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.


    Rose said...

    Happy Birthday, LOis! Is your family cooking dinner for you?

    AWHall said...

    Sounds like you're enjoying the first phase of culture shock: the honeymoon stage where everything is still neat! Glad to hear you're doing well. Oh - the meat still gets delivered to your doorstep - just in different ways than you'd expect ;)

    Carmela said...

    It's great to hear your positive outlook on the newness and transition. I hope the things you love about living here will see you through the things that are sure to drive you bonkers! We are glad to have you all.