And so we return from Canada. Five days of intense vacation Bible school, listening ears and forged relationships. The kids were sad to see us go at the end, and the feeling was mutual.
I felt more confident this year than in previous trips. The Cree native village where Nicole and I ministered—Stanley Mission—usually has 40-80 kids attending every night, and it is hard for our team of fourteen to get them all to settle down for a lesson. But by God’s grace, it happened. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever behaved so well when I was teaching. Even in a gym full of echoes, it was practically silent as they leaned in to hear about the pieces of God’s armor.
This year we taught on Ephesians 6 (the Armor of God). The memory verse was, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11) Nicole and Amy (another missionary) taught it, while I explained each piece of armor (one per night). We only had five nights—but we managed to squeeze the shield and shoes together on Wednesday. I really felt like the kids were getting it.
One of my favorite parts of the week happened at the very end. It was the last night, and I was getting ready to teach with the armor. Since we made a craft on each armor piece, I had the full armor that I was going to wear. But as I looked around, I noticed only the belt was there. I said, “It looks like all of my armor is missing except the belt.”
Immediately kids came out of nowhere handing me pieces of my armor they had taken. One handed me a shield, another set the helmet on my head—soon I had every piece but the shoes. As I said, “Wow! I guess I’m only missing the shoes,” I looked over and saw a girl kicking off the shoes beside me. It was straight out of a comedy—or a Hallmark Channel movie, depending how you look at it. I was amazed. All the kids had been paying attention, and they knew I needed to teach in the full armor.
That’s not all. The teens were great too. For the first time, I took an active role in the teens ministry (I usually only do the children). I felt like I had a connection with at least a couple of them, which is something I could not claim in previous years. Karen McNeese (another missionary) did an excellent job leading the teen study, so there’s that too.
Our team synergy was great as well. I never felt like there was any real conflict. Nicole and I get along with everyone, and pretty much everything went smoothly (although one of the kids pulled a fire alarm on the first day—but we just taught outside to compensate).
That’s not to say every problem was solved. Most of what we saw were seeds being planted, in fact. Discipleship must happen for things to really get rolling—and that requires permanent residence. People need to live up there, working with the elders, teens and kids. To that end, I need my Christian audience to pray that God raises up full-residence workers for this mission field.
Another point of prayer centers around a girl in my discussion group on the first night. I was speaking on how we are in a war against evil spirits (the point of wearing armor in the first place), and she asked about “The Creator” (their deity). I told her that God created all there is, and she seemed shocked. She also told me her parents own a sweat lodge there—which means they are the Cree equivalent of witch doctors. Although the vast majority of natives there don’t practice any sort of religion, her family does—and she told me they pray to “The Creator.” She expressed no interest in the Gospel initially, but came every night. This was the same last year, so perhaps she is softening. Either way, I would like the Christians in my audience to pray.
Overall, the missions trip wasn’t nearly as difficult as last year. I could chalk that up to having my wife with me this time—but I think I was more confident as well. God is with us. I am honored to be a part of what He is doing in Saskatchewan—and to forge friendships with the Cree. We are all precious in God’s sight.