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 August 5-9, 2019. This is the third year that we have helped facilitate and conduct this “Scripture Engagement” event. This was first proposed in January of 2017, when the Oji-Cree Bible Translation team in Kingfisher Lake expressed their hearts desire to us for the children of their community (their next generation) to hear the message of the Gospel in their own language. Their twofold goals were (1) to have local Oji-Cree speakers and church members gain experience in conducting their own VBS programs for their children and (2) to provide their children with wholesome activities through their summer school break.
This year, the Oji-Cree leaders met with us at the April workshop in Guelph to confirm their desire to have us come and help them again this summer. The topic they chose for this summer’s VBS was the Easter Story, which was woven into memory verses which remind us that even when life is be hard, God is Good, as the theme for the week.
Travel to the North
Kingfisher Lake is an isolated First Nations community in northern Ontario, where the Oji-Cree language is spoken. On Friday morning, August 2nd, 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.
Ashley & Amy, Bill & Norma Jean, Eric & Elizabeth at Immanuel Church in Simcoe, Ontario
Immanuel Church has been praying and fundraising so that we could send two of our youth, Ashley Booth, and Amy Lewis. 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. We were also very happy that her husband Eric Stevenson could come again this year to help with games and music. Norma Jean was the overall VBS coordinator and liaison with the Oji-Cree team.
We were very happy to also have help from new friends from another church in central Georgia, USA. Almost five years ago, in the fall of 2014 when the Oji-Cree Bible translation project was just starting, Harvest Church provided generous financial support through Wycliffe Bible Translators that enabled the hiring and training the initial Oji-Cree Bible Translation team. Since then, God has been speaking to the people at Harvest Church to find out how they might partner with the Oji-Cree Bible translation project more closely. They sent members of their congregation, Jim & Ellie Fuss, to participate in this year’s VBS program at Kingfisher Lake.
Ellie & Jim Fuss from Harvest Church in Byron, Georgia
Eric & Elizabeth, Amy and Ashley waiting for our first flight from Toronto airport.
Because of flight connections to the northern communities, we spent the night in Thunder Bay at a hotel where we met up with Jim & Ellie who had just arrived there from Georgia. We 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.
Ellie at the Wasaya counter in Thunder Bay
We are grateful to the Lord that the weather was fine for all the flights from Toronto to Thunder Bay, to Sioux Lookout, to the little Oji-Cree community of Summer Beaver, and finally to Kingfisher Lake by Saturday afternoon.
Boarding Wasaya’s Beechcraft 1900D in Sioux Lookout
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.
*Jim & Ellie Fuss traveled much farther and longer than we did–more planes, more miles, more airports and more countries!
Vacation Bible School
We were met there at the Kingfisher Lake airport by our good friends from the Oji-Cree community along with Matthew and Caitlin Windsor and their family, the Wycliffe team who have been there for a year now to assist the Oji-Cree Bible translation project. They brought us to our rooms at Mission House, where we all began to unpack, sort and organize the VBS materials, and plan the week with the VBS team.
VBS “plan for the week”
On Sunday, the team went to worship at St. Matthew’s church in Kingfisher Lake, and later continued our preparations for the VBS program.
The team prepared the VBS program for two different age groups each day: Kindergarten through grade 3 in the morning, 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.
Every day we met the children at the door, learned their names, and gave them name-tags in the shape of a cross.
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 arts and crafts projects 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 t-shirts and sweatshirts, with help from Elizabeth and all of you who contributed to the sweatshirt 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 (stack the cups and steal the bacon).
After game time, everyone sat down to hear Norma Jean re-tell the story, and having the children fill in the details… sometimes with the help of Mrs. Beaver and Mr. Moose!(Elizabeth and Eric).
All our travels went reasonably well. Some children came every day, and those that came really seemed to enjoy all the parts of the program. The VBS staff from outside worked together well with the local VBS staff. It was wonderful serving along side Matthew & Caitlin Windsor and their family, now living at Kingfisher Lake for the past year, and continuing their service there as Bible Translation facilitators.
This was also a good opportunity to work with the Oji-Cree translation team on “team-checking” the book of Mark. The team is on track to complete the entire Gospel of Mark by the end of this year, Lord willing.
Oji-Cree Translators Jessie, Ruth, and Mary working with Matthew
Team-checking the Gospel of Mark in Oji-Cree
It was wonderful to see Matthew & Caitlin’s new “Tiny House” that had just been positioned next door to the Mission House where the translation project is located (and this year’s VBS). But so far they still are “camping” in their home until they can be hooked up to running water and electricity. Please pray with them for the completion of their new home on-site, utilities and other details.
The Oji-Cree translation team would also like your prayers as they seek to grow their team in numbers and capacity.
Pray for us too, as we consider about how God would have us participate in His work in the Kingfisher Lake community in years to come, and that they will hear as God continues to speak his message in the language of their hearts.
Serving with you,
Bill & Norma Jean for the entire Kingfisher Lake VBS team