At 4am, on Friday, July 27th, nine youth and five adults from Peace started the 20-hour drive to Cormorant, Manitoba, for the annual PINK (Peace Inspiring Native Kids) mission trip. For 13 straight years, the youth of Peace have been teaching Vacation Bible School to the children of Cormorant. This trip is coordinated by LAMP Ministries.
Cormorant is a Metis community of about 300 people in west-central Manitoba. It is fairly isolated (over an hour to the nearest town, about 45 miles on gravel), with no cell service, no gas station, and no grocery store. There is one convenience-type store with a small selection of snacks and that’s about it. There are two small churches, but worship is irregular due to the remote location of the village. Cormorant is separated by a narrow stretch of the lake, causing a physical division in the community. The quickest route between the two sides means walking across the railroad bridge, which cuts off more than a mile from the walk.
After spending our first night at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Winnipeg and picking up perishable groceries in The Pas, we arrived in Cormorant about 7pm on Saturday. The night was spent unpacking and visiting with community members who came over to welcome us. On Sunday we distributed flyers concerning the week with information about VBS, Teen Night, and Women’s Night, to every house in the community. The rest of the evening was spent preparing for VBS the next day, visiting with our Cormorant friends, and ending the day with worship.
VBS this year was moved to be later in the day, starting at noon instead of 10am as in past years. One of the cultural differences between Cormorant and Columbus is that the children of Cormorant are often given the freedom to stay up later. That, coupled with the distance some of the kids would have to travel to go to lunch on the other side of the lake, led to the different timing. 40-50 children consistently attended VBS each day. The VBS program was very similar to VBS here at Peace this summer. It began with an opening celebration with lots of music and the memory verse for the day, followed by opening small groups where the kids were asked to share their “God sightings” for the past day. This was followed by games, the Bible story shared as a drama, crafts, snacks, and closing small group where the main emphasis of the day was once again shared with the children. The day would wrap up with a closing celebration. VBS was fully lead by the Youth of Peace with a little guidance from the adult leaders.
The evenings were full as well. Monday was the night to relax with the people of the community with bridge jumping and a few games of volleyball in the gym with the teens of Cormorant.
Tuesday was Women’s night. Six women of the community gathered with our women and young ladies to be refreshed physically and spiritually. Deb Burma led the night focused on the ‘Beautiful Feet’ of the women, and how God has declared us beautiful in Christ, loving and guiding us in our walk with Him. Emphasizing His call upon us to lead by serving, Deb washed the women’s feet. Throughout the week, following the women’s night, other women continued to approach Deb and Cindy, apologizing for not being able to be there, and engaging in meaningful dialog. All 24 Bibles donated by the people of Peace were given, many one-on-one, to women in Cormorant; the Bibles were often received with tears and words of thanks.
Wednesday was Teen Night. Twelve community teens joined our 9 teens to learn about God’s sacrificial, unconditional, unending love for us through Jesus and our call to reflect that love to others. The night similar was to a youth night here at Peace with games, snacks, and music. (Thanks to Grant Stadler and Kade Nelson for leading on guitars!) Thursday was the ‘Big Give’ at the end of that day’s VBS. Concordia Gospel Outreach (CGO) donated books to give to the children, teens, and women of the community. Some were given each day, but the big gifts were shared at the end of the day Thursday. Thanks to CGO for these Bibles and books which will continue to give the Good News of Jesus after we leave.
Thursday was also the first community meal that was shared with the people of Cormorant. Fish and Baneck (fry bread) and many other good foods, as well as conversations and encouragement, were shared at this meal. Relationships with families of the community were developed and blessed. (Bracelet-braiding and balloon animals rounded out the special evening!)
Friday was a shortened VBS (no crafts, snacks, or games) followed by shirt give-aways and signings, many good-byes, and tears as the team packed up for the two-day trip home to Columbus. While the time there was short, our prayer is that the seeds of faith that were watered and nourished during the week might continue to grow in the year to come.
The youth on the PINK Mission Team this year were Katie Anderson, Carmen Britt, Joseph Campbell, Cade Fullner, Anna Maurer, Kade Nelson, Jalynn Olson, Grant Stadler, and Haley Wagoner. The youth leaders were Dan Britt, Pastor Cory Burma, Deb Burma, Cindy Campbell, and Andrew Luce.