Summer Teams: God at Work
We are thankful for each of the teams that shared the Gospel with the children of the northern Ontario communities of Pikangikum, Keewaywin, and Weagamow. Seeds were sown!
Keewaywin, by Scott Herbert
This past summer we were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Keewaywin First Nation, ON, to hold Vacation Bible School. Our team from Maple City Chapel, Goshen, IN, consisted of 19 high school students and 4 adults.
We fell in love with the people of Keewaywin, especially the kids. Our visit fell over a time when the chief brought the community together for a revival weekend. We were encouraged and blessed by the leaders of the community as they prayed for each of us and for the rest of our stay in Keewaywin. It was a humbling experience to see the leaders so broken for God.
The Keewaywin kids hung out with us from sunup to sundown, and then some. They are beautiful kids with bright futures. One of the ways we spent time with the kids is providing a Bible school program. This gave us a way to invite kids to come to something structured and hopeful. We quickly built many beautiful relationships, and still keep in contact with many of the children.
In the evenings we spent time with the older youth in the community. The school building was opened for us to play volleyball, basketball and floor hockey. Again this provided a way for us to cross cultures and have fun learning from each other. We showed them how we play American basketball, but they showed us how to play Canadian hockey. As we built friendships in the short time we spent together, our hearts broke for story after story of the things the people in the Keewaywin First Nation people go through. Our eyes were opened to the impact of suicide, drugs, alcohol, and temptations on the community. Spiritual warfare was evident to us during our stay there. We continue to keep them in our prayers and intercede for them.
The day we left we received news that one of the kids we talked to the night before tried to commit suicide. Our hearts broke, and many of us felt a feeling of helplessness. We asked the question, “What can we do?” We prayed and asked God to intervene. We want to stand with the community of Keewaywin and believe our Lord Jesus will bring a revival from the young to the old. Jesus will have the final say, and we pray for victory in that community. We prayed and believed it, and will continue to believe it.
Thank you to LHNM for the opportunity that they provide for people to experience another culture and learn from people. There is a huge need for God’s Kingdom to be advanced. The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few. We invite you to pray for the First Nations people and ask God to bring more workers to make disciples. Pray for the First Nations youth to take a stand and desire God more than what the world gives.
Weagamow, by Dave Brenneman
For the children in Weagamow (or Round Lake), one of the highlights of the summer is attending the girls and boys camp-something they look forward to all year. We have been blessed to have a group from Cherry Glade Mennonite Church here every year since 2012 to help with the camps, with many camp counselors being here every year. They understand what is needed at camp and step up and do it.
Camp is a lot of work for both the team and the people at Weagamow. But more important is the relationships that have been made over the years. It is wonderful to see those bonds grow and strengthen. It is also encouraging to hear the counselors say they can see real growth in the kids walk with God. It is amazing to see how God uses each one with the gifts He has given to help His kingdom grow.
Folks from the team and from Weagamow said it was one of the best camps yet. Volunteer Courtney Maust said of the girls camp: “I feel like it went better because relationships have been built upon from other years. Not only did the campers know what to expect but I think us counselors were also more prepared. Allowing flexibility helped us to have fun and a relaxing time, and added to the lessons and Bible studies. And of course sleep was the biggest difference. Both the girls and teachers had a full night sleep which gave us all more energy, creating a more enjoyable time together. But ultimately, while we may have tweaked things, it was evident that the Holy Spirit was present guiding and directing us counselors and working in the heart of the girls.”
Hunter Tice said of the boy’s camp: “I have been to Round Lake before but not to camp. From hearing what others were saying, the boys were very cooperative with few behavioral issues. Each of the devotional times was led by a different counselor with each sharing on topics that complimented one another.”
We pray the things talked about and learned at the camps will be forever in their hearts of the campers, and that something they heard will help when times are difficult. We were also pleased with the community’s involvement in the camps. It is encouraging to see the church and community working together for the good of the young people of Round Lake.
Akwachink: A Difficult but Growing Experience
by Andrea Lyndaker
Akwachink Leadership School is a physically and emotionally intense college course designed to equip youth with leadership skills and promote character development-all under the guise of a canoe trip. The course is offered through Rosedale Bible College and is hosted by Living Hope Native Ministries in Red Lake, Ontario. Taking place three weeks before fall semester, the first two weeks of Akwachink are spent on an expedition in the bush. The third week consists of classes taught by mission personnel at the LHNM base, and paper writing.
My daddy, Arthur Lyndaker, was the instructor. Arthur led Akwachink for seventeen years before taking a six year break, when Dion Gingerich took his turn in Sudbury. As a little girl with wild curls and bright eyes, I watched with awe each summer as my daddy, my hero, tromped off into the bush with a small troop of college students in tow. They were the essence of maturity, and I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. The years flew by, and now my older brother Collin and I were with them.
Because of extremely low water levels in the creeks, we spent more time on land portaging during the first week than we did on the water paddling. As Emilie Miller recalled, “For me, the hardest time of each day was the moment when we found the portage and started unloading the packs and dragging the canoes. Each time, I had to work hard on my attitude because I knew that what was coming wouldn’t be easy. I learned that leaning on others helps so much when trying to get through something hard. If just one person is working hard to keep a positive attitude, it can shift the mood of the whole group.”
It was definitely crazy hard, and I think a lot of us were wondering how we could have ever been so dumb as to have paid to work so hard. But then we would finally get to our campsite, and after filling our hungry tummies and resting our tired feet, we would sit around the fire-its comforting warmth surrounding us-and suddenly, everything was okay. In fact, it might have been the best day ever.
During those first two weeks, we rose with the sun, crashed through overgrown portages, paddled down winding creeks and across huge lakes, fished for walleye and lake trout, learned how to use a compass and read maps, repelled, ran rapids, and sang underneath a canopy of stars.
Solo was a point of spiritual renewing for many of us. Erin Yoder shared her experience: “I really enjoyed our twenty-four hour solo. At first I was pretty focused on just setting up my shelter and doing more practical things around my area. As I was building my fire, the sky was bright red and the lake had become gloriously still. Across the lake, I could see three other little fires. I enjoyed being so completely solitary, but to still be unified with the rest of our team. Alone, yet together. Having the time to spend so much time alone with Jesus was amazing. I read a lot of Psalm 119, and was really struck with how in love the psalmist was with scripture. He looked to it for everything: for wisdom, for strength, for joy. It really impressed on me how I should be the same way. Since Akwachink, I have found myself enjoying my time alone with Jesus more than I did before.”
Carissa Lilly, another student who went on Akwachink this year, also summarized her adventures: “Going on the Akwachink expedition was an incredible experience. I went expecting God to work, and He was faithful. I found spiritual renewal and direction about my future while in the bush. We learned a lot about teamwork and communication in addition to leadership and bush skills. The sense of fellowship among our group was great. Being out in the wilderness facing the elements together can make or break your friendships, and it definitely made ours. I entered the group as a complete stranger and left as a friend with every one of them. This is an amazing program. I hope it’s around for many years for others to experience.”
Before Akwachink, I never really had the opportunity to bond with other Christian youth. Just like Carissa, I started the trip feeling alone, and wondering how in the world I was going to fit in. But then Jesus knocked my socks off by surrounding me with people who really cared for me, despite my faults and shortcomings.
Saying goodbye to people I had grown to love was so, so hard, but I do not regret the pieces of my heart that I gave away; I know they will all come back to me in full. During our solo on Akwachink, I made the decision to choose to trust Jesus with my future, and He once again invited me to join him in this dance of life. Though I may not know where I am going, I know my heart has been changed, and I’m so very excited to see how God uses these experiences to bring me closer to him.
by Merle Nisly
It seems we love to label and categorize people. We’ve given labels to our age groups-like Boomers, Gen X, Y, and Millennials-presumably to better understand why people think as they do. It seems these affect our expectations of people, and maybe unfairly limit those partnerships we could be developing.
To me, now a bona fide senior citizen, it is fun to watch young people break stereotypes and to make an unpredictable impact in our world. The younger people featured in these stories have shown a kind of energy and purpose that spreads hope and optimism in the face of fear and negativity.
We may do well to avoid labels and generalizations of all people-especially the upcoming generations that we older ones compare to our own. It will be a lot more helpful and encouraging if we can inspire purpose, energy, and skill development that spreads the essence and the glory of the Kingdom we are a part of.