threw a wrench into our plans!
We found ourselves intensely seeking the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will. It absolutely would have been easiest to just say, “VBS is cancelled this year”, but we never felt a peace about such a decision. It felt like a bit of a mess! We continued to hold on, take steps in faith, and wait on the Lord. The lead-up to this VBS was complicated in many ways, including COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions, travel considerations and an unknown volunteer roster.
It was amazing to see how God opened doors and led the way. From August 10-14 we held a daily VBS in the afternoons at New Hope’s church site. There were volunteers from both churches, approximately 25 participants daily, we operated in cohorts, and the entire VBS was held outdoors. We thanked God for his protection and provision—the weather was clear and dry each afternoon, and children experienced the life-giving power of God’s word and heard the profound message of His unending love for each of them. On Friday afternoon, after our VBS time came to a close, families and friends were welcomed to hear some VBS songs from the children, and to enjoy a community BBQ. Here we were able to share the love of Christ with a great turnout of participants’ families and friends! There were confirmations, both big and small, throughout the week that this VBS was favoured and blessed of God. What a blessing to be in on it!
The biggest take-home for me from this experience was this question and challenge: “Are you willing to follow God’s leading, no matter the obstacles? No matter the cost?” Getting to the VBS wasn’t easy. There were obstacles including restrictions and risks surrounding COVID-19 and even opposition from certain individuals. Yet far outweighing those things was the presence of God, and his voice urging us to press on! We live in a world full of uncertainties; the enemy is working against the advancement of the gospel and the power of Christ to save souls. Are we willing to seek Jesus and follow his calling, even when it is uncomfortable, difficult, or opposed by others? Let’s keep pressing into Jesus, and on to what he calls us to. Please pray for the seeds planted at New Hope’s VBS to grow and flourish, for the Holy Spirit to minister and work in lives, and to continue drawing hearts to himself.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-15
A quarterly publication presenting news and stories of Living Hope Native Ministries, a partnership dedicated to serving the First Nations of Ontario.
Opportunities with LHNM
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 assignment is for a minimum of two years.
Did you know that donations to LHNM can be designated for the ministries of specific staff, the operating expenses, or for a specific project?
One such project is the annual calendar that is mailed out to thousands of friends of LHNM every November. The calendar project is a valuable way of sharing stories, and many people look forward to it. If you would like to contribute to that project, or any other fund, the information can be found by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.lhnm.org/donate. Thank you for being part of the partnerships of LHNM through your giving and prayers!
For more information on these opportunities, contact LHNM.
Red Lake Fire
Thousands from the Red Lake district were quickly evacuated when a fast moving fire threatened the community in mid August. Prayers were answered and God sent soaking rain and wind that changed the direction of the fire. Please pray for so many in the West affected by destructive wildfires.
Traveling Together in a New Way
Rob Dilts, Golden Lake, ON
The past summer was difficult as, for the first time in 14 years, we were not able to gather with youth and staff in community and celebration at camp or in homes. However, despite the restrictions and isolation, we know the “Good Story” must be shared and walked.
As Paul reminds us, “Put on your feet, the moccasins of Creator’s peace treaty, so you will ALWAYS be ready to tell the Good Story as you WALK the road of life.” (Ephesians 6:15, FNV). He also reminds us that we must gather, sing, dance, give thanks and represent our Creator, saying, “At your gatherings, tell the ancient stories and sing the traditional songs. Sing spiritual songs from your heart as you dance before the Great Spirit, giving thanks to our Father the Creator, as you represent our Honoured Chief, Creator Sets Free (Jesus) - the Chosen One.” (Ephesians 5:19-20, FNV).
Particularly challenging during these Covid-19 restrictions has been 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, praying the sound of drums, song, and prayer would carry the Spirit’s Word across the river; meeting in smaller groups outside or with masks; learning new technologies (Zoom, Facebook Live, etc.) and teaching and training Elders and others to use them as we and our community “work from home;” and participating in the opening of a Food Bank in the community to meet the growing physical needs as a result of the pandemic.
As an alternative to gathering at camp this year, we embraced an online/virtual format, a “PZM in a Box” with online sharing circles, workshops, ceremonies etc., during the week of August 4 to 8. We gave out over 50 boxes of camp and craft supplies to campers from California to the NWT and across Southern and Eastern Ontario. Twenty-three boxes were distributed in partnership with the local Food Bank. We included online Sharing Circles each morning and a “virtual” campfire in the evenings and Staff and Elders pre-recorded videos for crafts and teachings. The late addition of a volunteer Summer Student, Theresa Paplinskie, provided much needed administrative assistance. We are excited to travel with Christ’s Spirit as He continues to move in our community and through the Four Directions across Turtle Island this coming year.
Rob and Sharlene Dilts are missionaries with the Pinaaz-i Zibi Maamawi (Travelling the River Together) outreach with Global Workers with EMCC-World Partners, and associates with Living Hope Native Ministries. They minister in the Anishinaabe - Omàmìwininì (Algonquin) Traditional Territory and live in Golden Lake, Ontario.
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The Unstoppable Kingdom
By Stuart Swartzentruber
God’s kingdom is unstoppable! It has a mind of its own, and has a King who bows to no one. This kingdom will not cave to peer pressure or popular thought. In its truest form, it can never be hijacked by anyone for personal gain or status.
God’s kingdom topples other kingdoms, but not with a sword. It declares justice for all. It gives favour to the humble, the weak, and the vulnerable. It curtails and opposes the arrogant and the proud.
Violence, force, and coercion are standard fare for other kingdoms. Jesus invites us to join a kingdom where the most powerful weapon is love; a kingdom where a person’s ability to love their enemy is the benchmark for maturity.
In God’s kingdom we submit to one another other, laying down our rights. In this kingdom, true power is described as being cloaked in insignificant things like yeast, mustard seeds, little children, a turned cheek, and a small rock rolling down a mountain.
In this God story, yeast infiltrates and expands in mysterious ways. (Matthew 13) Childlikeness becomes the standard for entering God’s kingdom. (Matthew 18) The insignificant stone crushes the powerful, significant statue, and becomes its own mountain filling the whole earth! (Daniel 2) In God’s economy, the conquering of evil happens not by force and violence, but by the turned cheek and love for our enemies. (Romans 12)
God’s kingdom will not be conscripted for use by denominations, nationalism, or political parties. This kingdom is portrayed at times in scripture as a river. This river sometimes flows together with denominational streams and political creeks. At times it shares the same waters. Many other times, its powerful current moves away from all other systems, cutting its own riverbed and carrying its citizens with it.
As disciples of Jesus, we follow a king with a master plan. This plan brings humans and all creation to wholeness as image bearers of the Creator. This agenda and purpose is one which the kingdoms of this world can never understand. Our allegiance and loyalties must lie with this amazing kingdom above all others. This kingdom has endured through the ages and is moving toward completion. It is in no danger of extinction. This is the kingdom we are invited to join and participate in.
With Jesus as our example, and the risen Christ giving us new life and power, let us humbly lay down our lives for all, and invite others to be a part of this unstoppable kingdom.