Our Dear Partners,
Thank you for your prayers for the Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree Vacation Bible School (VBS) that was held this summer the week of July 23-37, 2018. This “Scripture Engagement” event is the second in a series that got its start when the Oji-Cree Bible Translation team in Kingfisher Lake expressed their hearts desire for the children of their community, their next generation, to hear the message of the Gospel in their own language. This year, the Oji-Cree leaders met with us in March to confirm their desire to have us come and help them again this summer. The topic chosen for this summer’s VBS was the life and teachings of Jesus, with the two greatest commandments as their focus ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:28-34) and “Love One Another” as the theme for the week.
Kingfisher Lake is an isolated First Nations community in northern Ontario, where the Oji-Cree language is spoken. On Friday morning, July 20th, the six travelers met with loved-ones and members of the Simcoe, Ontario Immanuel Church for prayers and farewells before we drove to the Toronto Pearson Airport for the first leg of the trip, a 2-hour flight to Thunder Bay.
Immanuel church has been praying and fundraising so that they could send two of their youth, Amy Lewis, and Jacco DeBruin. Our daughter Elizabeth Jancewicz has been working for months helping with the plans and creating the culturally-appropriate visual images and crafts for the program. This year we were so happy that her husband Eric Stevenson could come to provide help with games and music. Norma Jean was the overall VBS coordinator and liaison with the Oji-Cree team.
Because of flight connections to the northern communities, we spent the night in Thunder Bay at a hotel and got up bright and early to take the morning flight to Sioux Lookout on Wasaya Airlines, a First Nations-owned airline that services the northern communities in Ontario and Manitoba.
Due to weight limitations on the smaller plans to Kingfisher Lake, Jacco volunteered to surrender his bag as “low priority”, which meant that most of our priority VBS supplies could arrive on time. Jacco’s bag did arrive in Kingfisher lake two days later.
The weather was fine for all the flights from Toronto to Thunder Bay, to Sioux Lookout, to the little Oji-Cree communities of Summer Beaver and Wunnumin Lake, and finally to Kingfisher Lake by Saturday afternoon.
So, after three planes, six airports, 1100 miles, 14 hours, two time zones, and one sleep all in one and the same Canadian province, we made it to the Kingfisher Lake community in northern Ontario.
Vacation Bible School
We were met there at the airport by our good friends from the Oji-Cree community along with Matthew and Caitlin Windsor and their family, the Wycliffe team newly assigned to assist the Oji-Cree Bible translation project. They brought us to our rooms at Mission House, where we all began to sort and organize the VBS materials, and plan the week with the local translation team.
On Sunday, the team had an opportunity to do a “dry run” of the VBS program when the local church leaders invited Norma Jean and the team to teach Sunday School at the Mission House. We were able to meet some of the children who would be attending the VBS program during the week.
The team planned the VBS program for two different age groups each day: Kindergarten through grade 3 in the mornings, and grade 4 through grade 8 in the afternoon. Each group had an age-appropriate song time, Bible story, crafts time, snack time and game time during their session every day. Besides help from the Oji-Cree translators and the Windsor family, we also had assistance from ministry workers with Northern Youth Programs (Ann & Lynnette) as well, who were in the Kingfisher Lake community for several weeks of service.
Every day we met the children at the door, learned their names, and gave them name-tags in the shape of a heart.
Eric led a fun singing time as the children gathered each day.
Norma Jean told a Bible story while Elizabeth drew an extra-large “colouring poster” that illustrated the story. During crafts time, colouring the poster was one of the options.
There were different crafts prepared each day that the children could do that were related to the topic or the VBS theme.
One of the major crafts was for the children to screen-print their own “hoodie” sweatshirt, with help from Elizabeth and all of you who contributed to the hoodie fundraiser. These were appreciated by all the children and leaders.
To keep everyone’s energy up for all these activities, snacks were prepared and served to the children each day. Everyone pitched in with the crafts and snacks.
Eric was a wonderful game leader and the children had a good time playing old games (musical chairs) and learning new ones (blob tag).
After game time, everyone sat down to hear Norma Jean re-tell the story, asking for the children to fill in the details with the help of Mr. Beaver and Mr. Moose (Eric and Elizabeth).
All our travels went reasonably well. More children came every day, and really seemed to enjoy all the parts of the program. The VBS staff from outside worked together well with the local VBS staff, and along with the ministry workers from Northern Youth Programs as well, who were in the community for several weeks of service. It was wonderful serving along side Matthew & Caitlin Windsor and their family, now living at Kingfisher Lake and beginning their service there as Bible Translation facilitators.
Matthew & Caitlin are still looking for permanent lodgings in Kingfisher Lake. Please pray that God would meet this need soon.
Pray for us as we think about how God would have us meet the needs and requests of the Kingfisher Lake community in years to come, and as we begin to plan our next trip north, to the Naskapi community in Northern Quebec at the end of this month (stay tuned!)
Serving with you,
Bill & Norma Jean for the entire Kingfisher Lake VBS team