There was a 5 week stretch back in March/April when the population of Emo grew almost every weekend because we were hosting so many guests from Winnipeg. It was great to introduce so many people to "country living," to show them our place, introduce them to our new friends, worship together with them at church, and take them to downtown Emo, where there is always something going on (as long as it isn't past 5:30pm!). My parents were out, and it was encouraging how they again felt that this was truly a good fit for us, and that God's hand in us coming here was so evident. They also were very happy for our nice backyard and that our house is so much bigger than our old one (Dad and I actually measured the house and found out it was almost 1100 square feet - a big step up from our 850 sq ft on Oakland).
Our kids were pumped when our good friends the Porters came out for my Commissioning/Induction service on April 19. The kids had a blast working on Lorianne's tree fort, which we are building in a row of trees just behind the church. The older couple living beside the church has graciously allowed us to build whatever we want in the trees and Lorianne has big plans for a few platforms, a long walkway, a cargo net suspended crawl way (God provided a cargo net from the Whyte Ridge garage sales on the Mother's Day weekend for only $25!), as well as a house. The weather was great for that weekend, but a week later we had a blizzard with almost a foot of snow!
Grandma has came out for a 2nd time already, bringing Linda, another one of Lois' sisters with her. The girls went on a shopping day to Fort Francis/International Falls, and the whole family enjoyed doing a puzzle together. The slower pace of life here makes it actually possible to tackle 1000 piece puzzle, and there is no shortage of puzzles available to Lois and the kids since they have made good friends with many people at the Queen Stree and Golden Age Manors. In fact, we have even swapped puzzles with some of the seniors there - who would have known!
When we first moved here, a big prayer request was that Lorianne would find friends. God has really answered that prayer, both through great friends at church, and at school. While we are continuing to work on the very important concept of "seeing your brothers as your friends" we also are very thankful that Alyssa and Maggie are are now in Lorianne's life. The three of them have fun at school, have been to each others' homes, and seek to provide an alternative to the "life is all about boys and image" mentality that exists in many girls their age. So thank you for praying - God has been faithful once again.
(And just to show you that there are still some fun moments with the siblings, here is a picture of the gang walking to school. You can see the church in the top right of the picture, our house is about 5 houses down the sidewalk to the left, and about 50 feet further down the sidewalk and across the road is the school - pretty handy, eh!)
One of the import needs in small towns is volunteers. At Donald Young School there is no structured music program, so normally our kids would have little opportunity for singing. However one dedicated Mom wanted her kids to have musical opportunities so she has organised a yearly musical, and this year started a singing club. The students performed at the Spring Tea, and who do you think had a short solo and did some dancing? Caleb! That's right, he sang a line by himself and he and a friend did a short break-dance routine in front of a few hundered people! I can honestly tell you we never saw that coming!
Another volunteer run effort is the Emo Soccer League. Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 6:30 - 7:30 pm over 200 kids, plus parents and coaches gather at the Sports field a 1/2 mile from town to have fun and get exercise. For $25 each of our kids got a shirt, a water bottle and 10 weeks worth of soccer - what a steal! And I even got a shirt too, because I coach Joseph's team (the line given to me when I signed up the four kids back in March was - "Hm, you have four kids, how would you like to coach?!"). It is a real blessing to be able to make this a whole family event, and not have to drive to far, or take the kids to different fields (my apologies to all you city soccer Moms and Dads). It is also a great opportunity to meet the community. Lois and enjoys connecting with the different parents, and afterwards I even have a few minutes to go visiting, with the usual introduction being "This is the new Baptist minister in town." It is definitely a different way of meeting people!
As most of you know, part of the deal with us moving out to the country was that our kids would get pets. God has totally blessed us with Kelly (we all love her and she loves us), and again this weekend God in his amazing soveriegnty and goodness chose to add to our pets, and take one away. Friday evening a lady from the community who Lois had met a few weeks back came and dropped off two guinea pigs, a full-size cage, a travel cage, food, extra shavings, and other necessities (all for free). The God story goes like this: Lois was going for a walk and this lady stopped her and asked "I heard from a friend that you are wanting guinea pigs, is that true?" Lois said yes, and she replied that she had two to give away. Lois then asked "One of them wouldn't happen to be black, brown, and white would it (that was the kind Joseph wanted)?" "Why yes!" Next thing you know we are going to visit the family, find out that the girl whose guinea pigs they were was in Caleb's class and on Joe's soccer team, and really wants to babysit her old guinea pigs when we go on holidays. So Jenny and Penny have a new home in the garage where Kelly spent part of the winter, while Kelly is outside in her new dog cage.
So that was Friday. Well this past Sunday we experienced the first (of what I am sure will be many) pet funeral as Stephen's pet Hammy the Hamster died. We have had fish die in our house before, but this was different. Hammy had brought lots of joy to the family, and many laughs. Stephen did some serious crying over Hammy, and it was a new experience for all of us on how to relate to someone you love who has lost something they love. Lorianne had provided Hammy with a little box to play in earlier in the week, and that became his little coffin. We had a little funeral service in the backyard(had to bury the box deep because of the cats and dogs in the area), and then everyone went to play with the guinea pigs. Those of you from the city might relate to this experience, while those in the country might just laugh at the effort we put into it, since death is a natural part of life in the country. The newness continues for the Dueck 6.
One other new thing that happened this weekend was our very first, very successful, one day canoe excursion. God has put us in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, and we discovered we are exactly 30 minutes away from a gorgeous Canadian Shield lake somewhat strangely titled Lake Despair (it is right next to Lake Hope though!). We left the house at 9:00 am and came back 12 hours later having paddled 18 km through two lakes and two rivers, spotting many ducks, an eagle, and a whole lot of powerboats making the most of an Ontario long-weekend. We were the only family on the lake with canoes, which, as Lorianne pointed out, meant we were getting the most excercize! I got outfished by my kids for the first time (lost the Dad vs. Kids competition five fish to one!), but sought to be gracious in defeat.
As you can see, we took Kelly along. She did pretty good in the canoe, though she doesn't quite now how to sit in the middle yet, which means it can get a bit tippy at times. We are riding in our new to us 17 ft canoe (which we discovered should have been an 18ft because of how much space Kelly takes up).
Lunch at Jackfish Rapids
Joe's very first Ontario smallmouth bass, which he actually held! (Interestingly enough, for those of you who fish for bass, the regulations here don't allow us to keep anything over 13,8")
So there is a lenghty update from the Dueck 6. We are still developing rhythms to life, praying for a house in the country for the fall (if that is what God wants for us, otherwise we are fine where we are), seeking to get to know people and make friends, taking time to have fun, and be with God (Lois is now a part-time nun, as she gets to spend each Tuesday from 9:00 - 3:30 in quiet with God). God is good, we are still seeking his wisdom as parents, a couple and as a pastor, and learning to be able to say with Paul " I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." Phil 4:12