Our 6th winter trip to Shamattawa was all planned out and started off according to our schedule as we drove to Winnipeg for our flight to Shamattawa on a beautiful sunny day. Everything was in order and going smoothly as Lori and Leon Dawkins, Rev. Bill Aufdenkamp, Shawn and Dave Schneeberger along with the LAMP Pastor/Pilots Dennis Ouellette and Randy Heide had gotten checked in at the airport with no excess baggage and all of our bags on their way to the plane. We boarded the plane, left the gate and were wheels up headed for Shamattawa ahead of schedule. After a very smooth flight, we landed in Shamattawa ahead of schedule and someone was even at the airport waiting to pick us up, very unusual for winter or summer. School was closed the day we arrived due to a funeral, but we were given access since that would be where we would stay while we were in the community. We were given the master key for most of the rooms in the building along with a card key for access to the building and the elevator. We were told that all of the rooms were being used for school including the one we have stayed in during some of our previous trips. The school library turned out to be the best option for us to camp out during our stay even though we would need to move our stuff each day into another room so it was not in the way and we began to settle in. We had brought some food with us for supper in the event the Northern Store was closed and it turned out that was the case. Another option came up as we found out someone was selling hot plates out of their home and were even willing to deliver. It was quickly decided this was going to be our best plan and we placed the order. The food was delivered as scheduled and we enjoyed our nacho plates before settling down for the night.
Our plan was to spend time in the classrooms with the kids for at least two days while we were here. As the teachers and administrators arrived for our first full day, we received the news that school may be cancelled for another day since the burial did not occur for the funeral the day before so they were planning on doing that. The decision was based on the fact that the bus driver was a relative and wasn’t going to make it and the back up driver was out of town. We were disappointed that we would not be seeing the kids today but tried to understand the situation and make the most of it. Even though the kids didn’t make it to school, we were able to interact with several teachers who did make it. We were able to have some good conversations with them and the benefit of having three Pastors with us became clear and evident as they were able to engage in some more in-depth discussions. We spent the day keeping ourselves busy straightening up the books in the library, going to the store, washing some of the windows and adjusting our plans to spend time with the kids for the next day and a half.
The temperatures had been cold since we arrived in Shamattawa, but those were taken to another level the next morning when they reached lows of -47 degrees and there is mandatory school closure at -43. The decision to cancel the morning session was made and we had another morning without children in the school even though we had some additional time to spend with the teachers who had made it to school. The temps warmed up as the morning progressed resulting in a decision to bring the kids to school for the afternoon session. They started arriving for classes that were to start at 1:00 and it was great to see their smiling faces as they got off the bus and saw us sitting at the tables when they came through the doors. We were able to get into 10 classrooms during the 2 hours and 10 minutes we had where we told an abbreviated Easter Story, sang songs, handed out Easter story books, cross necklaces, bookmarks and hats lovingly prepared by the Trinity Lutheran Church knitters to 75 children of the 135 registered in those classes. It was a tremendous afternoon that went smoothly and turned out just as we had planned. After school we held a social event with food and a saran ball game for the school staff and administration. It went over very well and was a tremendous way to show our appreciation for their efforts since we know how difficult it is to teach in that environment.
We adjusted our schedule once again as we were only left with another half day of school to spend time in the classrooms. The forecast was for bitter cold again as we arose on our final day, but the temps stayed just above the required level and the bus was sent out and began bringing kids in for the morning session. We spent some time with the kids as they arrived and just as they were preparing to disburse to their classes the power went out. It turned out it was an outage throughout the whole community with no anticipated time for it to come back on. The kids were sent back home again on the buses as the morning session was cancelled with hopes of the power being restored in time for the afternoon session. This did allow us to spend some additional time with the teachers and administrators as more questions were answered and discussions were held. We were also able to package the remaining Easter storybooks, necklaces, bookmarks and hats for distribution to the rest of the children and leave them one of the young teachers from the community we had come to know. The power came on shortly after noon so we were able to at least see the kids and say goodbye as they came back to school before we had to go to the airport for our flight back to Winnipeg.
Even though the trip didn’t go exactly as we had planned and we were not able to spend as much time with the kids in their classrooms, we are all aware that it was God’s plan and there was a reason for things happening the way they did. There were a lot of questions asked by a number of teachers, but one of them in particular was consistent in his spiritual questioning throughout our time there. He asked thoughtful questions of several of us regarding verses in the bible, what they meant, etc. as well as differences between certain religions. On the last day, he and another teacher had a long, in-depth discussion with Pastor Ouellette about the Christian faith. We realize that God allowed the unplanned circumstances to happen so that the truth seeking teachers could come closer to understanding Christ and the salvation found only in Jesus. We simply need to trust that his plan is at work in spite of things not going according to our schedule and plans.
To God be the glory!!