Pine Channel Pilgrimage
Every year On Eagles Wings takes teams of two to five people to remote northern communities to run a Vacation Bible School/Bible Camp for a week. These communities are scattered throughout the Northwest Territories, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. The volunteers come from both the United States and Canada. On Eagles Wings is an ecumenical ministry made up of Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and many others. They only ever go into a community if they have been invited by the church leadership of that community.
I was given the amazing privilege of joining their Executive Director, AnnE Zimmerman, to go to a remote community in northern Saskatchewan for the week of July 7-14. We flew up to Fond du Lac from Edmonton in the On Eagles Wings plane. On that plane was our luggage, sleeping bags, and all the craft supplies we were going to need. No running to the store if something was forgotten. Then we travelled from by boat to Pine Channel, which is an island in Lake Athabasca about an hour by boat from Fond du Lac. All in all in took us about 4 hours of travel from the time we left Edmonton to the time we got to Pine Channel. If you want to find out how the Bible Camp went check out my blog on The Community. The rest of this post I am going to share how I felt and what I learned while there.
Pine Channel is the holy gathering place where Dene from communities all around the area come to every year. Everyone set up their camps from one end of the island to the other. A new community was built and we became a part of it. This was a time of spiritual and social pilgrimage for all of us.
My time in Pine Channel was healing, invigorating, strengthening, fun, stretching of my faith, and so much more. I have not been as physically dirty as I was there for a really, really long time. That’s what limited electricity and no running water will do to you. In fact, I am still getting the dirt out of my toes. 🙂 That may have been too much information but that was also part of my experience at Pine Channel.
I didn’t realize when I said yes to AnnE to this trip that I was going on pilgrimage. That I was going to a holy place, a healing place. Many of you know my story of feeling abandoned by the church at a time when I really needed the church to be there for me. I hadn’t worked with children in the church directly for almost 3 years. That is the longest time of my adult life. It was heart breaking and in some ways so unnecessary. Last week I was with children from about 9 am to 11 pm each day. They wanted to share their stories, they wanted to show me what they had made, they wanted a hug, they wanted help in making something. They wanted me around and were grateful for the attention that I could bring them. They wanted to know that God loves them and God does. So much healing provided by so many younger people. I am full of gratitude, full of blessing and full of joy for this past week.
I went on a pilgrimage and I met God in the faces of the children, the faces of the elders, the faces of the priests, the face of my friend AnnE, the faces of the young people from London and in my own face.
I was asked if I would go back next year and I gave a definite yes! I fell in love all over again with children’s ministry. I remembered how much I love northern Canada. I had time to heal a really broken part of my soul. I met God in holy pilgrimage. Of course I said yes. Thank you AnnE, thank you Pine Channel, thank you all the new friends I made.