More than once, Dad has told our family, “Serving the Lord doesn’t mean a boring life; serving the Lord can be an adventure.” I always knew that was true in my head, but this last week we got to live it. Its a long story, but I think you’ll enjoy it….
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It all started back in January. With our family being involved in Native American ministry, Dad often travels to record testimonies for “The Storyteller” radio broadcast (see http://withoutreservation.com/ for more information). Usually he travels by himself, but this time our whole family was able to join him. Dad had been in contact with a missionary up in Round Lake, Ontario. “The Storyteller” is aired up there in the community of Weagamow (Wee-ag-a-mou) and so he invited Dad to come up and record some testimonies. He also extended the invitation to our entire family to come and share our music up there.
Located in northern Ontario, Weagamow (also called Round Lake) is a fly-in community during the summer. During the winter, there are bush and winter (i.e. roads across the lake) roads that make it possible to drive in. Since we were planning to go in February, we would be driving in (I would encourage you to look up our route on GoogleEarth to see how remote the community is).
Over the next month, a couple of obstacles came up. Mom has back trouble and was recovering from a recent severe muscle spasm. Since the traveling would be rough, we didn’t want to go if it would cause her more back trouble. But as the date of departure came upon us quickly, the Lord was answering our prayers for her healing. However, two days before we left, Daniel woke up sick… he was feverish and throwing up. We began to pray that he would get better quickly and that no one else would get sick. We moved forward with our last minute packing, although we prepared to call off the trip if necessary.
Monday, February 21… It wasn’t until the morning we were to leave that we made the decision to go. Daniel was doing better and no one else felt sick, so we headed north. We crossed into Canada at Fort Frances, Ontario.
It was going to take two days to drive up to Weagamow. We had arranged to meet the missionary family in the town of Sioux Lookout where we would spend the night at a hotel before heading the rest of the way the next morning. Once in Ontario, we enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation out our windows. Rolling hills, low valleys, rocky ridges, frozen lakes, and pine trees as far as the eye could see made for an enjoyable trip.
We arrived at the hotel around 5:00pm where we got reacquainted with the Rasmussen family whom we had met a number of years before. We would be staying in their home while up in Weagamow. All of us kids had fun swimming in the hotel pool. Together our families had a late supper and the kids played a bunch of games while the parents talked before retiring for the night. The plan was to pull out of town by 9:00am to head up to Weagamow.
Tuesday, February 22… Jonathan woke up sick. He was very sick. It was very sad to see this high-energy boy laying on the bathroom floor. After breakfast, all of us kids (minus Jonathan) explored the hotel while waiting for the parents to decide what to do. It was decided that our family would stay another night at the hotel and see how Jonathan was in the morning, while the Rasmussen family headed back up to Weagamow. They left town around 10:00am and our family spent the rest of the day doing a little exploring in Sioux Lookout, swimming, watching curling and ski races on the hotel TV, and reading.
Wednesday, February 23… The Lord answered our prayers and Jonathan was feeling better the next morning. The Rasmussens graciously told us that they hoped we could still come and not to worry about them getting sick since they had already been exposed. So with great excitement, we continued on our journey.
About three hours down the road, we reached the last town on our route: Pickle Lake. From there we called and arranged for Mr. Rasmussen to meet us at the beginning of the bush road at 6:00pm to guide us in. Our cell phone had no signal this far north, and we still had about 4 hours to go. After filling up at the gas station, we headed out of town on a snow-packed gravel road… which would end at the beginning of the bush road some 200 kilometers ahead. For the first hour or two, we were marveling at how far out in the middle of nowhere we were. By the time we had passed the Musselwhite goldmine, we had crossed five single-lane bridges and saw only a handful of vehicles, most of which were trucks likely returning from crossing the winter roads. Once we were past the mine, we saw no one. It was the longest dirt road I have ever been on in my life and definitely not a pleasant place to break down.
It was starting to get dark when we reached the bush road where Mr. Rasmussen was waiting… right on time. Driving the bush road was like driving down a hiking trail complete with bumps, dips, hills, and curves. It took about an hour before we reached the lake, *ahem*, the winter road. It was dark by this time, so we couldn’t see too much. We could see, however, that the road across the ice was plowed really wide – about 6 lanes wide. This, we learned, is to allow the ice to freeze deeper to make the road stronger.
Way off in the distance we could see the lights of the community. Near “shore” we were approaching a very bright light and we began to speculate what it was. As we came off the lake, we found out that it was a checkpoint. Round Lake is a dry reserve and so they had this checkpoint to check vehicles for any alcohol. We got out of the van and the security people did their thing. (It was nice to get out of the van.) After that, we drove a little ways further before entering the town and arriving at the Rasmussens house. They helped us unload and settle in and then we sat down to the supper that Mrs. Rasmussen had waiting for us. The day ended with an evening of fellowship.
Sidenote: When we arrived, we found out that the plumbing in the house was not working properly. When we washed dishes, we had to dump the water outside. Using the bathroom was to be done next door at the church. Thus began the nightly “toothbrush party” as all of the kids would troop next door together to use the toilets and sinks before heading to bed.
Thursday, February 24… By the time we got up, Mr. and Mrs. Rasmussen and their daughter Deborah had already left for the Christian school just down the road. Mr. Rasmussen is the principal at the school and Mrs. Rasmussen is one of the teachers. Deborah, although she officially home-schools, does her schoolwork with the school kids. Robert does his at home and so we spent the morning in relative silence so that he and our Deborah (yes, there were two Deborahs in the house that week!) and Abby could do their schoolwork. Around 10:40am, Robert led us all over to the school to meet the kids during their break time.
The school is an ACE Christian school that has about 50 kids enrolled; the grades are kindergarten through eighth grade. It was especially interesting for us Fraser kids to see an ACE school in session since that is the main home school curriculum we have used throughout the years.
Anyway, after the break was over, we headed back “home.” The rest of the Rasmussen family came home for a lunch of chili. An interesting and neat thing is that apparently the whole community goes home for lunch. So everything shuts down and families are together. Great idea!
Mrs. Rasmussen told us that they had planned to go sledding that afternoon with the school kids and we were invited to come along. However, because it was really cold and windy, they canceled the sledding and did other activities. Undaunted by the cold, a number of the kids still wanted to sled so we trooped back over to the school to join them. Afterward, Deborah R. gave us a tour of the school.
After supper, all of us ladies headed over to the school to take showers. Six ladies—two showers. When we got home, the boys teased us about being gone for about an hour. Thinking about it now, that’s actually not too long for how many of us there were. It was one of the fastest showers of my life!
Friday, February 25… As soon as we finished eating breakfast (some of the family didn’t have time finish), we headed over to the school for chapel to play a few songs. We spent the rest of the morning at home until Robert took us back to the school for break time again. Mom stayed home, though, and Daniel and Jonathan sat out on the front porch of the house watching the backhoe out front.
Why the backhoe? As I mentioned earlier, the plumbing wasn’t functioning very well, so the town had sent a work crew out to try to dig through the ice and snow to get to the manhole (which was no easy task). The problem would remain unsolved until Monday (the day we were leaving). Strange as it may sound, it really wasn’t a problem though. It was all part of the adventure.
At 2:00 we went next door to the church to give a concert to the school kids from both the public and Christian schools as well as some adults from the community. The church was full and most seemed to enjoy the music. Near the end of our concert Dad told his “donkey” joke. Everyone laughed, but then the public school group started leaving while were singing the next song. Dad said they must not have liked the joke, but it turned out that they had to leave to get back to the school for dismissal. It was very funny!
All of us kids spent much of the rest of the afternoon out on the lake snowmobiling with some of the kids from the Christian school. They hooked up a sled to the back of the snowmobile and everyone who could would pile on. Although it was bitter cold, we had a lot of fun!
The moms made pizza that night and after supper, all of the ladies made a trip to the store for ice cream cones. We four girls rode in the bed of the Rasmussen’s pickup – by choice! After ice cream and fellowship, we ended the evening by heading “next door” for our nightly toothbrush party.
Saturday, February 26… Our Deborah woke up not feeling well and Abby wasn’t feeling great either. This was not a good thing. We couldn’t help but think of what Daniel and Jonathan went through… and without the convenience of a working bathroom.
Since it was a Saturday morning, the moms made us a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes. While waiting, we sat in the living room playing games and talking. After cleaning up after breakfast, the parents sat around visiting while us kids (minus Deborah) played hide and seek.
Later in the afternoon, the Rasmussens took us on a tour of Weagamow… the airport, the dump, the store, past the nurse’s station, and to visit a few people from the church. All of us kids rode in the back of the pickup in the cold, again by choice (yes, it might sound like we’re crazy, but it sure made for some great memories!).
When we got back, we had a snack and then went out to the lake to snowmobile again. Later that afternoon, I began to feel sick. Everyone (except me) ate supper and prepared to head over to the radio station. At 8:00pm, Mr. Rasmussen plays the Storyteller on the radio. After that, we were going to sing a few songs and Mr. Rasmussen would interview Dad.
About 15 minutes before we left for the radio station, I threw up. I felt a lot better and was up for playing with the family as long as I wasn’t going to sing! So, we got over the station and set up to sing. Since the room we were playing in was small, Robert became our live instrument stand, holding our extra instruments during songs we didn’t need them.
Returning home to grab a few things, we ladies headed over to shower at the school (lest you think that the boys did not shower at all during the week [smile], they did indeed shower both of the days that we did only they went over before we did each time.). We went to bed as soon as we got home.
Sunday, February 27… Sunday was our busiest day; it was also the day that Mom got sick. We had been asked to play during morning church and Dad had been asked to preach. The church meeting was mainly in Cree with some English translation. Dad had to preach through an interpreter and all the songs were sung in Cree (they would usually sing the last chorus in English). It was a joy to worship the Lord together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. They made us feel welcome. One of the ladies announced that after the service, there would be a meal because they had visitors. It was both a surprise and a beautiful display of hospitality. There was fresh moose meat (the moose had been taken the day before) and bannock (like a biscuit bread), along with boiled potatoes and moose stew. It was all very delicious.
We girls were asked to teach Sunday School later that afternoon, and so during lunch we discussed with Robert how Sunday School normally goes, what songs the kids knew, etc. We pulled out a familiar skit/lesson that we had taught before in Redby about Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel that stressed how God is omnipotent (all powerful). At 2:00 about 15 kids showed up; Robert played the guitar while we led the singing, and then I taught the lesson before we went to another room to color pictures of the Bible story. The kids were attentive and well-behaved.
By request of someone in the community, at 3:00 we were scheduled to play a full concert over the radio, so we had to rush over to the station after Sunday School. Since Dad, Robert, and the boys already had everything set up when we got there, we were able to get started right away. Mom was feeling well enough to play with us, and besides some mess-ups (unrelated to illness) during the concert, it was uneventful. The music affords an opportunity to share the Gospel and encourage believers.
We went back home and were about to sit down to eat when one of the ladies from the church called and asked if we wanted to come see the moose carcasses she was processing (it was the same lady who brought the fresh moose meat for lunch at the church). For those of you with weak stomachs, I won’t post any pictures of that or go into much detail, but I will say that those moose were huge! Mom, our resident field dresser for the game we hunt back home, was all in!
We went back home for a supper of turkey dinner and then went back to the church for the evening service. We did several more songs, finishing on a risky note singing “Oh, How I Love Jesus” in Cree. But it all worked out. We sang the verses in English and the chorus in Cree. It was a joy to see the smiles on their faces at our singing in their language… and they joined us.
Since it was our last evening in Weagamow, we stayed up late; the parents were visiting and us kids played hide and seek in one small, pitch dark room. Around 11:30 we went upstairs to ask for ice cream. After bargaining for us to teach the Rasmussen a Sunday School song called “The Gospel Train” and for us to go right to bed as soon as we were done, we had ice cream cones and then dutifully went to bed.
Monday, February 28… The plan was for Mr. Rasmussen to lead us out of Weagamow and his Deborah would come with. However, she woke up sick and so after the van was packed, we sat in the living room in relative silence, dreading the good-bye. While we were sitting there, the phone rang. Mrs. Rasmussen answered it then handed it to Dad. One of the ladies from the church called to say goodbye and send us off with a blessing. Over the speaker phone, she sang to us the first verse of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”. It was very special to us. After after saying goodbye to the Rasmussens with all the hugs, handshakes, and thank-yous, we climbed into the van. Several people from the church drove past and waved. The lady who called us came by waving with both hands. A man from the church stopped by to talk to Dad briefly. It was very moving to see how people were making an effort to say goodbye even though we barely knew each other.
We finally rolled out of town and approached the winter road. Since it was light out this time, we were busy taking pictures and enjoying the view. We safely reached Pickle Lake around 1:30 where Mr. Rasmussen called his family to let them know we made it and then we continued on to Sioux Lookout. Our family had a nice supper at the Wellington; when we got back to to the hotel, my siblings all went swimming again.
Tuesday, March 1… We parted ways from Mr. Rasmussen at Dryden and continued on our last leg of the journey. While driving through the scenic Ontario highway towards Minnesota, the family (except for me; I was sleeping) saw two Canadian lynx cross the road. That was amazing. We finally arrived home around 6:00.
We were very grateful to the Lord for a safe trip to and from Weagamow. It was a blessing to be able to minister through our music to the people up there. We enjoyed the fellowship and hospitality of the Rasmussen family, and enjoyed seeing the what the Lord is doing up in Weagamow. It’s a wonderful community of people: friendly, and where the love of Jesus shines through the Christians there.
We’re mindful that the friendly people there live out the adventure of life up north everyday. It’s their home, their culture, their life. And it’s beautiful. For us, though, it was a journey we’ll never forget.
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As you can expect, for the sake of space, I had to leave out a lot. But let me tell you, it was an adventure. Better yet, it was a family adventure that was a result of serving the Lord together. We’re excited to see what other adventures He has in store for us. This won’t be our last time in Weagamow… it looks like we’ll be heading back in July! That will be a whole new adventure since we’ll have to fly in. It’s our prayer that in sharing our adventures with you, you too will be excited about serving the Lord together with your family… and laying the groundwork for the next generation to do the same.
-Sara, for the family