Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Another dream catcher.
I particularly loved this bird one!

A gorgeous dream catcher!

More native crafts - so exquisite, shows great talent.

Another gorgeous pair of gloves!

Warm and cozy gloves - soft and beautiful to behold and to wear!

They do incredible work, and I understand that it can be purchased.

Some exquisite work done by our native brothers and sisters

A LAMP folding poster which shows pictures of some of their work.

Tamara Alkema - missionnary extraordinaire!

Ah you may ask, what is LAMP?

An excellent question!

It stands for Lutheran Association of Missionary Pilots. Why did I bring this very worthy group to your attention?

I have an answer for that as well!

Tamara Alkema of LAMP came for a visit to our ladies group here in Hamilton. Happily for us, she was available and lived not too far.

Tamara showed us two short DVD's of the work done among the Cree and Ojibwa Indians around the James Bay area of Northern Canada.

I personally found them a very good source of information and the visual effect stayed with me far longer than the words on the DVD.

As a group of concerned women, we have supported LAMP for many years and it was most gratifying to learn more about their work.

Tamara herself, has worked with LAMP for eleven years. She has overcome her fear of flying and now steps confidently into the small planes which wing their way towards the waiting people of Northern Canada.

To get there, she needs to go to Toronto, then to Thunder Bay, then to Sioux Lookout, and finally to Bearskin Lake which, as she described it, is "in the middle of nowhere." It is approximately five hours of flying in three very small planes to reach her destination.

She described how beautiful it is to see the sea of green trees from high above ,dotted with gorgeous blue lakes. As she said, it makes her feel very small and humble when she flies over this great expanse of land and she realizes that it is all God's handwork.

She has seen the northern lights which appear more green during the summer and it seems like they are dancing.
LAMP runs Vacation Bible School and a Soccer Camp Ministry during the summer months but the pastor pilots keep in touch throughout the year with community and church leaders and try and visit each community in the winter, weather permitting.
They also try and arrange for the next summer's programme as well. In times of crisis, such as suicides and funerals, they fly in to give comfort to the people.
Due to their very remote locations, in medical emergencies help must be flown in by Medi-Vac from Winnipeg which can take four hours.

Each small community in the north has their own gravel runway, which by law, has to be big enough to accommodate a large Hercules aircraft. This is a precaution in case the whole community needs to be evacuated due to forest fires or other dire situations.

Tamara, who is from a Dutch Reform background, first heard of LAMP through slides presented at her church many years ago. It took her a couple of years to apply for a job with LAMP though. Her background is that of an Early Childhood Educator.

Her warm personality with her lovely smile seems to light up a room and I can see why children would gravitate towards her.

Among the many excellent points she brought to our attention was the cultural priorities of our native brothers and sisters.

Family life is of the most importance and there is much circular migration.
To give an example, a person would grow up on the reserve, when finished their schooling at Grade 9 or, if they go on, by computer to Grade 10, they would go down south to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg to get work. They would work for a while and then return to the reserve as their families are there. This is their way of life. Their lack of education is a real drawback to getting a decent job while in the south. There is also prejudice shown towards them.

It is very interesting to learn how the community is organized. There is the Chief and the Deputy Chief, and the Band Council. In the case of Bearskin Lake, the people live in small houses clustered around the lake. There is a Social Service Office with social workers, a grade school, an Anglican church and an adult education center basically. A lot, if not most, of the social life revolves around the Northern Store and the Co-op Store.

In these small houses clustered around the lake, families of 10 people or more cram into them. Mattresses are often put on the floor for sleeping. Houses have a foundation but not a basement. Some houses have running water but it is unsafe to drink, thus water must be carried in to the houses. Perishable items such as eggs, milk and cheese must be flown in from other parts of Canada. They are extremely expensive to buy. The houses are usually heated by wooden stoves. People, sixty years and over generally do not speak any English. There is a real danger that their language will become lost once the older people die.

It was also noted that although the lakes look sparkling clean, they are not necessarily so,as the sewage from the village goes into them. The people are a self governing band but the Federal Government has a responsibility for them as well.

LAMP is a Ministry of Reconciliation. The Oji-Cree people in the isolated areas of Northwestern Ontario tend to be very loving, very forgiving and they identify themselves as Canadians. LAMP also works in communities further south and the attitude towards being a Canadian is somewhat different. The more southern tribes seem to prefer to be known as a distinct people, apart from Canada.
LAMP is wholly supported by churches.
In the warmer weather, they go in and run Vacation Bible Schools, with two classes a day. They are held at the Anglican Church from Monday to Friday. They are run very similar to the regular Vacation Bible Schools down south.

The programme goes like this:

1. Bible Lesson

2. Singing which the children love

3. Crafts and outdoor play for the more active children.
Crafts are the childrens' favourite activity at VBS. They are very creative and even the most active child will sit still for crafts.

For those 12 or 13 and above, they run an evening programme where the teenagers come to their house for socializing, crafts and some Bible study as well.
The main objective is to build relationships in love. LAMP must remain a constant presence there in order to build a trusting relationship.
Children in family groups move around to different family members fairly regularly and this teaches them that nothing is long term. Their community is a "Dry Community" but alcohol and mostly prescription drugs are smuggled in and have become a real problem.

There are some major problems within the community such as alcoholism, drug addiction, feeling of isolation and suicide.

LAMP, with its many volunteers and dedicated staff, brings hope to these isolated and remote communities in the far north.

For more information, please google to see what you can do to help this very worthy cause.

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