Several years ago Athletes in Action got a call to come and do a First Nations Baseball camp. I was willing to embark on a new AIA baseball camp. We soon found some baseball coaches as volunteers to go to the First Nations Community of Pauingassi. We also recruited a few baseball coaches to do several other Manitoba baseball camps. However for the past several years we have joined together to fly up to two very remote First Nations communities to lead a baseball camps for the young people. These communities have been Tadoule Lake and Pauingassi.
We are pleased and excited to continue with these one week camps in the summer time. I look for volunteers to come with a team to do daily bible studies with children, children and men’s baseball training, men’s breakfasts, and personal community individual visits with the people. We are very welcomed to these communities. If you are interested in helping out, either as a volunteer, teaching or in donations, please see our contact address.
Life in itself is an empty canvas; it becomes whatsoever you paint on it. You can paint misery: you can paint bliss. The freedom is your glory. — Osho
An art instructor of mine several years ago told me “never stare at a white canvas, start painting and the masterpiece will unfold.”
Planning and preparing to go to communities like Pauingassi is a joy and a challenge. There are so many little but important things to line up before we can go. To name a few: the dates, the volunteers, housing for our team, the flights, the exact weight of the cargo, all the paper work that the government and our mission expects us to complete….
Then once we think we have everything in place, we find new challenges and changes that come up last minute. For our Pauingassi trip we were 12 staff, and so for more staff you also need more room in lodging, more room on the plane and also more cargo to ship or take along. Supplies on the average equals about 100 lbs./volunteer
Our volunteers for Pauingassi were recruited by Walter and Winnie Fehr from the Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler. This church, especially Walter and Winnie have been a huge support to the community of Pauingassi as well as the other communities of Tadoule Lake and Poplar Hill, Ontario.
Because we were a larger group, we had to take two planes and two boats to get to Pauingassi. Kristen Brown, Linda Blatz, Stephanie Fehr and I flew out of St Andrews with a seaplane with Amik Aviation, taking the extra supplies. The more adventurous travel was undertaken by the 8 other staff flying out of Steinbach and landing at Little Grand Rapids, and then boated across Fishing Lake to Pauingassi.
The ministry went very well. We are always received so well by the community people like Pastor Allen, Moses and Cindy who help us with transportation and lodging.
The kids were waiting for us. Our volunteers have formed long time relationships with many of the children. They receive lots of attention from us, t-shirts, cookies etc. We have them for Bible lessons, baseball, swimming and sometimes fishing. Of course lots of piggyback rides. I think Mitch gets a great work out for his hockey season. The children love to play ball, especially the batting part of the game.
The annual men's and ladies breakfasts are a huge "hit" and many come for the gifts, pancakes etc. The community wiener roast was especially great this year, because Winnie connected well with the community ladies making Bannock Burgers and Bannock Dogs in the school for the people. The Northern store is always generous in helping us with the supplies.
During the week we were there, Moses set up a tent for Gospel meetings, where we often help and also attend the services.
We had two minor injuries which caused some headaches – literally! On the first day I bashed my head quite hard against the end of the plane wing on the dock. Winnie tripped on some luggage and fell, hitting her head on the floor.
We ended the week with some great fireworks the night before we left. In general the staff all felt it was one of the better weeks we have ever had with the Pauingassi people.
Thank you to all our supporters, friends who gave and prayed for us during our time in Pauingassi.
Athletes in Action.
Poplar Hill First Nation Camp - NW Ontario - 2015
On July 12 at 9:30 in the morning we headed out to the Steinbach airport, with our black Caravan packed with a week’s supplies for our Athletes in Action team of seven. Edna always does a great job of buying, cooking, organizing, packing, and weighing every item so we can give the pilot of the King Air the exact payload. This time it was 515 lbs. plus the other 6 volunteer’s ministry and personal items totaling 815 lbs.
We arrived safely in Poplar Hill. The gravel runway is about 6 km from the community of Poplar Hill and Pardemus, one of the Band members was there to meet us. We loaded his pick-up truck with our payload of 815 lbs. plus 7 people in the back of the truck.
The start of our week was somewhat confusing due to some lack of understanding and communications about our lodging arrangements. We finally ended up in the Hotel with three rooms and a ‘common’ kitchen (‘common’ to all hotel guests). We had little privacy, a ‘boil water’ advisory, and no phone. So it was a bit of a rough beginning – a stress test on my patience. Things could only get better as we started our work, and they did get better.
The week of ministry included preparation of a men’s breakfast, community wiener roast, broadcasts on the radio, crafts and Bible lessons for the children, home visitations with gifts for the ladies and baby blankets for new babies.
However, first things first, the ‘common’ kitchen got a cleaning. Then the gift bags for the ladies in this community were assembled. The ladies of our church had again made these bags into very special gifts. A church had donated some money, others shopped, another sewed, another lady crocheted, still another made special cards…and the result was amazing.
The kid’s Bible lessons were led by Muriel LeClerc and Kristen Brown. These lessons were outdoors for the first two days due to unavailability of the school (water issues). We started with photos of the kids so we could make a nice photo button for each child to pin onto his/her t-shirt. I had a devotional and story about the importance of a name – that God knows our name and knows everything about us and cares for us. The buttons also helped us to get to know their names.
The men’s breakfast saw 32 men, 7 youth and 3 girls come out, giving us a total of 42 to serve pancakes and sausages. The Community Hall was set up with about 10 tables and chairs. The police officer working in Poplar Hill offered his help and came out to serve the men as well. I had never seen a police with all the weapons including a gun on one side serving breakfast pancakes with the other hand. It was really neat to see him serve in the community. I had placed a fish hook at each place for the men as a gift. John Friesen did a fine devotional and then the coffee, pancakes and sausages tasted even better.
It was also a first to organize a 2 km run for the youth ages 10-15. The police lead the way with his vehicle. I had purchased prizes for the winners. I had a short running story for all the children after the run. It was a hot day for running (34 degrees, high humidity) at 3:00 in the afternoon.
Don and Chris practiced their singing and with their guitar and mandolin they did 2-3 broadcasts on the band radio.
The community wiener roast was successful and we served 300 hotdogs to young people, children and adults. I taught one young boy to consider the elderly who were sitting behind the baseball fences - to go and take hotdogs and drink to them and serve them. He did that many times.
The Northern store is kind and generous by donating the bread, buns, wieners, ketchup, mustard, relish and juice for this wiener roast.
Children, teens and adults like to participate in the baseball games.
The firework is always a great feature for the kids. This year one was sniffed from close up by a dog after it was lit. A crazy dog! Another one fell on its side and the rest of the shots were fired at ground level, fortunately no one was hurt. That surprised everyone. But after that the ball diamond was covered with smoke, taking care of all the mosquitoes.
This ministry is very worthwhile where we get to know the people more each year, develop good relationships as we speak to them, love them, serve them, learn from them and share our faith in Jesus with them. We were encouraged to end the camp well.
Members of our AiA team were: Kristen Brown, Abbotsford, BC , myself, John and Marlene Friesen, East Braintree, Muriel Leclerc and Chris Lerm from Lorette, and Don Wiebe from Steinbach.
We thank all our sponsors for helping out in this wonderful work.
We thank all those praying for us in this ministry!
Athletes in Action
Tadoule Lake 2015
"It is what it is"
This phrase came up in Tadoule Lake this year, and we found ourselves using it quite frequently for a variety of reasons.
Our living accommodations and the state of the church where we have most of our activities always has us in a bit of suspense, actually quite a lot of suspense. We see the facilities once we get there. “They are what they are”! We had lots of supplies which take up lots of up and of course quite heavy. So in Thompson the pilot decided to take the Caravan instead of the King Air, because it has more space allowance. I said we all have “tons of love” for these people, so the pilot commented - that would give us some “negative weight” allowance. “It is what it is!”
Reg had flown us to Tadoule Lake from Thompson, and when we arrived there was no one there to help us, despite my emails and phone calls regarding our arrival time. The airport building was locked and we had about 900+ lbs. of supplies, and no truck or person to taxi us from the airport to the teacher’s apartments (about 2-3 km away) where we hoped to live. Our pilot checked the airport building and everything was locked - no access. It was kind of cold and windy, so I decided to run to the community to find help for transportation. I did get help and so Alex, who I phoned from David Duck’s place, was already at the apartment when we got there.
Our team members were Dianne Reimer, Bobbie-Jo Friesen, Rhonda Blanchette, Gabi Blanchette, Tia Friesen, Kristen Brown, Edna and I. I was the only male in the group of 8. The apartment was soon cleaned and livable. I immediately ran to the other places to see what the church facility was like, what we would need in order to be able to function in all our activities. The church needed tables, (about 8 of them) and needed to be cleaned. I checked in at the Northern store as well.
We soon made personal contacts again and set up the church for a ladies tea for the very next day (Sunday afternoon). Edna prepared a great setting in blue and green with little resources. About 50 ladies came. Dianne Reimer delivered a most powerful story/testimony. All the ladies were given a gift bag as well as a puzzle, besides eating some great dainties prepared by two ladies from the Grant Memorial Baptist church in Winnipeg.
What was really special to several ladies of the community and our ladies was that one night two ladies came with two grand babies to receive some baby blankets. I had asked some ladies at the store where the babies were in the community, because we had some blankets to give away. So two grandmothers came to our house that evening and stayed awhile. This visit lead to the next ladies’ evening when 5 ladies came to sing gospel songs all evening. What a tremendous unplanned outreach event. I made myself scarce and went to another suite, for I had little to offer.
We soon discovered that there were many hurting people. One of my friends shared with me that he had lost his son in a winter road vehicle accident, and now a week ago he received the terrible news of having cancer. He was depressed, sad and angry at God.
Bobbie-Jo did a great job in the kid’s Bible lessons, experiments and crafts. The kids were very cooperative and listened well this year. Teaching the kids simple songs was so much fun to see and hear. This year each school age child received a back pack.
The baseball was better than ever. It was attended by more of the older teens. There was great excitement and enthusiasm. I spent some time talking to them and prayed with them on the diamond. Rhonda did a fantastic job in the ball teaching. Two boys won a new glove and a Goldeyes jersey.
We were so pleased to hear Julie Sandbury share that her son Brian was now totally drug free. Brian shared with me of his joy and victory he has received from the Lord.
The evening before we left we served hotdogs in the church, because the weather was not pleasant. After the ‘wiener roast’, we had a church service. Dianne again gave a powerful testimony and story. All the people were silent and listened. I had put together an 8 minute video of our events in their community that week and we presented that as well. The final event is always fireworks on the beach at 10:00 pm. This is a big highlight for many, especially the kids.
We were again so encouraged to spend an intense week with our friends. And our friendships are becoming more real, and deeper. We are so pleased about our time in Tadoule Lake.
“It is what it is!” - Which is really special.
Athletes in Action
JULY 9 – 15, 2012
What began as straight forward Athletes in Action Baseball Camp nine years ago has developed into a program that includes the whole community. While baseball is still an integral part of the program, the staff also teaches Bible classes, crafts and swimming for the kids. The men of the community are invited to a men’s breakfast, the ladies to their own breakfast and the whole community is invited to a wiener roast. Forty-five men came for the breakfast (pancakes with bacon, & each man received a fish hook as a gift) and forty-one ladies came for their breakfast. Each lady received a gift bag of goodies. Fifteen minutes past 10.00 am, we were “worried” only 5 ladies would show up, but then shortly after that a bus load of 36 women showed up. At the wiener roast we ended up serving 300 hotdogs!
Over the years we have learned to know these people and really appreciate them. This year I was privileged to help the local pastor as he baptized one of the ladies. She shared her testimony with the ladies at the breakfast.
Our group also attends the local church service and each one is expected to contribute. The service may very well carry on for 3 – 4 hours before everyone has shared a song, a story or some scripture.
About 30 children turned up for our first ‘Sunday School’ class. They kept coming back each day for the lessons and the crafts.
One evening I wandered into the gym and the older teens were getting themselves organized to do a floor hockey tournament, so I was immediately roped in to be the referee. I spent the better part of the night in the gym with these young guys. Personal friendships have developed between our AIA team and some of the local people and this is a joy to see.
It was a really great camp/community experience with some challenges though. It is always a challenge to see how we can best pack and transport the supplies due to the high costs. This year another challenge was the 35° heat and high humidity made baseball almost impossible, so we spent time with the kids swimming in the lake. Two of our workers actually cooled off a bit in a deep freeze. The seaplane flight, take-off and landing on water can also be a bit of an adrenaline experience. Sometimes it is quite bumpy and rough, so some Gravol may be needed. It is quite much a faith adventure serving our wonderful First Nation with love and care.
We look forward to going back next year, already having new ideas formed in our minds.
As a full-time Athlete in Action staff, I am organizing three baseball camps this summer in remote First Nations communities, with about 6-8 volunteer staff working in each camp.
Athletes in Action
First Nations Baseball
TADOULE LAKE TREASURES
ATHLETES IN ACTION BASEBALL CAMP
For the past eight years we, a group of 6 – 8 Athletes in Action staff and volunteers have been privileged to fly to Tadoule Lake each summer for a faith adventure.
Integral to our work is showing the love of God to this community.
There are months of planning, recruiting volunteer staff, finding financial sponsors to support this ministry trip, and communication with the band and people responsible before this one week is possible. Road travels, lodging, flight and food are some of the basic essentials in planning and preparation.
Programs and activities include Bible lessons, crafts, games and sports such as baseball, soccer, swimming and mini-Olympics. In this community fishing is also taken quite seriously and is a great way to spend time with the local children as well as adults.
The men’s breakfast is always a highlight, as is the ladies tea. Each event had about 50+ community people come out. The community wiener roast brought a great crowd and when we showed a 20 minute presentation of our time in their community the previous year, the church was filled with adults and children.
Our faith adventure began about 2 days before we were to leave on this assignment. I called the nurses’ station to confirm our accommodations (approved by the Health Department in Winnipeg) to be informed that this was not available to us. This was quite a shock since things had been going very well for us over the last number of years. We were 7 adults about to fly to this community and now had no accommodations. I called the chief of the reserve and asked his advice. He did some homework for me on Sunday evening and we were assured of some accommodations at the teacher’s apartments.
Then I received a call from our friend Matt, that we needed to head for Thompson, not Flin Flon, since the plane that they normally used to get us to T.L. was in for some repairs but they would have a different plane for us in Thompson. Not a problem, since driving distance is pretty well equal.
We were finishing supper In Thompson, when Curt Enns, owner of the Kississing Lodge walked into the restaurant with some of his staff. Kurt told us the weather for the next morning did not look great, and we might have to ’cool our heels’ in Thompson for a day or so, but we would see what the morning brought.
The next morning we decided to check out of the hotel, with an option to come back if need be, and set out for the Kississing dock. We arrive, the pilot came out to greet us and said to load and go. Clouds were low and there were strong winds, but we taxied out into the open water and took off. As we taxied my cell phone rang and it was Curt, just checking on us and to let us know it might be a rough ride.
We literally flew within feet of the tops of the trees. Edna said she had prayed that God would keep the pontoons from taking out the trees. Over the lakes he dropped the plane to skim just above the water. And of course, this low ride was a rough one; we were jostled and shaken up so that even those who were not prone to air sickness were beginning to wonder about the condition of their stomachs. The Gravol did not work for one of our team members as she made her acquaintance with a couple of those special bags meant for just these occasions.
When the pilot landed quite quickly on the middle of a lake and yelled, ‘I can’t hold it any longer’ we assumed he meant the plane, but he made a quick exit and spent some time below the plane on the pontoon. The break did give our insides a time to relax, and we got a chuckle about the bush pilot side of reality. Eventually the pilot reentered and we resumed our bumpy ride to Tadoule Lake. Although we were all using our seatbelts, it seemed a good idea to hang on to the seat as well. Edna happened to sit by the back door where a handle did quite a job on her arm…the bruises are slowly disappearing.
When we eventually saw the community we were very relieved - this had been a two hour adventure that none of us cared to repeat. Once the aircraft was ‘beached’ it took a few people to hold it in place while the rest of us unloaded our supplies.
I ran into the community and fetched someone with a pickup truck to come and load our supplies and take them to the far end of the community where the school and the teacher’s apartments were located.
We spent some of that day getting established in our small apartment – 7 adults: 3 men and 4 women sharing one bathroom, two bedrooms and two living rooms. We chose the more convenient of the two kitchens and then got settled and unpacked. One living room would be our dining room and the other one was an additional bedroom. Then we got to making posters and going around to the Northern store, the nurses’ station and the band office to put these up. We already had spoken to various people and they were asking us when we were starting the kid’s activities, the men’s breakfast, the ladies teas, etc. Once we were set up, we sent Pastor Rick out with his fishing line to get us some supper, which he did quite willingly, joined by numerous kids of the community who had gotten to know him over the past few years.
Finding the keys to the church, the person responsible for the band office, someone who could assist with transport took another few hours. It was an interesting start to the week and with all the ‘rough patches’ we were aware that there would also be great things in store for us and the community. It was great to hear the kids and adults greet us and call out our names as we walked to sandy roads and paths
Our next joy was to get into the church and see the church benches that had been donated by our church in Steinbach to this community. They were beautiful to see, and with the ‘new’ benches the community had taken pride and ownership and the church was clean and neat. It was very rewarding to all of us to see this. The people of the community also thanked us for these pews. Some of us were pretty close to tears to see these pews put to good use in this northern community.
Between 36 – 40 kids showed up for the Bible lessons, crafts and sports each day. We were so pleased to see some of the older kids show up each day as well.
A special event this year was to get a pickup and driver to take our team to Stony Lake, about 20 kilometers north of Tadoule Lake. This evening was an adventure of its own. The people of this community had talked about this to us and we had never gone out there before. The ride in the back of the pickup along 20 kilometers of Esker and sand was quite eventful, passing places like Twin Lakes, Wiener Lake, and Hamburger Hill… Of course there was always a logical reason why these names came about. When we got to our destination we had to remind ourselves that this was still Manitoba, it was God’s creation and we were very privileged to experience this.
We were just back to our suite when Bernice, the Education Director knocked on our door; we needed to come outside and experience the Northern Lights. What a show! It felt like we could almost reach up and touch them as they flowed across the skies.
Our last evening we again did the traditional community wiener roast and fireworks. We served 240 hotdogs in a very short period of time. This was followed by the new event – a slide show about their community, photos taken the previous year. I was privileged to get everyone totally quiet for a few minutes before we began the show and it was my opportunity to share with the community WHY we were here.
After the fireworks ended, we assumed the evening was done, but Bernice asked Randy and me to come back up to the church. She had arranged for three men of the community to drum for us … and after she thanked us for our work in this community, they did their song. It was a very moving ending to a great week.
The next day there were numerous people on the beach to say their farewells, and there were lots of tears, on the beach as well as in the plane. We knew we had seen God at work in many lives and hearts and seemingly each one of the AIA volunteer staff already asked for their seats on the plane in the coming year.
This year’s AIA volunteer staff were: Rick Bettig, Diane Reimer, Bobbie-Jo Friesen, Rhonda Blanchette, Randy Hepner, Edna and Albert Martens.
Athletes in Action
First Nations Baseball
POPLAR HILL, ONTARIO
ATHLETES IN ACTION BASEBALL CAMP AUGUST, 2012
I knew the water puddle just behind shortstop into the outfield was two square meters, and in my subconscious I was wondering what my reaction would be if the ball would be hit right into those two square meters…
Of course, the ball was hit right into that area and I went for it, the old ‘run, jump and dive’ reaction was still in me as I dove and reached for the fly ball. But I dropped it as I fell and slid right through the puddle, arms and legs spread wide and high as the water went wide and high with me. If I gave an excuse, it was because my mind had been too occupied with the puddle and I had momentarily taken my eye off the ball. The native adult fastball players got a good laugh over the hit, splash and noise in center field.
The Poplar Hill First Nations community is located about one hour flight north of Red Lake, Ontario with a population of about 500.
A year ago I had been approached by two of their band members to come and do a camp in their community. These men were in Pauingassi for a fastball tournament and had taken note of the work we were doing in that community. I took this invitation seriously, and with the encouragement of some people, lots of planning and many questions, we went up with a team of 8 AIA volunteer staff.
I, together with Don Wiebe had been able to fly up to the community a few weeks beforehand to take a look at the community as well as meet with the Chief and Council members. If I was bringing adults up to this community that was new to us, I felt I needed to have a visual of the situation first. I needed to know what our accomodations would be and what kind of facilities would be available for us to work in.
Getting supplies and staff into these northern communities is always a challenge. Our cargo was flown from the Steinbach airport by MAF and our team went to St Andrews airport to be flown out to Poplar Hill with AMIK Aviation. The two flights arrived within an hour of each other.
Our daily activities of Bible lessons, crafts and games took place in the afternoons. In addition to this we also hosted the men of the community to a breakfast, and visited individual homes to bring gift bags to the ladies of the community. Walter and I got to be part of some great fastball games. There is a lot of top quality fastball in this community. Walter’s arm was quite sore from all the pitching he did, but it was a terrific game. The community wiener roast was a huge hit and we served about 325 hotdogs that evening. I enjoyed serving the ball players, fans and even the umpire. The people were thankful and appreciated the wiener roast.
It was great to have 48 men come out for the breakfast, where we not only fed them breakfast, but also shared Jesus Christ with them.
Our grand finale was the fireworks show which we set off on the ball diamond. The problem with this was the curiosity of the dogs. The final firecracker got a close inspection by a dog, who managed to tip it, resulted in a ground level sideways display shooting after the dog, who was now finally trying to leave the scene.
My thanks to the community of Poplar Hill for having us. We appreciated the warm reception of the chief, the band councilors and the whole community. The Ontario Police stationed in the community also offered to give us a ride when we were walking along the road.
It seemed like the week had gone too quickly when we heard the Caravan plane coming in to pick us up from the dock to take us back to St Andrews.
This year’s volunteer AIA staff were: John and Marlene Friesen, Adam Friesen, Clarence and Hilda Funk, Don Wiebe, Walter Fehr and Albert Martens.
Athletes in Action
First Nations Baseball