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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dave for posting these historical events. So fascinating. Thanks for pioneering and now sharing with the rest of us.
    -Linda Roth


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