Sunday, December 12, 2010

Entering the Unfamiliar World of Northern Reservations

Life is full of new experiences, some we welcome, some we struggle with, but all meant to bless us in some way, and help us grow, even as we strive to serve.

Our trip to Northern Manitoba, see Called to the Reserve was like entering a whole new world.  Was this really still Canada? 
We couldn't get there by car, not unless we went in the middle of winter over ice roads.  The plane that took us to the Reservation was aptly referred to as a vibrating tube.  We thought it was a joke when they handed the seven or eight passengers earplugs before starting.  We realized fairly quickly it was not.  We watched in fascination as a young Native couple brought their infant onto the plane in a tikinagen.  All of this was new and exciting.  We had only anticipation as we entered this new faze of our lives, anticipation and the thrill of adventure.

It wasn't until after we landed and met the people at the airport that we understood that here on this reservation we were considered missionaries. My lifelong dream was finally being fulfilled.

As we were driven through the streets of the reservation to the home where we would be staying, our excitement and anticipation mingled with shock.  Did people actually live in those shacks we were passing? And were those piles of garbage beside each home? 

It didn't help when we were told we would be privaleged to be staying in a home that had running water. That had to mean that most homes didn't, and if the other homes didn't have running water, where were the out houses?  We didn't see any.

We were taken to a fairly modern prefab bungalow with its rubbish pile situated a little farther away than most of the homes. When we entered I was surprised at how clean it was inside.  (This was something that I noticed where ever we went there.  The outside might be strewn with garbage but the inside was always clean.)

The home belonged to the pastor's daughter and her husband and their three little boys.  They had done some restructuring to the house so that we could have a room to ourselves.  The adults were fairly fluent in English but spoke mostly Oji-cree, and this became an unexpected trial for us.  We quickly began to feel very much alone, - alone, except for the children!

Although each child struggled with the English language, they all spoke the universal language of love.  They were the ones that reached out to us, their eager faces aglow with curiosity and genuine interest.  They were our ministry, the reason God had sent us.  

We were told that there would be a supper for us at the church/school.  We had to guess when and where exactly, but we watched them and found our way along the muddy path and were greeted by parents and children, the school board, and the Chief.

While Bruce talked to the chief and some of the parents, I found a spot with the children. As they chatted, and asked questions, and told tales on each other, I felt a love welling up inside me that made me wish I could place my arms around each one of them, and draw them to my heart. I knew that I was called to these adorable fun-loving kids, and I couldn't wait to see what God had in store.

What happened with the children during the short time we were on that reserve was a joy I shall always remember.  It will be the subject of my next post in this series.

This reserve, Garden Hill, was the setting for my book, Gang Trouble written from an outline created by kids on the reserve.  It turned out to be a very exciting but emotional  adventure depicting life just as we saw it there.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Carol. I enjoy reading them.

  2. I'm looking forward to hearing more.