Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Garden Hill Reservation conference

Saturday, August 06, 2005
We arrived in Garden Hill at supper time yesterday and were met by Trevor with his boat and then Arnold and Natty met us at the dock and took us to the Daycare center where we will stay until our place is ready at the teacher’s quarters. Arnold showed us the tentative schedule for the conference and then Natty told Bruce that he would be preaching after supper. We should be used to these kinds of surprises on the Reserve but we had been up since three o’clock and were wiped. Still, we looked forward to the evening. It was the second anniversary of the death of Natty’s father, the patriarch of a large family and founder of the church that had invited us here last year. They were having a memorial celebration to commemorate his death. This is a common tribal custom on the reserve and we felt privileged to be part of it.
As we entered the roomy cottage of the Grandma we realized that the memorial was already under way. We stopped, thinking that they were saying grace over the food. At the head of a long table sat the dear Grandmother, the honored Matriarch of the crowd. She was speaking in a sing-song monotone Cree style while her children and a few of the grandchildren sat with heads bowed and eyes downcast. Natty motioned for us to sit in the empty chairs that had obviously been reserved for us. We sat down reluctantly, not wanting to cause a disruption before the prayer or speech was ended but soon realized that this was not simply a table grace. It seemed, from what we could comprehend, that each respected elder in the family was giving his own lengthy memorial speech while the others sat in silent reverence. How we wished we could understand their language! I sat there, praying silently for the family of the man who had introduced Jesus to so many of the people on this and other reservations. Many of the people sitting around the table and clustered around the room were serving God because of him. Many others were still holding back and were bound by drugs and alcoholism. For these I was praying.
After the ritual of remembering we ate fish, turkey and beef with rice and then went outside for an open air jamboree. During this time Bruce was asked to speak. He felt that it would not be appropriate to speak for too long and gave one of the shortest messages I have ever heard him preach. The fact that by now we were totally exhausted may have had some influence on the length of the sermon, but in spite of everything he did great. Nattie was going to take us to our lodging immediately after that but someone had taken her truck and we had to wait until they got back with it. It was 11:30 when we got to the Day Care Center; that’s 12:30 Ontario time. There were no beds here but Samantha slept on a couch and we threw down some sleeping bags and got a good nights rest. I wonder what today will bring.
10:55 PM
We are settled into our home for the week. It’s one of the teacher’s town houses and it’s nice and clean. We were dropped off here by Natty after going to the variety store for a few groceries. After taking a look around we realized that we had a problem. We had come prepared with our own bedding and towels but we hadn’t thought to bring utensils, cutlery, dishes or toilet paper. Bruce and Samantha went back to the store and were able to contact Natty who got them the things they needed from the Day Care Center.
Before we came over here Natty sat down to talk to us. She said that John Charles had asked her whether we were willing to come back to do the school. He said that he had a vacant house that we could use if we fixed it up. I’m sure it would require major work and at present it has no plumbing but they want us to come and if Morris is not opposed we will be willing to come.
Lord, it’s in your hands. You have a plan for us. Help us to move in the spirit at all times.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Thank You, Lord for reminding me of the verses you have given me in the past few days. The one that You gave me a couple of days before we left:
Luke 5:4: “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” I needed to be reminded that with you in the boat directing us our nets will be full.
And the night before we left and I had to read from a different Bible I opened the Bible to three different verses all talking about what you had put it on my heart to pray about. I had been so aware of our own lack of ability to accomplish anything on our own and knew that it would take the power of the Holy Spirit. And then You gave me these verses: Mark 16:17, Acts 1:8, and Romans 1:11.
Monday, August 08, 2005
Sunday was eventful. We had no idea how we were going to find a church but we knew that we wanted to visit one we had not been to before. When we were at the perimeter airport in Edmonton we saw a poster advertising special services at the “Jesus Name” church. Bruce took down the number, memorizing it and then writing it down when he found a pen. Then while we were sitting waiting to board our plane, (it was an hour late) I felt lead to try and make friends with some of the people waiting with us. I struck up a conversation with a native family sitting next to us and found out that the man was one of the speakers/singers scheduled for the meetings. Bruce gave him our card and said that we would try to get to the services. But when we got to the reservation and tried to call we found out that Bruce had written the number wrong. Now we didn’t know how to contact them.
We decided to take a walk down to the variety store and ask someone there if they knew the pastor, Joe Little, but when we got to the store it was closed. We walked down to the dock thinking that we would get a water taxi and go to the Northern (the big store on the Island) and ask about church their. Maybe there would be a place to worship there. But there were no taxis at the dock. Just then the variety store manager zoomed in on a “ski-flee”. He told us that there were no stores open on Sunday until noon, and that there were no Churches on the Island. He suggested that we could ask about churches at the TV station. The station was being manned by a few people from the United Church that included a councilor and a few others of all ages. They directed us to their church but then I spotted the poster on the wall and asked about the Jesus Name Church. They called Pastor Joe Little and he came and picked us up. He was quite the character but we were blessed by the testimony of Brother Emery Marsden, the man we had met in Winnipeg. The place was so empty and I wished that many more could have been there to here it. Bruce was asked to give a testimony as part of the evening service.
I had taken the camera in the morning but figured that we wouldn’t need it in the evening. I was wrong. The service was live on radio, being broadcast across Manitoba. All the reserves here listen in. The big building was filled to overflowing. We learned to exercise patience as Pastor Joe spent the first hour speaking mostly in Cree, but that was just a brief preliminary. They were booked for four hours on the air. When he asked Bruce to come up he insisted that Samantha and I come too so we sang a song and then I mentioned listening to the guest speaker in the morning service when he told of losing his joy and peace when he was a small boy and going through his youth never knowing any joy or peace until he came to the end of his rope and finally found what he was searching for in Jesus. I was in tears as I told them how we wanted to keep the children from having to go through their early years without joy or peace by showing them the love of Christ. Then Bruce gave his testimony, again telling of God’s love to each one.
After a bit more singing and the testimony of the pastor’s wife the evangelist was finally allowed to preach. By the time he was done it was almost midnight and time to sign off the air, but Chief David had been asked to sing and was up at the front singing and playing his guitar. (He is a terrific singer) He offered to have the council sponsor another hour on the radio. Mathew, a five year old boy with no eye balls came up and sang one song with the chief. He was a good singer too, but he only sings with the chief or vice chief. The pastor called “the white man to come up and pray for the boy. We continue to pray for Mathew, believing that the Lord will some day give him eyes.
Shortly after that a teenager came up crying to get right with God. She had been a Christian once but was backslidden. She wound up down on the floor weeping before the Lord. Praise the Lord for a soul that has come out of that state of hopelessness.
Today the Conference starts. Lord help us to do things your way and to see more souls saved.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
We got back from the Reservation on Tuesday evening and today I had my hand operated on for trigger thumb. This is the first day I have had to sit down and catch up. The council had asked us to put together a booklet of the conference so between working with the kids and making notes at workshops we were kept very busy.
There weren’t many kids out in the afternoons when I was supposed to be working with them. They all get up so late that we didn’t see most of them until evening and then it was quite difficult to deal with rain and mud and darkness and no place inside to take them. We did accomplish more with the few in the day time. We planted a garden at the Band Office below the Chief’s window. God will have to do the rest because I doubt that the children will know how to look after it. If we move up there I will be able to keep it going. If not, it will probably have to struggle to survive just like everything else on the Reserve.
The next day the empty rec. hall/radio station was available so we went in there with the kids and started working on a story line for a book. The kids came up with all the ideas and we put them down in the form of an outline. We started on the actual story the next day but there wasn’t time to do much. I will have to finish the book at home.
We also did some singing with them, teaching them the song, “I am So Happy.” I was so impressed with their ability to catch on that I suggested we sing it together at the Jamboree that evening. They loved the idea, especially since it would be on their TV and on radio across Manitoba and parts of Ontario and Alberta. I talked to the program coordinator for the Jamboree and she said that she would put us on after three other people. She didn’t tell me that each of those would sing about six songs and that after that a preacher would preach a message. While we were waiting I took them aside and we practiced. The only problem was that new kids kept joining us. They all assured me that they would be able to learn it quickly, and to be fair, I have to admit that most of them did. But it was beginning to get dark out and I was having a hard time distinguishing one face from another. The children are not used to a lot of discipline but I tried to let them know that only those who paid attention to me would be allowed to go on stage with us, but I realized that it would be impossible to follow through, so it wasn’t totally effective. When the coordinator came and told us that we were next I got them all into one long line. (Our little group had mushroomed to at least forty kids.) We stood not so patiently waiting to be called up but then I realized that they had called the preacher up and he was starting to speak. Here we were lined up around the tent trying unsuccessfully to remain quiet and not disturb the meeting inside. I would have taken them in to sit inside the tent but there were no more chairs, at least not nearly enough for our group. So I went up and down the line, tripping over a tent rope in the process and falling in the mud. Samantha was at the front of the line so finally I told her to start marching. That seemed to work because it gave them something to do. When I finally got them up on stage, there was only the usual amount of playing with the microphones and anything else touchable and then they sang and did a pretty good job of it. Samantha and I were wiped out.
Thursday was too wet outside and there was nowhere available inside to work with the children so I sat in on the adult program. They asked Bruce to speak and he talked about the fact that when you are in Christ all things become new. Then he talked about how he had heard the call to go into the ministry and had refused, and some of what transpired after that. While he was speaking he was wondering why he was saying all that. In the midst of it the Lord spoke to him and told him that there was someone whom God was speaking to that He wanted to use to work with their people and help them out of the bondages that they are in. This was being broadcast over the area so we don’t know who it reached, we may never know but we do know that the Lord was moving by His Holy Spirit, speaking to someone in the area for His own purpose that day.
Our meals were served at the elementary school every day. They were hearty meals and we enjoyed them. It was also a good time to sit and visit with other guests, elders, members of the conference committee, council members, and the chief. The chief asked if we would come back to work with the school. He told us that he would help in any way he could, such as providing the things needed to get water at the house where we would be staying.
We also got to meet the Grand Chief of Northern Manitoba. We got a chance to have a nice visit with him as we sat in the part of the Nursing Station called the Spiritual Room, a sort of sunroom for relaxing and talking to God. This has nothing to do with ancestral spirits. They believe in healing for all parts of our natures: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, and the spiritual is all about Christianity. The Grand Chief talked about some of this with us as we sat and relaxed together. Then from there we went to the radio station. The Chief and Grand Chief gave us a ride. The Grand Chief insisted on getting in the back of the truck cab and letting Bruce get in front with Chief David. It was the kind of thing I would have expected from someone like my Dad but I was unprepared for that kind of total unpretentiousness from one in such a high position of authority as the Grand Chief. Needless to say, I was impressed.
The Chief and Grand Chief left for Israel on Friday. They are part of an official delegation from the First Nations Reserves of Canada to Israel to bless Israel because the Bible says that if you bless Israel you will be blessed and they want God’s blessing on their people. They will be meeting with Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Tourism, and taking a tour of the land where Jesus walked.
The day before the Chief left we were in meetings and were wondering where everyone was. All of a sudden to Police Officers walked in and stopped the meeting. A general meeting had been called at the High School. We were not invited. Natty told us to go back to our rooms and pray. Some men were trying to oust the Chief. We went back and started praying. We were soon giving thanks. God told Bruce that He was protecting his man in Office. We found out that the rebellion had been stopped. Praise the Lord. For all the good the Chief has tried to do since he has come into office, and most of the violence and drugs got in during the period of time when he was not in office, there are many who would like to see him out. He will need a lot of prayer since they will be voting again in January. Lord, don’t let me forget to pray for Chief David.
We left Garden Hill feeling that our work wasn’t finished. We hardly saw our former students. Shalene and Conway were around a bit and seemed to be doing well, but after the first week end we did not get a chance to go back to the North End where the school was. We were hoping to get back to see the house they promised us. It was one of those “look at the possibilities” type shacks, but it just didn’t work out to see it so we will just have to wait on God for the next move. The main thing is getting everyone in agreement on the board so that we and the parents can work together. They are trying to do it in such a way as not to cause any hard feelings. Another thing to pray about! My hand is aching again. I need to stop writing.