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.”
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
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