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It all began with a white van. We had come to our son's wedding in Alberta. Now weddings are a really special occasion, but this one was made more special because of what we had to do to get there.
We were living in a fly-in village 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. That meant we had to get into a little Cessna 182 and fly 2 hours over a wilderness of high Mts. and no inhabitants, until we reached the settlement of Dawson City. Yes, this is the famous rip roaring town of the Gold Rush days.
From there we loaded our stuff into a green pick-up truck, hooked up an 18ft. tandum trailer loaded with a shed full of our worldly possessions and down the highway we went. Our destination was Carstairs, Alberta over 2000 miles away.
After some harrowing and exciting adventures along the way we arrived in time for the wedding; and then saw God miraculously find us a house to live in while we stayed in this area to put our kids in a Christian high school. I felt I could no longer home-school, and there were no high schools in Old Crow where we were living.
So now we have a house - but no vehicle for me to drive since Rodger would be taking the pick-up truck back north and I would be staying here with the children. A white Pontiac van was offered to us, and I thought, "WOW, now I have some wheels!" But over and over just as I thought I would take off and go somewhere without mechanical problems it wouldn't start or a tire would go flat. Rodger being back up North, and I not being vehicle "smart" found this very frustrating. Yet, I would pray and God would bring someone along to help me.
We had some goals we wanted to accomplish while we were down here these next 5 years, and one of them was to again establish a church on the Sunchild Reserve, where we had worked for 20 years before moving North. Therefore with an unpredictable van people around here were saying I should not make the 2 and one - half hour trip one way to the Reserve. This really saddened me, but I kept praying and asking people to pray because I kept feeling over and over in my heart I needed to go and give someone up there a hug.
Again another tire blew and all I had left was that tiny "Mickey Mouse one" as I called it, and it definitely was not safe for me to depend on to get me 40 miles from the Reserve to the nearest gas station. I started looking for a rim and a new used tire. The last one that blew had 10 patches on the inside.
I called one of my prayer partners near to Rocky Mt. House, the town closest to the Reserve. I felt led to go "now" and told her my situation. They went to prayer that night and the next morning she called me. "If you feel you should come could you trust God to get you safely to Rocky? We will get you a tire and a rim." Also they added while we are working on the van, the secretary from the Naz. Church will take you to the Reserve in her car. "WOW!" God surely does want me to go, so I said, "yes" I could trust God to safely get me to Rocky. So off I went!
As I pulled into Rocky Mt. House that morning I remembered that one of the ladies we wanted to visit was only living on 21% of her heart, and she could be in the hospital, so I'd better go by there first.
Opening the door to step out of the van in the hospital parking lot I was met by the grandmother of some of our VBS students. She just said, "come", and she led me into the emergency room where a little 7 year old girl was strapped to a bed. This little girl had given her heart to Jesus at the "Jesus Film" showing last summer on the Reserve. I immediately went right to Melissa, kissed her and hugged her the best I could. Then I stood right there by the bed and prayed letting the little tears fall as I prayed for God to protect this precious child.
When I left her bedside, I noticed her grandfather sitting there and all he could say in a somewhat dazed voice was, "Where did you come from?" I told him, "God wanted me to come up here and give people a Hug and I came." Then I gave him a hug and his wife a hug too. THE HUGGING HAD BEGUN!
To make this story shorter, I ended up giving 4 more special hugs at the hospital to hurting people.
Then I drove the van to the church - left it - and headed out to the Reserve with Jeri. Jeri and I have been friends for almost 15 years, so we prayed and felt led to go visit a Christian lady who had been kicked out of her daughter's home in town because she didn't agree with dope parties. We found this lady sitting alone at a kitchen table with swollen legs and a face that showed she had suffered. Jeri was able to sing some old hymns with her and I shared a Scripture. It strengthened her and we gave her a hug and some potatoes and carrots from my garden. Then God decided it was time to give me a hug. Sally started testifying to us. She said after she had returned to the Reserve from her daughter's house the medicine man's wife wanted to know if she was afraid to live alone. Before Sally could answer back, the medicine man himself answered for her. He said "No, Sally isn't afraid, she is strong in her God." This thrilled me, because I knew that God was working there on the Reserve these 3 years while we had been away, and no other missionary had taken our place. It was comfort time now from God for all the prayers and tears that were shed over the years.
Then we went to another house where the young mother had been a vibrant Christian, but when she went to college she heard about all the missionaries that had hurt her people. Those words day after day depressed her and made her question her faith. But she told us she could tell herself she knew of one missionary couple that loved her people. She got married and moved back to the Reserve and then her husband was unfaithful - just once - but it put a bitterness inside of her. When we left the Reserve 3 years ago she was suffering deeply with that bitterness. But today when we arrived she bounded up the steps from reading her Bible, gave me a hug and began telling Jeri and I how God had taken her bitterness away. You could see the glory of God on her face. Her husband was there too and I could see a humbleness in his being I had never seen before.
God was so real in that house we just couldn't stop hugging each other. Tom had to give Jeri and I a gift, because he so appreciated us caring about his family.
We stopped at the house of the little girl from the hospital and found it full of 17 people. Their hearts were open to the Gospel and we had a kid's service right there on the floor with them. It was like all heaven was watching as those little children played with the flannel graph story pieces as I explained the narrow and the broad way to them. I knew in my heart I would be back there again to sit on that same floor and reach out to those tender hearts.
We kept busy making visits all day and giving hugs and vegetables. It was getting late, but there was one more hug I wanted to give, but I was with Jeri and I had noticed she looked tired. Finally I carefully voiced my thoughts, and then left the choice up to her. She said, "Well, we are here already, we mise well go ahead and do it." I know she never regretted her choice.
We drove to a house across from the POW WOW grounds, where we had had VBS last summer. During the VBS I had felt that although we were working with the children I needed to visit the houses across the road. When a break finally came I found in one of those houses a former Sunday school girl, who was now in her late 30's, and dying of cancer. She had just moved back to the Reserve recently after being away for 18 years. She was so frail and white and had given up all hope. Yet, when she heard it was us having Bible School across the road a spark of hope came back into her heart. However, she didn't have the strength to walk across the road and see us.
As I visited with her that summer day I encouraged her to read her Bible and prepare her heart for heaven. So, I didn't know what we were going to find when Jeri and I approached the door. But God had another hug waiting for us!
The door opened and there stood Helen smiling, color in her face and cooking. She just ran and gave me a hug and said, "Come into the bedroom I have so much to tell you!" Jeri and I sat on her bed while she told us how since seeing us last summer she had started reading her Bible, praying and believing. When she went to see her doctor he had to check her twice because her whole system had stabilized. Now she could get up and cook for her family. She kept saying, "God did it - God did it!" "It's a miracle that we came back here to the Reserve, that you came for Bible school right here across the road, and He (God) did all that!" "It's a miracle!" Finally Jeri had to stop her and tell her she was testifying. She was so surprised. She had heard the word 'testimony' before but really hadn't understood what it meant. Jeri sang with her and then we prayed and thanked God again for the sense of His wonderful presence in that bedroom, and for what he had done in Helen's heart and spirit.
Now back to that white van. When we got to the church, I just found the new rim and tire and started home in the dark with a song in my heart. Unbeknowns to me if I had returned an hour earlier I could have been in a bad wreck, because the dear man who had fixed my tires was over 70 years old and had become very tired and had forgotten to tighten the lug bolts. But after he had been home about a half hour he started to sense something wasn't right and called a friend near the church and asked him if he would please go over and recheck the tires. He did and sure enough he found that the lug bolts had not been tightened. Had I come back sooner the problem would not have been fixed, but again God gave me a special Hug.
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