Monday, December 29, 2008

From Sand to Snow: The Difference a Year Makes

A year ago at this time we were in sunny San Diego serving with World Impact, a ministry to the inner city. We were both doing ministry (like moving piles of sand, helping out at a Feliz Navidad Christmas party, etc), and also enjoying an Adventure with God vacation that gave us the family time and the rebuilding time needed to prepare us for our new adventure. That adventure began with a calling here to Emo, Ontario, a place with a lot less sand and a lot more snow! (Our house is truly an amazing place and we are enjoying it every day. I still love shovelling, which is good because we have a really, really long driveway!)

God has been and continues to be so good to us. Here is a copy of the note that we handed out in our Christmas card at church this past weekend.
A year ago at this time the Dueck 6 were in sunny California,
enjoying our “Adventure with God” road trip, and beginning to think and dream about what life in Emo, Ontario would be like. Now, just a week before Christmas 2008 we can truly say that our God has done “more than we can ask or imagine” in bringing us to this wonderful place, to serve, to live, to raise our kids, and to worship together with you gracious, kind, and generous people.
As we pause to reflect during this Christmas season, we also thank you, our CBC church family, for being bearers of God’s good gift of love to us. You have welcomed us, accepted us for who we are, and have supported us as we adapted to small town country life. We thank God for you, and ask that he bless you for being a blessing. Furthermore we pray that your Christmas will be focused on Christ, and that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:13).

Truly, it has been a great year of experiencing joy.
Birthday for the Kids!
There is rush on birthdays leading up to Christmas in our house, and we have really enjoyed getting to know our kids friends and discovering the benefits of having more space to host parties.

Joseph was first with a party in November. Because he and one other Grade 2 boy were moved into the Grade 3 class in October due to some class reshuffling, it was a bit challenging to discover who he wanted to invite, as he was still making friends. Yet we did manage to come up with a good group, and they all had a great time. And just when we thought we were going to go a bit squirrely from all the noise, God sent the first snowfall of the year so they all headed outside for snowball fights and snowman building. Joe continues to enjoy his Lego and cars and games.

Stephen has an incredible amount of friends, and his party had a great mix of church and school kids. At the beginning of the year we had to stop our kids from teasing him about his many "girlfriends" and it has been interesting to hear from a few moms in town that their girls are planning to marry Stephen! Stevie loves the limelight, and school is a blast for him because his kindergarten teacher (Mr. Enns, the only male teacher in the school) is incredibly creative. How creative? Well Pirate Day and Teddy bear day we may have heard of, but Star Wars day (they built a pod-racer!) and Elvis day (pictures complete with fake guitar and Elvis wig!), that is different! Stephen has also kept up his love for Batman, and is doing his best to collect all the Lego sets.

Lorianne just had her 12 birthday party this past Friday. She had a sleepover with 5 girls, and it was great to hear them say how much they appreciated the fact that Lorianne was always happy, and made others around her happy. Lorianne is considered "different" by her school friends, and that is, as she tells them with a smile and a laugh, "because I have Jesus!" It is encouraging to see her seeking to be a light at school, and also having fun with kids who may not think Christians have "fun" (she highlighted her hair pink a while back and one of her friends said with complete shock - "Lorianne, you were the last person I ever thought would do this - do your parents know?).

Integrating into the NW Ontario Culture
If you were moving to Africa with your family to spread the Gospel, you would learn how to speak the language, eat the food, and get involved with local activities so that the people will be more accepting of you and see that you care about them and their culture. We are thankful that God hasn't sent us to Africa (we don't like the heat!), and we have sought to faithfully serve him here, and one way of "integrating" has been for me to learn to be a hunter!
The process actually started in 2006 when Lois gave me a gift certificate to take a hunter safety course. Because of the move and everything I was only able to take one this summer, together with a PAL (Possession and Acquisition License) which allows me to purchase/borrow a gun. Because I knew almost nothing about hunting, God was gracious enough to provide me with great friends who, among other things, let me borrow a gun, took me out practice shooting, taught me how to look for deer from a tree stand, sat with me in a stand, told me how to bait a deer feeder, and gave me pointers on cutting up a deer.

And thus, we have the following pictures:
I built a deer feeder from scrap lumber scavenged from Arctic Cat snowmobile shipping crates, and placed it about 150 yards from the house. We used corn and oats to bait the deer. I could sit 40 yards from the feeder and hunt/watch for deer. Several times I saw a doe and two fauns.

This is a deer, skinned and hanging in the Border Country Outfitters Lodge. It is ready for a butchering party!

Get all the sharp knives you own and go at it! We discovered that Joseph and Stephen love playing butcher with sharp knives, while Caleb does what is needed and Lorianne, well she isn't that interested in staring at and cutting up a 200 pound deer carcass! The end result of a deer that size is about 50 pounds of roasts, stewing meat, and wonderful back strap slices, about 50 pounds of hamburger (from deer #1) and 40 lbs of pepperoni sticks and wild rice sausages (from deer #2), and 50 lbs of scraps and bones for Kelly, our German Shepherd.

So praise God our freezers are full, we have had lots to talk about with people all over town, and we have learned much about what it means to be a deer hunting family. The only thing missing is that I actually didn't get to shoot a deer! The two we cut up were gifts from our friends who own an outfitting business, I saw lots of does that I could have shot, but am "too honest" as one person said and didn't shoot them because I only had a buck tag, and spent 6 hrs in -25 degrees on Dec 15 (the last day of the season) sitting outside and never fired a single bullet at anything but a target! It was still a great experience, and I look forward to Nov 1 next year already when the whole process begins again!

Small Town Experiences
We are constantly amazed at the blessings of living in a small town, and the opportunities that God gives us to share his love. On Oct 31 we had a chance to talk about God with our whole neighbourhood (an 8 mile round trip on country roads!) as the kids sang a song for them in exchange for candy. This is the first time ever that our kids have went out for Halloween, and they were blessed with serious amounts of stuff (country people are generous because they only get like 5 or so kids coming out!), and we were blessed out God rewarded our obedience to his call to go out and meet the neighbors and share about him.

Remembrance Day is an important day in our district. The Emo Ministerial (myself, the Christian Reformed pastor, the Catholic Priest, the United and Anglican Reverends and the Pastor from Off Lake Covenant Church about 20 min away) were responsible for the service in a neighbouring community, and a prayer at each town's cenotaph. At the cenotaph service in Emo, Lorianne and Caleb were part of the school choir that sang, while I did the prayer. It was a new experience for all of us, and a great chance to glorify God as we preached and prayed the Gospel.

Emo celebrates "HollyDaze" the first weekend in December with a parade, fireworks down by the dock, Christmas shopping events and good deals at the stores. It was fun to watch the floats go by (ATV floats and the DYS school choir on a float were especially cool) and again get candy and even some toothpaste tossed out to the kids as they watched! Also that night Lorianne celebrated the completion of "The Little Ladies" a program for Christian girls to encourage them to live for God, wait for their prince, and live in purity. They met for a couple of months in spring, and this was a real blessing from God as it allowed Lorianne to connect with girls her age who were seeking to be faithful in living for God (and not chase after boys, which sadly is the favorite past time of many girls at Lorianne's age).

With Lorianne and Caleb both not having much for homework, and needing to challenge themselves, we enrolled them in the community choir. They both are great singers, and because they have good attitudes and were willing to work at it, they were joyfully accepted by the 25+ other singers, all of who were much older! Caleb was a bit bummed out about having to sing with the ladies (there were only two other guys!), but they did had fun meeting new people and singing great God-centered songs that were chosen by the choir director. The concert was in the CRC church, and it was neat that Lois' mom and my Mom and Dad could come out to hear them.

Getting ready for Christmas
A huge highlight for myself, and for the whole church family, were the two baptism services we held on First and Second Advent. We had 11 people ranging in age from 10 to 50+ getting baptized, and as one person said "that is 10% of the church!" I was blessed to hear how God has worked in their lives, and thankful that he graciously helped me as I learned the ins and outs of doing baptism services in a Baptist church. God was truly glorified and the whole church was celebrating.

This whole season of Christmas was one of slowing down, being purposeful, and not using the word "busy." Being a Pastor at Christmas means that I have to practice what I preach, and that meant living out my belief that "Christmas should be different for Christians." God was gracious, and gave us as a family a meaningful time this past month, full of much receiving of blessings, and chances to give things away.

Walking out your door and cutting a Christmas tree less than 200 meters from the door - what could be better! It was great to have Auntie Ruth along, and give her the opportunity for the very first time to cut a tree.

Breaking out my M&M Christmas Tin Collection with all the ornaments and memories that go along with that was also a lot of fun (And with two new tins bought on EBAY this year I am only one tin away from finishing my collection - a 12 year process!)
We have had lots of snow here, which has made for some great snowshoeing through the bush.

We have also got a lot of use out of the sledding hill we modified behind the house. By modified I mean God provided the hill, but we had to cut the stumps down, clean the brush and build a ramp with my Dad for some extra speed!

This was also our "chicken pox" Christmas - all four of our kids had Chicken pox in December. In a small town viruses spread quickly, and I would guess almost 20% of the kids in the school had it.

Stephen got it last, and he got it the worst!

While I have said a lot, a lot more could be said: experiencing the generosity of many gifts from friends at church, growing in love for each other as a couple and a family, making new connections with people who need to experience the love of Christ, hosting multiple Sunday School and Christmas parties in our God ordained "party house" (Lois said that if we don't have at least one party a month we don't deserve such a big house!), reflecting on the year and being amazed again at how God has provided for our needs, seeing again and again how God has us right where he wants us. We went back to Winnipeg for a few days just this past week, and while it was great to see family, it was even better to come home. Many people have prayed for us this past year, and truly, God has more than answered those prayers.