A Merging of Cultures
By LaMar Weaver
The Paul and Esther Lee family ministers at Grassy Narrows First Nation, experiencing the challenges and joys of being a missionary family on a small, rather-remote reserve. Arriving from South Korea in 2009, the Lee family has faithfully served the community through a variety of community ministries. “I see positive changes in people,” Paul said when asked about his years as a pastor at the Grassy Narrows Church.
Community outreach for the Lee family includes early prayer meetings each morning. Along with all church meetings, this is held in the “Agnes Building,” named after the lady who generously provides the space for worship gatherings.
Sunday services attract around forty worshippers, and there’s also a Monday evening Bible Study. Following each Sunday service is the ever-popular fellowship meal. Esther usually prepares the meal, and is thrilled that more of the people are supplying food. She’s encouraged by the warmth of the people, and was so blessed by flowers from the congregation on Mother’s Day.
Esther, after cooking and serving a fabulous Korean meal that included sticky rice and kimchi, sat at the dining table doing beadwork. She’s preparing a vamp as she learns to make moccasins. “These people have softened hearts,” Esther said of her Grassy friends.
Daughters Grace and Gloria are back in the community after years of university education and work. They, and Esther, feel privileged to be able to teach in the Grassy Narrows School. Both Grace and Gloria attended the University of Waterloo, and then Gloria worked as a laboratory annalist. Both plan on attending the University of Manitoba, studying in the biology and health fields. Grace is teaching grades 4 and 5 at Grassy and Gloria is an Education Assistant for grades 2 and 3. Esther, an accomplished musician, teaches music for children from junior kindergarten through grade 8.
The Lee sisters love working with the children of Grassy, both in the school and in the church. “Last Sunday there were seventeen children at church,” exclaimed Gloria. They both enjoy the opportunity to connect with kids.
Paul first arrived in Canada in 1999, and studied first at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He also pursued education at Providence College and Seminary, and at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Alberta, before experiencing a “calling to Grassy Narrows” in 2009. It was at this time that they joined Living Hope Native Ministries.
Immigration status for living in Canada has been a challenge for the Lee family. They tell a long and complicated story of applying and being rejected for permanent residence status, of lots of correspondence with officials and of even getting the local Minister of Parliament to assist in the process. Even church members wrote letters to Citizenship and Immigration. They’ve had temporary work papers that have expired and have had to repeatedly apply for renewal. Their youngest child, John, is a Canadian by birth and attending high school in Kenora, and Gloria has received her permanent status. The other three have applied again, and it’s finally looking hopeful for their permanent status within the next six months. It’s been a heavy issue for the family.
Grassy Narrows, known also as Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, is a community of nearly 1,000 located a one-hour drive north of Kenora via a winding, paved road. It’s a reserve with people deeply affected for many years by mercury poisoning, after a paper mill dumped the waste into the river leading to their community. Many agencies have done studies, and the government continues to promise clean up and compensation, but little has happened. Residents complain of lingering and debilitating medical issues: some people shake, have limited movement, and have issues with sight and feeling. There re also other community issues, such as problems of alcohol and drug abuse, and unemployment. The current chief is a Christian who attends church with the Lees.
The Lees are looking forward to a team of volunteers from Missouri returning this summer for Vacation Bible school. They’ve also hosted teams from Korean churches in Winnipeg, Boston and southern Ontario.
"It takes a long time for them to open their hearts,” Paul said of their Grassy Narrows friends. But many have, and the Lee family is thankful for the church people who love and support them in their ministry in Grassy Narrows.
“God is doing something good!”
“Life is up and down,” said Helen Pahpasay, as she reflects on her life. “It’s half and half,” she said honestly about her spiritual journey. Helen lives in Grassy with her husband, a police sergeant, and has three children. She is a part of the Grassy Narrows Church, and leads a Monday evening Bible study, as well as a Tuesday girl’s club. “They’re a blessing; they lift me up,” she says fondly of the girls.
“God is doing something good,” said Helen, an on-call medical driver living and working out of Grassy Narrows First Nation. She tells of how many of her clients, some terminally ill, pour out their hearts to her.
Helen told of her illness as a youth, and how God healed her after she prayed for a chance to live and help others.
Helen was thrilled and challenged spiritually last year when she traveled to India with her friend, Debby Ropp. She said she was able to “let everything go—my troubles” as she made the journey. She said being able to cope with a 14-hour plane ride was a miracle itself!
Her father, Gabe, passed away last year and Helen fondly remembers his faith. God has promised her that she will “radiate and shine even more” and has given her a heart to help.
I'm from Washagamis Bay First Nation. I’ve worked as a security guard at the Grassy Narrows School for four years.
“Before I came to the Lord Yeshua Messiah, I was a shipwreck and parched on an island. I had been through drinking and smoking marijuana. Life was depressing, even though we had our daughter Josephine with us. In one month, in my drinking period, I went to the drunk tank many times for being intoxicated.
“So I knew I had an issue in my life with my drinking, and it wasn't good for my daughter whom I loved much. I had
attended Grassy Narrows Church several years ago, and pastor Paul Lee and his family encouraged me to continue.
“We had a revival one weekend, and Pastor Paul urged me to step up to the altar to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart. I finally quit drinking and doing drugs, because I now feared the Lord God—it was the beginning of Knowledge. I’ve been sober and vigilant for 2 years now.
“Every day I get up early and go to morning prayers at the church. Every day I thank God for His mercies. I like to also thank Pastor Paul Lee for showing me God’s true inspired Word. My vision is to build a church and set the captives free. My favorite verse is 2 Timothy 3:16, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’
“Thank You. God Bless.”
Confidence in Changes
By Merle Nisly
About 32 years ago, Rita and I were preparing for a leadership transition in a small, remote community where we
had invested more than 10 years of energy, prayer, and love. Three indigenous leaders were preparing to carry on the life of a small community of Jesus followers—without our present influence. It was an exciting time, filled with mixed emotions.
There was anticipation of new and good things to come. There was some grief, with feelings of loss of closer relationships and daily partnership in the church. There was some fear: how will it work out; can we do it?
About 20 years ago, Rita and I were preparing for a leadership transition in a local church where we had been
serving as lead pastor for about seven years.
Again, a team of leaders was ready to accept the responsibilities. Once again, the mixed feelings returned: excitement, anticipation, and grief. At about that same time, Rita and I accepted another leadership role as Executive Director of Living Hope Native Ministries. This time the transition was toward us, rather than from us to others. The mix of emotions and some anxiety seemed a bit more familiar—though for different reasons.
During this year, we seem to be repeating the scenario: it’s time for another leadership transition. Once again, the transition is being formed on a foundation of trust, of conviction, and of peace. I can’t overstate the importance of those basic “rocks” in times of transition; and I can’t be thankful enough to God and to our board and team for ensuring that those three elements remain foundational to the plan.
Changes and transitions are progress—when built on trust, conviction, and peace.
Progress and Plans
In case you missed it in previous communications, the Board and the team of Living Hope Native Ministries is making significant changes to the leadership and the function of LHNM in this calendar year.
As God wills, by November 1, 2018, an entirely new administrative team will be leading LHNM in an entirely new
office location. During the months of September and October, the actual LHNM move of the administrative office
will be initiated and completed. After many years of considering Red Lake as the center of operations for the office, the administrative work will be happening in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The new administrative team has already begun training sessions with the current administration. These sessions will continue occasionally through this summer, and will intensify as the transition date comes closer. As for myself, I will be available on a continuing basis for coaching and as a leadership resource in the coming years. Rita and I will not be moving from Red Lake in the foreseeable future.
We are so pleased with the development of these changes, appreciate your prayers and encouragement as the process continues.