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.

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...