Monday, March 17, 2008

Things you learn living in Small Town NW Ontario

The most popular question by far that we have been asked since arriving here just over a month ago is "How are you liking Emo so far?" It is a fair question, since there is a quite a large difference between living in a town of 1200 and living in a city of 700,000+. Yet the transition hasn't been as hard as people I think thought it might be for us, and we have God to thank for that.

When we lived in a Tadoule Lake 12 years ago, we really dealt with isolation issues: 300 people, 1 store, fly-in only (except if you count the 3 weeks of winter road access in February), winter 8 months of the year, etc. Here in Emo, even though it is called "the North," you have everything you need and a lot of stuff you want either in town, or a 20 minute ride away in "The Fort" as the locals call Fort Francis. And there is always the excitement of "going over," meaning going across the border to International Falls and getting cheap gas, groceries, and shopping at Menard's and Big Kmart. So God prepared us for small town life over a decade ago, gave us a love for the outdoors (which we have lots of access to), and placed us once again in the best possible situation that we could ever imagine.

Yet there are a lot of things that we have learned in the past month: many educational things, some humorous stuff, and the odd thing which is a bit annoying. For example, in small town NW Ontario:

  • The highspeed Internet connections can be "full." So while I am grateful to now have dial up at the house, the idea that there are no more open ports available from Bell Canada to connect me to high speed is a bit puzzling, and a bit of a pain.

  • Driving a skidder can is lots of fun! Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to go logging with some guys from church. James runs a big operation here in the area, and he invited me onto his truck to go pick up a load of wood in the bush. There we met Jon, who is one of the few remaining single logger operations. He has a chainsaw and a skidder, which means he cuts the tree down and then "skids" it out of the bush to the side of a logging road where there is a slasher, a machine that "slashs" the wood into 8 ft lengths and then picks it up and drops it on the truck. James said that maybe I would help Jon cut the wood, but when I got there, Jon said "Good, now that you're here let's get you up on the skidder and teach you how to run it!" I was a bit shocked, seeings that I can't even back up a garden tractor with a tractor on it, but he trusted me (and said there was nothing I could break anyways), so after a quick lesson I actually managed to haul about 10 trees out of the bush all by myself! It was fun, and gave me some insight into what the business of many of the men in the church is like.

  • Mills are the key to the entire logging industry. While logging with my friend Henry, I got to go to two mills in the area, learning a bit more of the types of woods, how the unloading and loading of a truck works and how high fuel prices, a strong Canadian dollar, and low wood prices make it tough to survive as a logger. Loggers work long hours to support their families, especially in winter, often working 12 hour days, six days a week. Kind of puts my pastor hours into perspective.

  • Door locks and car locks are for city people. Lois' sister Ruth was our first house guest, and she arrived a bit earlier than we thought she would. But the door was open, the guest room was ready, so she just came right on in and made herself at home!

  • You can get your laminating done at the Municipal Office.

  • Transferring insurance for your car is a real headache! Lots of paperwork to get from MPI in MB, plus, while we haven't got the final cost yet, it looks to be a lot more $

  • You can buy a futon at the Gas Station. I walked into the Esso station that is on the church parking lot and owned by people from church and asked where to get a futon. Well one of the girls working there had one that she wanted to get rid of. So, this past Friday the Dueck 6 all drove the 3 blocks to her house, all sat on the futon to test it out, then put it in the back of her parents pickup and drove it back over here! We needed a futon for the basement and God provided one for less than a 1/4 of the price of a new one! (As you can see, all four kids can now lie on the futon and play Nintendo with our new controllers, another gift from these Good'people')

  • You technically speaking can't butcher a cow on your property, cook a roast, make a sandwich and then take that sandwich to work with you. The meat all has to stay on your own property. (So much for the presents of meat I thought we might get!)

  • You need to be nice to everyone (which we would be of course). You never know who is related to who!

  • Getting directions is confusing. Since everyone knows where everything is they just say "just go down the street, turn here, and then look for the brown building." And then the famous line - "You can't miss it." (Oh yes we can, and we have!)

  • People come to church once or twice a month and that is considered regular attendance.

  • If you are the new pastor in town, you can go anywhere and discover that people know who you are!

  • So if you wonder if we like it here, the answer is a resounding yes! The more we meet people at church, and get to know the community, the more we realize how God has led us here and that this is the right fit for our family. We aren't the geniuses who picked Emo out, God did, and he deserves all the glory.

    God also sustained our family when Lois was gone with Joseph to Winnipeg, brought him back up to full steam, and gave me insight and wisdom on how to do two sermons in one week (I am glad that I had preached on Palm Sunday way back in 1999, and it was actually good!). Thanks again for those of you who are praying for my adjustment into the lead pastor role, and I look forward to how God will lead this week as I lead my first service at the Golden Age Manor Seniors Home on Wednesday, Good Friday service on Friday and Easter on Sunday.

    One final thing. Today is Lois' 36 birthday (she loves daffodils, and as a treat we all got to make fancy drinks with our Magic Bullet - Lois even enjoyed her very first "Shamrock Shake" (with soy ice cream) in over a decade!), and we as a family are again reminded how amazing a wife and mom she is. Through a year of transition and change she has managed to pack and unpack countless times, get to know new people, get her kids settled into a new school, and graciously support her husband in our new job. I am blessed to have a wife whose greatest joy is to spend time with God and seek his wisdom on how to live her calling as a wife, mother, and friend to many.

    Monday, March 3, 2008

    Blogging in a New World

    For those of you who check here regularly, sorry that it has taken me so long do this post. I think my positive estimate of how much time I would have to blog has been too positive! Instead of updating weekly, I will be posting bi-weekly. Hopefully you will still want to check back here every two weeks to see what God is doing in the life of the Dueck 6 here in Ontario.

    Speaking of the Dueck 6, let me tell you (and show you) a picture of the

    absolute coolest present ever!

    On the first Sunday here we became members, and while all of us were up at the front, we got this little gift bag containing not only this very cool and very personal gift, but another reminder of God's love and sense of humor. As a family we had been talking for months about getting Dueck6 licence plates in Ontario, and just that morning as Caleb and I were walking Kelly, he asked if we were really going to get them. I said I hoped so, though I didn't know what the cost was, and since we are back in reality land financially, I wasn't sure if we could afford them. Then, less than 3 hours later we had them in our hand! God truly is amazing, and he used the creative and generous people of Calvary Baptist to bless us. (Now I just have to do all the paperwork to transfer our licence over!)

    We have been working at the church now for two weeks, and it has been great getting to know people, settling into my office routine, and spending time in preparation for preaching. My first sermon was entitled "An Adventure with God, an Adventure of Faith" and was based on God's call to Abram in Genesis 12 and some of our own experiences in the past year. God calls us to obey, and we can obey and be a blessing to the nations because of our faith in him.

    Sunday afternoons have been quite the event so far here in Emo Two weeks ago the church hosted a "Come and meet the New Pastor Family" tea and many people from the community came. The local reporter for the Fort Francis Times came to do a story on us, and we ended up getting both a small picture on the cover and a 1/4 page article with larger picture in the Feb 27 edition! The kids were pretty pumped to be in the paper, and okay, their Dad was too! The reporter used some material off this blog, and shared with "the world" our belief that God has called us to minister to these great people. You can check out the link if you want at (sorry no picture!)

    Then yesterday, we had an invitation to go snowmobiling and sledding with the Goodman family from church. Lois and Joseph have been in Winnipeg since last Monday because Joe had tonsillectomy surgery on Tuesday and needed to stay close to a hospital for a week. The church has blessed the four of us by giving us meals, helping look after Stephen when I go to work, and by generally just making sure we are okay (which has been a humbling and amazing experience). Knowing that we were looking for things to do, the Goodman's and their four adult children let us come to their cabin (not cottage, that is a MB thing!) and hang out for a day. We had a blast going on the longest sled run ever and driving around a monster Arctic Cat ATV with treds and some great snowmobiles. Since this family owns the Arctic Cat dealership and Esso Station right on the church parking lot I was strongly encouraged not to say we were going "skidooing" (since Skidoo is a rival brand) but snowmobiling! With about 5 cm of fresh powder on the ground, the day was just perfect, and we look forward to going out to the NW Ontario bush again soon.

    With Lois an Joseph coming back tomorrow, the plan is to keep developing that routine that we hope to settle into. I started a sermon series on Philippians, and look forward to learning more as we walk through this "Letter of Joy" from Paul to his friends. Lorianne is going down hill skiing for the first time ever this Thursday in Minnesota, and we plan to head to International Falls on the weekend when Auntie Ruth comes as our first visitor.

    God is good, and we seek to continue to live for him. May a quote that I used in my sermon on Sunday challenge you as it has challenged us.

    "Christ took the hell he didn't deserve so that

    we could have the heaven we don't deserve."