Category Archives: Hopelines

Special News Bulletin from Living Hope Native Ministries

Walking Forward Together

by Clarence Meekis, Chairman of the Board 

Clarence and Karyn Meekis and family live in Thunder Bay

Greetings from the Living Hope Board of Directors. Along with our annual prayer focus issue of this publication, the board has important news that we want to share with you. We certainly ask for continued prayer support for our entire team as we walk forward together.

Executive Director position

As you may know, Merle and Rita Nisly have been planning for some years to finish day-to-day leadership at Living Hope by the end of October, 2018.
The board is excited to announce that Stuart and Delores Swartzentruber have agreed to fill an interim Executive Director position as we continue the search for a permanent Executive Director. Please continue to pray with us as we continue to search for an excellent candidate.

Administration Office location

The board has also initiated steps to complete a move of the administrative office location from Red Lake to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The idea for this move has been discussed for some time, especially in consideration of a new executive leader, along with our current widespread ministry locations across the province. Thunder Bay has a large, growing, First Nations population and also serves as a hub for education and medical facilities-while maintaining reasonable access to remote northern Ontario. We plan to keep the Red Lake office property for the foreseeable future.

April 2018

Living Hope will be hosting a ministry banquet and program event in New Holland, Pennsylvania on Friday April 6. We look forward to engaging with many of the Living Hope ‘family’ at this event.

October 2018

As a matter of interest, we also plan to host an all staff and board gathering in Red Lake, Ontario, from October 25-27, 2018. This event will include our annual staff conference (Advance) meetings, Living Hope Board meetings, as well as a special celebration event highlighting our leadership transition.

Be Encouraged!

Ephesians 2:1-10 – God desires to “show” you as an “exhibition” of His grace! Follow Paul’s flow of writing and thinking: We were dead, but God has made us alive and raised us up with Christ! We all deserved the wrath of the Father, but now are saved by grace. And why did He do this? Verse 7, “…In order that in the coming ages he might SHOW the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Yes! God does want to show what you have been committed to as a display of His abundant grace; all as we surrender to His leading and direction.

Visit our current Staff Directory

Or Contact Us to request the printed 2018 Directory Issue of Hopelines

Reflections on 2017: The Story of a Year

Intro by Merle Nisly

As we begin a new year, we do well to reflect on where we’ve been in the past year. There are many wins to celebrate, so many lessons to add to our wisdom pool, and some scars to heal from.

The team that reports in this paper is offering you a small glimpse of the wins, the lessons, and the scars. Any one of us could fill the space here, and still not express the real story of 2017 with its emotions, its gains, and its losses. Actually, we look for more than what we have to tell: we look for the story that is God’s—the story as he sees it when it’s all connected in his greater plan.

So, these short paragraphs of verbal snapshots don’t fit it all into one grand story. We can’t do that yet; but we know one who can—even when we don’t clearly see how things fit together into the bigger story.

The coming year will contain changes for Living Hope Native Ministries. The board of directors is working with the administrative team to find God’s story outline for 2018. We anticipate changes that lead LHNM forward into a different era of leadership, and into new locations.

We thank you for praying, for giving, and for serving as part of our story. God bless and provide for each of you who read this. Happy New Year!

Sebai & Beverly Yaman, Thunder Bay

Packed room for Friday morning prayer at New Hope Fellowship, Thunder Bay, ON

Ministry at New Hope Fellowship is in fullswing, where we continue to serve as pastors. Our focus and new vision for the church centers around prayer and worship, outreach and discipleship. We recently had a packed prayer room for our 7 AM, Friday prayer time—the most we’ve had out in recent memory. Encouraging our congregation to have a heart for prayer continues to motivate us in our ministry.

We are quite active in discipleship. Our biweekly, young adults group at New Hope is teeming with life and is blessed to have representation from multiple churches throughout the city. It’s encouraging to see young people unified in Christ, across denominations.

The New Hope women continue to share blessings with the community, and recently hosted an evening of Christmas encouragement at the church. Beverly, with a fussy baby in-tow, shared about the significance of remembering the Lord’s work in our pasts.  

Colleen Estes, Pikangikum

It has been an extremely difficult year in Pikangikum, with eleven youth suicides in ten months. We have also had numerous tragic, alcohol-related deaths. The community has been in a continual state of mourning.

In the midst of it all, in June we were able to take 35 youth and chaperones to the lifegiving Warrior Leadership Summit sponsored by Ron Hutchcraft Ministries. In house meetings this fall, Norma Blacksmith, a Lakota elder from Pine Ridge, SD, came and stirred the hearts of our people to pray for transformation of this community by the power of God. The battle is the Lord's!

Stan Sally Bragg, Saugeen First Nation

We continue to share Jesus with the kids and youth of Saugeen, with the goal of raising up a generation of Jesus followers. We believe it is easier to train a child than repair adults. We have 50 kids registered this year, and seven native youth as volunteers— leaders in training. Visiting is a big priority for us, going door to door inviting children to Kids Church, and talking to the parents.

We have merged The Gathering Place fellowship with a local native church. We see this as a way to demonstrate unity in the church.

Continue to pray for the body of Christ here, and may Christ continue to build His church. It is not about the work of the Lord, it is about the Lord of the work.

Philip & Anne Warner, Pikangikum First Nation

We’ve now lived in Pikangikum for nearly three years. Philip continues to work at the school in the Student Services department. He’s happy to be working in the field and role in which he is equipped. He has also found it quite difficult to hear of the troubles of many youth at the school and to know how to best help them. He has been involved in developing the program and sees how God is bringing positive change. Anne's role has changed since first arriving in Pikangikum. She and Josiah enjoy visiting friends in the community, as God leads. She also has discovered that a major role for her in the community, as she stays home with their son, is to pray.

Rob & Sharlene Dilts, Golden Lake

Children at play at camp near Golden Lake.

“Kwey” from the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn/Golden Lake, ON! This past year we have seen the Holy Spirit move in some incredible ways. We have seen relationships develop between ourselves and leaders and others in the community, with both followers of Jesus Christ and traditional community members.

We have moved to rename and refocus the camp ministry we have been doing. The new camp, Pinaaz-i Zibi Maamawi (Traveling the River Together in Algonquin), chosen with the help of local Anishinaabe leaders, reflects our focus of a more intentional emphasis on discipleship, relationship, and building community in a cross-cultural setting.

We desire the camp to be Christ-centered and culturally expressive, serving Indigenous youth and communities with a focus on reconciliation. As a direct result, we will be having our first gathering/celebration with the community celebrating the birth of the Chosen One, Jesus Christ. Please be praying for this and for us for the coming year as we continue in relationship with our community.

Ken & Sondra Funk, Thunder Bay

The past year has been a mix of seeing the Lord at work and also witnessing a lot of worldly sorrow in our city. We celebrated seeing new believers stepping up to receive baptism. We celebrated the passing of some very Godly elders who were part of New Hope. We grieved at the funerals of youth who took their own lives in hopeless despair. We grieve for our city as we see so many living apart from knowing our Lord Jesus Christ.

We had a very busy summer with construction of a wheel chair ramp and other building issues as we acclimate to our new location. The work is endless and at times overwhelming, but there is great reward in being invested in the Kingdom work in Thunder Bay.

Kevin & Norma Moore, Sudbury

The leadership team at Sudbury First Nations includes (L to R) Kevin & Norma Moore, Delores & Stuart Swartzentruber, and Mervin & Carol Anne (not pictured) Cheechoo.

Wow! What a wonderful year it has been serving as missionaries here in Sudbury. God is at work. Merv Cheechoo, Stuart Swartzentruber and I serve as pastors, and make up the leadership team at Sudbury First Nations Church. We are so encouraged by the fact the church is growing in terms of spiritual maturity. We’ve seen people step up to the plate to preach, teach Sunday school, and sing. Others are using their gifts of helps, hospitality and encouragement to help build the church. Some of our members have lost loved ones, some have had to battle through health issues, while others struggled with mental and emotional issues. Yet, it’s been awesome to see how the church pulls together to support one another during these times. Love is in the house, and we are family.

Mervin and I have joined the team of elders at a local college. We encourage students to stay in school, and are available to talk with them. It’s a great opportunity to connect with First Nations youth, and relationships are happening. We’ve interacted with staff as well, and the contact is spilling over into our homes, and a bit into the church. Several students have been attending church, and several came to a men’s connection group. We’ve hosted students for game nights, and some came for what was their first Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, we are excited with what God is doing in Sudbury when it comes to our First Nations people, but especially so with the college students. Our prayer is that many, if not all of them, will come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. God is good.

Wendell & Lila Graber, Sault Ste. Marie

Wendell Graber, pastor at the Lighthouse in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, participates with the children in a worship service.

This has been a year of change for The Lighthouse. Since the school we had been using as a meeting place closed, we have been renting a building downtown. For the first time ever, we don’t need to load up everything and set up for a Sunday morning service. Also, the downtown location has drawn in visitors more regularly.

We are in the process of buying our own building on a beautiful property not too far from our current location. It has been a long and arduous journey for various reasons, but things are still moving forward. We have seen the Lord answering prayers all along the way, and hope to be in our own building soon.

At The Lighthouse we’ve seen God’s gracious work in the life of George. He committed his life to Christ and was baptized earlier this year. Over the summer months, George sensed God promising him a new kidney. At the moment, he is recovering from a successful kidney transplant. He is looking forward to serving the Lord unhampered by time in the hospital for dialysis.

Dave & Laverna Brenneman, Weagamow Lake

Laverna Brenneman with young friends in her home at Weagamow Lake First Nation.

This year has been one of spiritual growth, as well as relational growth, with both youth and adults in the community. Many children visit our home after school and into the evenings. They come to play games and engage in lively conversation. Our house is a safe place to share joys and sorrows. We always ask the kids, “How was school today?” We help with youth groups activities for both junior and older youth, and we help with Sunday school at the local church.

We have been truly amazed by God's provisions for us through these years and for the upcoming extension of our stay. The saying, "If it's God's will, it's God's bill", has been so true for our stay here in Weagamow Lake. We truly have been blessed in material provision, and will be blessed even more when our first grandchild arrives in the spring!

Please continue to pray for us and the community—for us to be His hands and feet. Pray that the Holy Spirit will make the soil of the hearts of young people here fertile for the seed to spring up and flourish, and that the seed that has already sprung up be watered daily toward maturity in Christ.

Paul Lee & Esther Kim, Grassy Narrows First Nation

We are thankful to for another good summer in Grassy Narrows. We had teams from a church in Trenton, Missouri, and from a Korean church in Mississauga, ON. These teams came to share God’s love with the adults and the children of the community. Another group came to help us cut wood, and also shared God’s words with the church. We struggled this year due to our Canadian visa problems, but with our brothers’ and sisters’ prayers and support, God showed us a miracle and granted us visas to continue to serve at Grassy Narrows.

Stuart & Delores Swartzentruber, Sudbury

We moved back to Sudbury in January, 2017, after being gone a year for medical reasons. It has been a privilege to come back to Sudbury First Nations Church as part of the leadership team–but not as the lead pastor. Kevin and Norma Moore continue to lead our church, and we are excited to see what God is doing.

One of the most encouraging opportunities that our church has had this year is our involvement with the local college. Kevin Moore and Mervin Cheechoo are spearheading this effort. I am amazed at the friendships that are being developed with the First Nations students through relational activities and availability. We are grateful to God for the open door into the lives of First Nations youth.

Arthur & Iris Lyndaker, Red Lake

Arthur Lyndaker led a two-week Akwachink leadership training expedition in partnership with Rosedale Bible College.

2017 was a year of rest from ministry, and continued healing for our family. We feel like sponges soaking up friendships here in Red Lake. We especially enjoy the local church, and renewing friendships in the church. In June we spent three weeks at Alongside Cares, a counselling centre for missionaries and pastors. It was a time of healing and reflection.

Arthur works carpentry part time and part time maintenance at the mission office facilities. In August and September we once again led the Akwachink Leadership School after a 6-year break. We had a very teachable group of youth from Rosedale Bible College. Our children Andrea and Collin were part of the Akwachink group. Collin is attending RBC again this year, and Andrea will be attending the spring term. In January we begin to lead the children’s church program at the church here in Red Lake. One thing we have greatly enjoyed about Living in Red Lake is bumping into adults who had been part of youth ministry when we lived in Red Lake before. God’s Word does not return empty.

Continue to pray with us as we ask God for direction for our future. We feel God is asking us to wait till spring to make long term ministry plans.



A quarterly publication presenting news and stories of Living Hope Native Ministries, a partnership dedicated to serving the First Nations of Ontario.

Ralph Halteman

We mourn the loss and honour the life of Ralph Halteman, who passed away on November 9 at the age of 84. Ralph was a long-time missionary in northwestern Ontario with Northern Light Gospel Missions, serving in North Spirit First Nation and Pickle Lake. His wife Tillie passed away in 2005, and he most recently lived with family in El Paso, Illinois. He will be missed by family and friends. It was said of Ralph that “he loved the Lord and his family well.”

Our Vision

That in every First Nations context the local church would reach its full potential—worshiping in full devotion, attracting the seekers, mobilizing believers, restoring families, changing communities, affecting the world.

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

Posing on Rock in Keewaywin

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.

A volunteer from Maple City Chapel, IN, with a student at Keewaywin

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

Dave and Laverna with crew at Bible camp

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.”

A team from Cherry Glade, MD, with the children of Weagamow

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

One of the many beautiful lakes on the Akwachink route

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.”

Luke Peachey on a portage

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.”

Arthur (L to R) Bryce, Andrea, Lincoln, Jared, Windsor, Collin, Carissa, Emilie, Erin, Rhoda, Luke

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.

Youthful Impact

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.

NLAC: Encouragement Through Connection

by Sebai Yaman

Sebai and Bev Yaman Shared about their Ministry at New Hope

My name is Sebai Yaman. I’m an associate pastor with New Hope Fellowship in Thunder Bay. After years of prayer, God recently opened the door for us to move into a larger building in a strategic area of the city for ministry, coinciding with our vision to share the Gospel with First Nations people in Thunder Bay.

We made the move in June, a little nervously, after being in our other building for over a decade. The new location is just a few blocks away from DFC (Dennis Franklin Cromarty), a First Nations high school, and only a five minute walk from a housing complex that houses hundreds of First Nations people. How perfect is God’s plan? Our plans pale in comparison.

As a church, we’ve also been privileged to have become part of the Northern Light Association of Churches (NLAC), and we hosted a gathering of the association in August at our new facility. NLAC is a new association of churches in Northern Ontario, formed in 2013.

Wayne Shenk Spoke out of his Wisdom and Experience
Wayne Shenk Spoke out of his Wisdom and Experience

The member churches largely have similar backgrounds, starting as mission churches planted to reach First Nations communities. Many of these churches have now matured beyond the guidance and support of their original parent churches, and NLAC is a door God has opened for us to all continue to have fellowship and accountability.

It’s especially practical because many of the parent churches that used to support the NLAC churches are a great distance away, even by Northern Ontario standards. Fellowshipping with churches that are closer means we can see each other face to face more frequently and encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”… (Heb 3:13)

The NLAC member churches are: Sandy Lake Mennonite, The Lighthouse (Sault Ste. Marie), Forestry Fellowship (Red Lake), New Hope Fellowship (Thunder Bay), and Cornerstone Christian Fellowship (Sioux Lookout). The association membership also includes Living Hope Native Ministries, a mission that supports missionary families and churches throughout Northern Ontario. Several other local churches are considering joining as well.

Arthur and Iris Lyndaker Family Providing Music
Arthur and Iris Lyndaker Family Providing Music

We held our second annual association gathering in Thunder Bay from August 12-14. Representatives from all the member groups were in attendance, including the newest member, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. Representatives came from as far north as Weagamow Lake, and as far east as Sudbury (representing Sudbury First Nations Church, who are considering becoming an NLAC member). The theme for the weekend was fellowship. We enjoyed sharing songs together and lots of delicious food. We heard from representatives who shared their hearts about struggles and successes within their churches.

Missionary families, who are part of the association through Living Hope Native Ministries, told of struggles in their remote communities. Dave and Laverna Brenneman, from Weagamow Lake, reminded the group that as remote missionaries there are countless opportunities to ‘feed’ others spiritually, but being ‘fed’ spiritually themselves is a challenge.

Another missionary, Colleen Estes, in Pikangikum, asked for continued prayer for spiritual awakening in the community and for God to meet her needs as a single missionary. Specifically she asked us to pray for a new furnace for the youth centre, as the old one is on the way out.

Member churches in the cities shared various concerns and encouragements. Wendell Graber, from The Lighthouse church in Sault Ste. Marie, shared how the church has been encouraged by higher attendance. They are currently keeping their eyes open for a larger building to accommodate the growing group. Praise God!

Nate Hochstetler from Sioux Lookout Introducing Cornerstone Christian Fellowship
Nate Hochstetler from Sioux Lookout Introducing Cornerstone Christian Fellowship

Evident in the reports of thanksgiving and difficulty, I could feel the churches growing closer together in unity as we empathized and rejoiced together. What made the weekend even more encouraging, is that this theme of unity was reinforced by our guest speaker, Wayne Shenk. Wayne joined us all the way from Vanderhoof, British Columbia. He travels regularly all over the world, encouraging local fellowships. He expressed that in all his travels, he has seen no more potent enzyme for church growth and success than unity. He said it didn’t matter where he was, West Africa, China or elsewhere, where churches stand in unity, he has seen God’s blessing.

Overall the gathering was so encouraging. It was exciting to see familiar faces and even new ones that the Lord has brought into our midst. NLAC hopes to grow and share mutual encouragement with churches from all over Northern Ontario.

I look forward to next year’s meeting, and to share in many meaningful exchanges with sister churches from NLAC in the meantime. The support from original parent churches may have changed, but God is opening an exciting new door with NLAC: one of unity, and encouragement.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8)

“Jesus, Light of the World”

Vacation Bible School at Pikangikum First Nation

By John Niederhaus

Group of VBS Students with their "Love Glasses"
Group of VBS Students with their “Love Glasses”

Leidy’s Church, for the 22nd consecutive year, sent an intergenerational mission team to work on Ontario’s Reserves under the auspices of Living Hope Native Ministries. A crew of 20 made the trek from Pensylvania to Red Lake where they flew the additional 20 minutes to Pikangikum.

An enthusiastic group of children greeted them upon arrival at the teacher’s houses where the team boarded. Providing Bible school classes for pre-school through 6th grade, attendance was as high as 230, but due to some inclement weather-it rained during the week of ministry-the attendance was more often in the 150 to 175 range.

“Jesus: Light of the World” was the theme for the five-day Bible school. By the time the week was over almost all the kids could recite the memory verse: “Before the world began, Jesus was there. Everything was made through Him. In Him was life and that life was the light for all people. And that light shines in the darkness.”

Craft Time! (Making Necklaces)
Craft Time! (Making Necklaces)

The curriculum was divided into lower elementary and upper elementary. Students in the upper elementary were in four groups with each group rotating serially between learning centers for crafts, gospel, Bible story, and games. Students in lower elementary focused on crafts and other busy activity centers. Some of the older girls from Pikangikum helped out with the teaching in the lower elementary section and provided a big boost for all.

Team members were able to attend a church service on Sunday evening, benefiting from the worship and preaching while also having an opportunity to share some of their testimonies. One evening the team hosted a youth night featuring Christian music led by team members and a special message brought by one of the team members. It was an excellent evening of fellowship and mutual ministry.

Several of the team members also did repair work. Colleen had a vehicle that needed some special attention, and it got it! The plumbing system at the Night Light youth center received major attention and is now functioning quite well.

Though one night was designated game night, usually there was a crowd of kids around the team eager to jump rope, kick a hackey-sack, throw a Frisbee, or just hang out.

Everyone especially looks forward to the day when each student and teacher receives a t-shirt with that year’s theme on it. Then everyone tries to get as many signatures as they can from fellow students and teachers on the shirt. Those shirts become treasured possessions full of memories for all the team members and-we trust-for many of the kids as well.

This year’s team had members who had been up to Pik for as many as nine or ten years as well as some who had never been on any sort of mission trip before. Some from Pik who were VBS students years ago now have children who are students. Good friendships have formed over the course of those years, making Bible School all the more meaningful.

Short Term Missions

By Shula Mulenga

Shula MulengaThis year four summer teams partnered with Living Hope Native Ministries. Here are two examples of some of the work that was covered by our Short Term Teams this summer. The Immanuel Leidys Church team has been partnering with LHNM for over 20 years. This summer, this group spent a week in Pikangikum First Nation ministering through a VBS. In addition, they helped Colleen Estes with a few repairs around her house and the local youth centre called the Eagles Nest. The annual Leidys VBS is a highlight for many of the children in Pikangikum. Often kids start asking about Bible School two months before the team arrives. Not only does the team spend time teaching the children, they spend an equal amount of time building relationships with the kids after their day’s work.

Another team, the First Baptist Church Trenton from Oklahoma, traveled to Grassy Narrows First Nation to support the work that Paul and Esther Lee have. This church group has been traveling to Grassy Narrows for several years.

The team was predominantly a work team that helped do some much-needed renovations on the Lees’ home. Apart from that, their work this summer also covered a VBS, door-to-door ministries, and conducting a church service each night. Even with their busy schedule, they found that some of their most valuable times in Grassy Narrows were when they took time to listen and be an encouragement to the Lees.

Even though spending a week partnering with local Christians and missionaries is often too short a time to make a lot of long-term changes, consistent visits help with building trust. We have found that teams that return year after year have an easier time building trusting relationships with the people they are visiting. It’s within such relationships that both the short-term team members and the people they are serving can learn from each other.

We are thankful for those that have partnered with us in the past and those who are looking to come back next year and be a part of Living Hope’s work.

Shula serves LHNM as Administrative Assistant, in Human Resources, and coordinating short term teams.

Cells or Pebbles

By Merle Nisly, LHNM CEO

nisly-merle-2When we believers gather, we celebrate the community of Jesus followers. The creative, spontaneous, and organic life of believers in community is an amazing gift from God. To be connected, to be immersed in fellowship with others in the community is much like the inter-relatedness of the cells in our bodies.

It is of great significance that the scriptures describe the followers of Jesus as organically connected—as if in the same physical body. The Apostle Paul writes, you are the body of Christ. We are not individually whole, not individually reproductive, not individually loving, not individually connected to Jesus.

However, we sometimes act more like a bucket of pebbles than a group of living cells. Yes, a bucket of pebbles may be a beautiful thing-with individual colours and shapes creating patterns and variety. But pebbles don’t depend on one another. Pebbles don’t draw life or share nutrients with each other. When one pebble is removed, there is no real impact on the rest. The body of Christ, the Church, is not much like a bucket of pebbles.

Nothing compares to the rewards of joyfully growing together toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We don’t do that in isolation.