A report on the partnership between the Flint Hills Association and Northern Lights Association
As small and disparate as we were that Friday morning, we courageously set off on a nine day journey to the (semi)-foreign country of Saskatchewan, Canada. It required 22 hours of driving to get there. And the 22 hours did not include the multiple bathroom stops and meal breaks. There were seven of us; two teenagers, a college student, a middle aged woman and two old coots. We represented five different churches and five different cities. But spending so much time together in such a small space as a van, you begin to know each other. Over those two days of travel we friends and partners on a mission.
Saturday night we arrived at our destination, a small rural community of 700 people named Allan. It reminded us of multitudes of Kansas towns – surrounded by fields and more fields of agriculture this little community sits on a flat plain where you can see for miles. There is little industry in the area and residents travel miles to work in the “big city.” What business is there struggles to survive and the community is considered healthy as long as the school, gas station and grocery store stay in operation. There are two churches in Allan; the Baptist Church and the Catholic Church. Located in the center of town with a high-steepled building, the Catholic Church was clearly the predominate faith preference of the community. The Baptist church sits on the eastern edge of town and resembles the typical Baptist church, floor plan and all.
At nine o’clock on a Saturday night we arrived at the Baptist church parking lot and unfolded out of the van to greet the pastor and his family of six. It looked like the coin toss of a football game as we gave introductions; both sides greatly anticipating a kick-off to great week of ministry. As assignments were made for the week it became apparent that God had planned this whole venture long before our arrival. The families that housed each volunteer were both welcoming and generous. The group would be finely accommodated and eat well all week.
So after a fast night of restful sleep we worshipped together with the church family of the Allan Baptist Church on Sunday morning. Two of the Flint Hills team members shared testimonies and Pastor Kim Uhren relinquished his pulpit for team leader Richard Taylor to bring a message. Your typical Baptist potluck followed the morning service, giving assurance to all that this was going to be a great experience! The potluck meal brought to mind the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand – plenty of food and wonderful unique dishes. We were introduced to families and individuals who were excited about our arrival and anticipating a tremendous week of Vacation Bible School for the children of the whole community. Each Kansas team member was given a specific task for the week. And, as if orchestrated by the Lord, each was uniquely suited for their abilities and giftedness.
The rest of Sunday afternoon was spent in final preparation for the VBS as well as a walking tour through Allan. We saw the community swim pool, bowling alley, bank and Co-op and even visited the Allan Historical Society and Museum. This is a truly beautiful town and people on the northern prairies of Canada – there was a feeling that we had landed in the middle of “Mayberry RFD” or maybe Dog River in Canadian television show “Corner Gas!” All through the summer, each weekday morning in Allan is devoted to swimming classes for children. So on Monday morning while the kids were splashing about our group prayer-walked through the town. We walked down every street and by every house and, while we were at it, laid out a plan to do some minor improvements to the church property, like caulking a few windows and soffit repair. (We also set aside an entire morning to clean out the drive-way culvert so that rain would not form a small pond in front of the church!)
But the main focus for the whole week was what took place each weekday afternoon: Vacation Bible School! With Glenys Uhren’s (Pastor Kim’s wife) leadership, 35 children in the area were taught about Jesus and his love. In addition to the seven VBS workers from Kansas other folks travelled to Allan from sister churches of the Northern Lights Baptist Association to pitch in with members from Allan Baptist church in this ministry. Through games, crafts, mission activities and Bible study children were taught about the abundant life in Jesus that was available to each. Even the refreshments provided for the children were used to teach about Jesus and his care.
The final evening of our mission trip in Allan was the culmination of the Vacation Bible School. Families were invited to participate in a barbeque meal, games, jumping in two bouncy houses, and a special VBS program to show off what the children had learned as a way of sharing Jesus with the entire families.
The long ride back home gave each of the team members time to reflect on what they had experienced. You know…Saskatchewan is really not a whole lot different than Kansas and (aside from the accent) the people are not a whole lot different either, “eh?” The families in Kansas and Saskatchewan deal with the same stresses, the same kinds of problems, and all of the people need the Lord.
Pastors in Saskatchewan and Kansas sacrifice much because they see the tremendous hurts and needs of people and families. They commit their lives to ministry in these small rural communities and there are churches on both sides of the border committed to ministering in their towns and sharing Christ to the lost. Partnering together for our common mission is a sweet experience – it’s a blessing to all and glorifies our Father, You betcha!
So let’s do it again!