Monday, September 25, 2017

The Beginning of a Congregation - September 2, 2017

Before Elva and I are married, we were individually at two different Reservations where we were both introduced to the Aboriginal people, residents at several Native Reservations in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. We were impressed by the people.

After our marriage in 1956, we are flown by a small, single engine airplane to Pikangikum, a community of Ojibwe Indian people. We are there as Christian missionaries. Fortunately we are welcomed into the community. We are there to introduce to them the LORD Jesus Christ, and the salvation He offers to people. At the same time we are depending on them to teach us their language, their culture, and how to survive in the cold North country. We had much to learn.                             

Early in the spring of 1959 the Pikangikum Reserve witnesses a blessing from God, unknown to most people here. This blessing is salvation for their souls from the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are attempting to present the Scripture to over the 500 Native people here. An increasing number of them encourage us to instruct them the Bible. They show evidence of their growing faith in God. A building is constructed for a place to meet for fellowship and sharing the Gospel.

An interesting next step in God's plan for all of us is about to take place. Two of their own Ojibwe people from two other Native Communities offer to come to Pikangikum to present and teach the Gospel to the local people. We are glad for their offer.

The two men offer to present the Gospel to whoever wishes to hear it. Word is passed around announcing several meetings. Attendance takes place and the message is appreciated.

The messages the local people hear is meeting a need in their lives. There is an obvious expression in several people's response to what they hear.  They want to experience what they hear expressed from the Bible.

After the final evening meeting several people chose to commit their lives to God, and do so in prayer. Goodbyes are said to and by the guest speakers, because they are leaving for home by plane the next morning. The guest speakers are staying at our house.

The next morning we are getting lots of snow. All that day planes are unable to fly due to a typical winter day of snowfall in the north. So instead of the men flying home, during the entire day local people come walking the distance of over a mile across the frozen and snow-covered lake to our house to hear more about God from the guest speakers. From morning to evening it is a day of 'Bible study and prayers' for all that are seeking about knowing God.
(Note: The reason people were walking was because there were no vehicles of any kind at Pikangikum.)

Prior to the above time, the Gospel is being shared to anyone seeking to know it. But now there is the beginning of a congregation. It is a wonderful gift of God at Pikangikum. After the above mentioned people's experiences of making a commitment to God, we are reminded that salvation is not like a destination. It is a journey, like a process.

For a time, nearly every Sunday morning service someone acknowleges their need of a Savior and professing to accept Jesus as such. It is also true that some have chosen to return to the former way of life.

Yet with great rejoicing, the 51st Native to become a member of the young congregation here is baptized this summer. She is a very promising young girl. A few are just indifferent. This of course is not true of all, as many are real pillars in the Church.

When we see them worshipping God we remember how far they have already come

The following quotes and reports encourage us on:

"That was when I was still living in darkness."

" I had been a hypocrite then."

"Immediately after we prayed for my wife who had been sick, she became well and went about her work."

"If you Missionaries wouldn't have come here, we too would still be living bad lives."
                                                                  David Burkholder

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Forest Fires and Prayer - August 13, 2017

Folks waiting to escape a forest fire
During a hot, dry summer in the woodlands of northwestern Ontario, Canada, people can get used to hearing of forest fires, hoping they are located somewhere else. Thick smoke can come blown from a  fire even for a long distance. Airplane pilots flying in the area frequently see them.

Ralph, a Mission pilot, flew over our house while he was flying south on his way back to the Mission headquarters in Red Lake. He saw a fire southwest of us that has been burning for the last several days. We had been noticing the smoke from that fire. He radioed us to update the fire's condition.

The men of the local First Nations community of Pikangikum were very good fire-fighters. The government agency responsible to fight forest fires often depended on men from these communities to be available to help. For that reason, at this time most of the local men were not at at home. They were somewhere helping to put out forest forest. Their wives and children had the responsibility of the issues at home. The men were paid well, but usually did not get paid until the forest fire they were working on was out or at least under control. After that they were flown back home with their pay check.

A forest fire can travel rapidly the direction the wind is blowing. It travels faster than a person can run. Added to that a fire creates its own wind. This is especially true when pine trees are burned. The pine needles burn quickly and very hot. The fire is also spread out ahead of the flames by sparks flying in the smoke and being dropped to the ground far ahead of the flames. A fire usually does not stop when it burns to a river. The sparks ignite dry grass or leaves on the ground on the far side of the river.

That evening a meeting at the church was planned for a time of prayer. The prayer time was prompted because the ladies had already discovered and experienced salvation and the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all kinds of life experiences. They wanted to pray now for the protection of their husbands and fathers. This was the evening to get together to pray and pray earnestly!

It was true what our pilot friend had mentioned that the fire is travelling in exactly the direction toward the community we were living in. In fact it could travel toward the west side of the lake. The local Native's houses were on the east side of the lake. Our house was one and a quarter mile across the lake, on the west side.

There was a bar of dry sand between our house and the mainland. Due to the fact that the pilot tried to assure us that at the speed the fire was travelling in our direction, "it probably not be there for another day or two!" That was not what we had hoped he would say.

It created a time of decisions. The fire may or may not come to where we were. If it does, should we bury a few of our possessions in the sand to keep them from burning? That didn't sound very wise. Furthermore it is time to get into the boat and cross the lake to the church house where the Native ladies and some children will be to pray. After all, God knows everything and He cares for His people, and their possessions.

We crossed the lake and met with the ladies. There were earnest prayers, for the men fighting other fires, for the families at home, and for the fire that was coming toward us. God heard all those prayers. After the meeting we stepped out of the church building expecting, or at least hoping to see rain to put out the local fire. We would have gladly boated back home in a rain, even a heavy rain, without a roof over our heads in the boat. There was no sign of rain in sight! The meeting was over and everyone went home still trusting the Lord in all situations.

Two things were taking place, the dark smoke was still blowing in our direction and the darkness of the night was coming fast. We actually had a good night of sleep and woke up in the morning and saw rain falling from the sky. We had been having rain during the night, as well ad during the day and there was no more smoke. The fire was completely out! Thank You Lord for the whole experience and the answers to prayer.

The local men were still at other fires, working hard to put the forest out. But that is another story.
Our God is the ultimate firemen!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Northern Light Gospel Mission's Printing Efforts - August 3, 2017

The Last post "A Walk To Remember" was about the four of us, Johnny Stoltzfus, Lilly Stoltzfus (Burkholder), myself, and another friend who in 1956 survived a potentially dangerous walk. Last Thursday, July 27, Johnny Stoltzfus, my brother in law, died of a heart attack. We have lost a prayer warrior. But we will see him again on the other side.

(This was written some time ago when I was managing the Printing Department)
Some time ago, I was talking with an elderly Indian man who was the Chief on his reserve. He was telling me about a big forest fire which had burned much timber only a few miles from their village. By now the burned-off area had already been green from new growth. I asked him, "When did it burn?" To answer my question, this wise Chief merely laughed, then proceeded to tell me that he didn't write down and keep a record of the year it happened.

Down through the centuries the Ojibway people did not depend on writing as their means of communication to their contemporaries or to future generations. There are a few exceptions to that in as much as a few men, especially Medicine men, who kept record on birchbark, of weather, important activities, etc. Even birth dates were usually not recorded.

Their means of communication was talking. They shared news with friends, who in turn passed it on to others. They also used story-telling to communicate tradition, Indian heritage and morals. All these were taught in interesting legends which were told around the fires in the evening. Experiences were shared by groups of people as they sat around and talked.

In North-western Ontario, ancient sign writing is nearly non-existent today. There probably was no system of writing for detailed communication as we know it today until the 1800's, when a missionary introduced a system of syllabic script. His reason for introducing it was to be able to write the Scriptures he was translating into their language.

The syllabic writings are now in wide-spread use among the Ojibway and several Cree tribes as well as the Eskimo people. It is now considered "Indian" writing except in the Southern Ojibway communities where the Indian words were spelled out in Roman script, i.e. with the English alphabet.

How does this background affect NLGM's printing effort? First of all, to print the Bible and hymnals in their language in syllabics, was readily accepted because these were not to be found in their traditional legends. Then when we started to print Gospel tracts, periodicals and booklets to share and teach Christian principles, they needed to adapt to a somewhat new form of communication. Of course before this they had already become accustomed to letter writing.

Indian people have always been educated, but their education didn't come from books and papers, but by example, life experiences, and by being told by their parents and relatives. The introduction of Christian publications was and is readily accepted and greatly appreciated, especially since the introduction of the public schools and that form of education.

When we looked for writers among the Christian Indian people, we of course would not find any, not because they were not able, but because it was a new concept. They needed to be encouraged to begin writing their testimonies and beliefs, etc., but this introduced even another new concept in communication. Namely that they were not writing to a certain known person or people, but as mass media is, to whoever might happen to pick it up and read it.

Today there is a great need for Christian publications in Indian syllabics for the older generation and in English, but Indian-oriented, for the younger ones who have attended school.

Our NLGM printing department is endeavoring to meet these needs in the form of sound Biblical teachings in the areas of evangelism, Christian growth, youth and helps for Native pastors.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Walk to Remember - July 22, 2017

(This account happened sometime in 1955.)

This is the house they stayed in at Pikangikum minus the snow.
And the angel of the Lord spoke unto us saying, "Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from (Popular Hill) unto (Pikangikum) which is (bush and lakes.)"

There are four of us living at Poplar Hill and we feel led to go to Pikangikum. Johnny Stoltzfus, my sister Lilly, which eventually will be Johnny's wife, and another missionary want to go and meet with the people at this reservation. There have been missionaries before at Pikangikum but at this point there are none. This is about two or three years before Elva and I are married.

The day we leave is the shortest day of the year, December 21. This far north the days are very short in the winter with the sun going down around four o'clock. This is usually when we begin lighting lanterns. We decide to leave the dog-team and toboggan home because of reports of wind fallen trees across the trail en-route to Pikangikum. We are to discover that there are a few but certainly not many. Donned in moccasins, with one pack-sack for the four of us strapped on one of our backs, being led by the Lord, we start a little while before daybreak. We embark on our journey to take the Gospel to our spiritually hungry neighbors to the south.

This trip is a common thing for our Indian friend who accompanies us, but for us four "whites" it is a new experience, we do not know the trail. You have to dress very warm in the winter, however, when you are walking in the bush it is not as imperative to dress as warm for you are somewhat sheltered. A side note, when you are walking in the winter, in the bush, you become really thirsty. It is tempting to scoop up fresh snow and lick it into your throat. It feels so good but the moment it is gone you are just as thirsty. The reason why this is dangerous is that the snow lowers the temperature of your body and puts you at risk for hypothermia. Indians take pots and cups and take time to stop and start a fire to melt the snow to make some tea. We are not yet educated in all the ways of the North.

We are ill prepared. We do not have a saw or ax with us. Though you can not always carry these essentials, this time, it would have been wise for us to do so. For the last half of the trip our friend turns around and heads back to Poplar Hill. His reason for doing this is unknown to us at the time. Thankfully there is only one trail with no other trails heading in different directions. If we end up somewhere other than Pikangikum we are in bad shape. We take snacks along but not survival food. We have matches but are unprepared for emergency situations. This trip is becoming a test of survival.

I remember the pleasure of hiking on the trail and enjoying the quietness and beauty of the forest. The birds are simply enjoying life singing songs and entertaining us. This really makes an impression on me. The trail comes to a spot where we have to cross over a body of water that to us looks as if it is completely frozen for there is no open water and snow is covering it. However, we do see that there is water between the ice and snow. What we do not know, but learn later, is that sometimes at this particular spot there is enough current (water flow) that makes it dangerous and impossible to cross. We stop and I am sure we pray. Johnny decides he is going first. He makes it and so we follow.  

All that we have on on our feet are wool socks and handmade tanned moose-hide moccasins, we have no boots. Johnny does not go very far before he is splashing. In the north we call this slush. He splashes all the way to the other side. When this happens you have to immediately get all the wet snow off your moccasins or they will become frozen solid. We too splash all the way across.

Walking is comparatively easy, especially after the Lord, in answer to our prayer for more strength, he tells us in a still small voice, " You can still go, can you not? I have given you all the strength that you have. Use every bit of that, then you will receive more as it is needed." We are all feeling really tired. We just keep walking and walking and walking and there are times I have to figure out ways to keep my mind occupied so as to not give up but rather remain thankful for the strength I have.

After the trail is followed over all the lakes and through all the woods for probably over twenty miles, a nine or ten hour walk, we arrive late at Pikangikum's shore. We can barely see houses because there are no street lights. Though the closer we come to the village we can see lights in the houses. We knock on the door of the manager from the Hudson Bay Store. He takes us across the lake to the small mission house.

The house at Pikangikum is still there but not much else. It has not been occupied for a few years. The bedding supplies have all but disappeared. We are so happy to be in this house we do not even care what is not here. We were not able to take our sleeping bags because we did not use the dog team. But who needs blankets? We discover a few pieces of plastic. Other than that all we have is the clothing on our backs. Thankfully there is a small indian type stove on the first floor. Johnny sleeps on the table near the stove so that he can stoke the fire all night to keep it going.

It is good to meet the white people at the trading post and school, they can understand everything we say. But even so our work is mostly among our Indian folks. While there, we have church services in our house on Sunday. We also have a service in an Indian home on another afternoon, both with good attendance. The remaining days are spent in visitation work in all homes. These visits are always welcomed by the Indians, in fact they feel offended if one home is passed without stopping.

One evening we decide to visit one more home and then return to our own home, approximately one mile away, even though it is already getting dark and we have forgotten the flashlight. Just before departing we are asked to stop at a certain home farther down the trail. This house we name "Cornelius' house" because several families have assembled and are sitting on the floor along four walls waiting to hear the Gospel. The statement made by a mother whom the Lord heals, "I now also believe in God." Her expression verifies the statement and drowns out all discouragement.

As we see the mighty hand of God working, we can not help but rejoice and be exceedingly glad for the many prayers that are being offered up by the "home folks" and answered by God. Were it not for these prayers, which are offered this work could not continue.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Several Days in Pikangikum Moccasins - July 14, 2017

A Day in the Life of the Burkholders:
Dave and their son, Lynn

The following is a newsletter written on October 1960 - a day in the life of Dave, Elva and their 2 year old son, Lynn.

Sunday, September 4

10:00 am- Morning Worship Service consisting of two Sunday School classes with Elva teaching one class and Brother David Strang, the chief, the other. Dave brings the morning message assisted by a native sharing devotions.

12:00 noon - Our family eats lunch at the church house, saving both gas and time by not going home. (to the reader - they lived on an island and had to use a canoe, obviously with a motor, to get to the reservation)

pm - Dave goes visiting a seemingly indifferent brother, but all is found to be quite well. Next he goes to Bro. Checkakamash's house, an old Indian man who has been sick for almost two years and now has contacted a type of flu. Never have we seen anyone so thin and yet still alive. It is difficult for him to grasp the Bread of Life we try to share with him.

5 pm - Evening Service with several native speakers.

Monday, September 5

Too much rain to saw logs, so try to catch up on odd jobs.

Tuesday, September 6 - (morning) Getting ready to go sawing, as we have two men hired for the day...then there is a knock on the door. It's Booshoo Witliam (Keeper), "Have you heard that Cheskakamash died yesterday?" "No, but we will go and visit the home as soon as possible."

am - We visit the home, try to comfort the wife and middle aged daughter. Funeral plans are made for tomorrow (perhaps in afternoon) at church house.

-assist three natives in starting to make coffin with boards cut from the mission sawmill.

-an airplane is seen landing, and will need our assistance to dock as the lake is very rough due to strong winds. The school teacher has come! Well, praise the Lord! He is a Christian, a Mennonite, and even a Burkholder - A. Lorne Burkholder from Eastern Ontario. We help them unpack and get situated when at 4:30 pm the chief notifies us of a change in plans, the funeral is in one hour instead of tomorrow! So with 10 to 15 minutes to prepare a message, we all met with approximately seventy-five people at the graveside (about 10 or 15 rods from the family house).

The dust returns to dust and the spirit has already left.

Well, no logs sawed again today, perhaps tomorrow.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." Matthew 6:33 and  "You are not your own, you are bought with a price..." I Corinthians 6:19, 20.

Were you praying for us then?

Dave, Elva, and Lynn Burkholder

Friday, July 7, 2017

Launch Out Into the Deep - July 7, 2017

(The following was written Spring 1955)
Imagine the ice....

There he goes. The final take off on ice, the gentle but gradual rising above the trees and the dark spot in the sky resembling the Aronica, a small, two-seater, single engine, airplane, diminishing and finally no longer visible by human eye.

We could venture to guess approximately what date the plane would be back, but that would profit very little. In fact there is a great possibility that our Lord will return first. What if we do not see another airplane for the next 4 or 5 weeks, we have that consolation which has been proven by people in all walks of life: only as we cease to depend on the material world do we begin to depend on God.

Our schedule of sawing logs during thaw-out or break-up period this spring was broken after the first half day of sawing when the tractor clutch broke for us. What now? of course we must wait for the plane to bring the needed parts in, but due to the contribution of a short-wave radio by a kind brother, we were able to order the parts immediately rather than upon the arrival of the plane on its first trip on pontoons again.

How often do we find ourselves in just similar situations spiritually? Do we not many times wait for our "plane to come in" when God says, "Here child take this NOW?" Have you ever met a person that has gone beyond the "Limit" and has appropriated all that God has for and wants to bestow upon us? I fear that too often we feel content to wallow around in the stale waters when God says, "Launch out into the deep now and receive the greater things in store for you."

As the chain is to the anchor so is our faith to the power and resources of God. Sure we have "an anchor that holds," but it is of no avail if the chain fails in the time of trial. To be strong in some points while weak in others is also in vain, because the chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." 2 Timothy 6:12

Friday, June 30, 2017

Elva Kauffman Pioneering the way to Pikangikum - March 14, 1955

Front from left to right: ?, Elva Kauffman, ?
Back ?, ?, ?, Lilly Burkholder
The following is written by Elva Burkholder who was Elva Kauffman at the time the piece was written. This is before her and Dave were married. She was pioneering and forging the way to Pikangikum.  Those with her were Willard Moyer, Lovina Miller (who eventually married Art Kauffman, Elva's brother). Please if you know these women in the picture would you let us know who they are -! Thank you.

"Our first Sunday Service was held in our home but it was too far for the older people to walk, and also those with little children, so the counsellor gave us permission to have it in their home each Sunday afternoon. We have an average attendance of eighty. We do more singing in church than you or I are used to but these people love to sing. We open our services by singing about eighteen selections after which we have a flannel-graph lesson. Brother Willard, who has conquered the language quite well, brings a message. The second Sunday, we bundled up and went to church through a snow storm. By wading through deep snow drifts, we found the trail. The snow was beating in our faces, driven by a strong gale and we could only see a short distance but we were soon home. We had just started a fire in our stove when there was a knock at the door. The counsellor had come to see if we had arrived home safely. After staying long enough to drink a cup of tea he hurried home again through the storm before it got dark. Our hearts were touched to think of the concern he had for us that he ventured through this storm to see if we found our trail home.

The Lord is answering your prayers on behalf of the souls at Pikangikum. Two of the young men who fell into sin have confessed their wrong doing to God and to us and want to make restitution. They had taken some articles from the mission home and now want to return them. The next time they came to visit us, they brought some other young men over and before the evening was over, three new souls were brought into the kingdom. We keenly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit with us that evening. Sister Maggie has also found the Lord precious and although their health does not permit her to attend services, she is experiencing the joy of being a child of the King. Willard went over to visit her one day and over her bed hung a piece of paper with these words, "God give me a good heart. My heart is sinful." She needs your prayers that she may continue to live for Jesus."

The Beginning of a Congregation - September 2, 2017

Before Elva and I are married, we were individually at two different Reservations where we were both introduced to the Aboriginal people, r...