By Jon Isaak
We’re back in Winnipeg after our road trip to northern Manitoba. It was a meaningful time of visiting old friends—we lived in Cranberry Portage for three years in the mid 80s—and encouraging fellow believers—Mary Anne led a women’s retreat at Simonhouse Bible Camp and I preached at the Christian Centre in Thompson. I was reminded of the beautiful and rugged spirit of the North, both its geography and its people!
On Friday, I visited with an old friend, Bob, who recently lost his wife to cancer. Our conversation ranged widely; we hardly moved from our chairs the whole evening! Twenty-five years ago we taught together at the same high-school in Cranberry Portage. Much had changed, much remained the same. We talked about the mission of the little Mennonite Brethren church in town, we talked about God’s work in the world, generally, we talked about heaven—the pain of loss, the hope of the future, and the grace to carry on.
Then on Saturday, I drove to Thompson to spend the evening with my good friend, Ted, who pastors the Mennonite Brethren church in Thompson. For some reason, my visit with Ted also stretched long into the evening. There was so much to review, tremendous joys and harrowing sorrows. But through the conversation, the theme of God’s provision and faithfulness came through, even through the disappointments.
On Sunday, after church I drove back toward Flin Flon to pick up Mary Anne. We met at the home of our good friends, Ingi and Cindy, who run a hunting and fishing lodge. When I showed them my VW diesel Rabbit, with four jugs of Kanola oil tucked under the hatchback, by now mostly empty, they laughed. They said my car would be great bear bait! They get used oil from KFC, too, but use it to attract bears for the hunters that fly into their lodge. Good thing I would not be driving in those remote areas!
I continue to marvel at the spirit of the people living in these northern communities. There is an independent streak that runs deep in many of these kind and generous people There is no patience for pretence or show; just straight-up genuine hospitality. We prayed for one another and were transparent about the ways we saw God working and the ways that made no sense to us, at least not yet. I am grateful for my association with these dear friends. We were mutual encouragement to each other, as I think it should be.
Now as I think more about the weekend, I am reminded how Scripture speaks of the “oil of gladness” (Isa 61:3), as that which brings joy to the soul and to the pallet. Our conversations were that way for me this weekend—and my wife reports that the women’s retreat was especially encouraging, too! Oil fuels our bodies, our relationships, and even an old VW Rabbit!
By the way, the road trip totalled 2098km. I used all of 95 litres of Kanola I brought, but had to supplement it with 32 litres of diesel at the end, as I had miscalculated the distance and how much oil I would need. Still, I was pleased with the fuel consumption ratio (6L/100km) and I hope to get a few more ministry trips out of my” veggie” mobile, before I put it away for the winter. For those interested in how the two-tank system works and how the oil is preheated before use in the engine, there is a good website at greascar.com.|