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The Prayer

In the continuing story of our week long adventure in Mish, this story of the evening after our outing to the beach on Thursday, is from Susan Stewart. 

When Paul mentioned that he was disappointed that Belinda wasn’t going to be at the community center that night to take photos, I completely understood her position.  The night before, I felt just like I suspected she felt now - like I had “hit the wall”. 

Everyone else had headed over to the community barbecue and the dance that followed it, but though my spirit was willing, my body told me in no uncertain terms, “there’s absolutely no way you’re going anywhere tonight where there are people”.  My muscles were aching and my brain was fried – to a crisp. I felt like I couldn’t answer one more question, make one more decision, or interact with one more person.  So I stayed back while everyone else went to the dance, knowing I was probably missing something very significant, and quite possibly even “wonderful” but I also knew that after a solid week of no more than 4 hours of sleep per night, I just had to stop and get myself re-centred.   I thought I would be napping, but instead, I found myself just relishing in being “alone”.  I desperately needed that time on Wednesday evening, and I could understand perfectly that Belinda needed it tonight.  It was her turn to “hit the wall” and say “no, I want to, but I just can’t”.

Paul, Jamie, and AJ had gone ahead with the truck to unload and set out the many donations that had been collected and set aside by the church back home.  Christy had gone with them too, with the keyboard, so that she could play and sing while people browsed and sorted and picked up items that they could use and which in the far north are shockingly expensive – items which we might consider staples are simply out of reach even for someone with a decent income up there.  It’s difficult to imagine how people on a limited income can make it at all. As soon as the kitchen was tidied after supper, the rest of us followed the truck to the Community Centre. 

By the time we arrived, there was already one pickup truck loaded up to capacity and pulling out of the parking lot which was abuzz with activity.   Although we were quite late by that time, there was still lots of “shopping” going on, as the contents of the truck had been laid out on the outdoor stage and people were going through boxes looking for items they could use and even a few treasures.  

Sharon pitched in and started unpacking boxes and helping people find the right sizes.  Jamie picked up some men’s ties and took them over to a man who had tried on a beautiful men’s suit and need the finishing touch.  Kids were flying by and threading their way in and out around the adults on the roller blades.  Almost everyone seemed to have a bag of chips or crackers that had come off the truck.  It felt like a party.  I headed toward the keyboard where Christy was playing, snapping a few photos and saying hello to some of the people I had come to know in our few days thereA, and of course the kids...
I felt a tug on my sleeve and looked down into  Johnny’s shining black eyes.  They were so hopeful, so imploring, with not a hint of greed.  Just hope. 

“Are there any more roller skates?”

My heart snapped in two right there.  I knew the roller blades would have been the first thing to go. And yet I wanted more than anything in the world in that moment to meet the desire of that little boy’s heart.  His request was so quiet, so humble.  There was no sense of demand in his voice, no hint of entitlement.  Just that heart-wrenching “hope”!

All I could think of was to try and comfort him in his disappointment.  “I’m so sorry Johnny!  I think the skates are all gone, but you know what?  I will pray and ask God to send you some skates.  He will hear our prayers and I’m SURE he’ll send you some skates.  Maybe Paul can bring them up next time he brings a truck.”  I made a mental note to try not to forget to go skate shopping when I got home.  I HAD to make sure that someone answered that kid’s prayer!

As I threaded my way through the crowd and the boxes toward Christy, I saw Belinda’s friend Eva there with her daughter looking for cloth to make blankets.  There were boxes of shoes and men’s suits and so many other good things that would help people through a long cold winter.  One of the first things to go was the cases of Habitant pea soup, and after seeing the price of basic food in the only grocery store in Pickle Lake, you could certainly understand why such a staple would be in high demand.

I finally reached Christy’s side and joined in the song she was singing…
“ At the cross I bow my knee
where your blood was shed for me there’s no greater love than this 
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest placeWhat can separate me now…”

Hearing her sing of God’s love for all of us in that circumstance was one of those poignant moments which will stay with me a very long time.  It was what “this” was all about-  why we were “here” in Mish.  Because God loves us – every one.  We were giving a little of our time and some of our excess  in the south, but there in the north, we were getting so much back – in different ways perhaps, but we were certainly on the receiving end.   God showed all of us riches there  that we had known nothing of in some of the lessons learned from the hearts who touched ours in Mish. 

Slowly the loaded pickups left the parking lot one by one, and the crowd gradually diminished.  We began to pack up the music equipment and speakers, and started to pile up boxes and clean up.   Christy and I loaded the keyboard into the back of my vehicle and then we headed back to clean up some more stuff.   We passed a table that had been laid out with goods, and I looked down.  I couldn’t believe my eyes…

A pair of roller blades!!!  But they couldn’t be the right size – could they?  And where was Johnny?  Even if these skates fit him, I’d never find him now.   I bent over to scoop them up.  I would set them aside and maybe – hopefully – he would be there for the children’s activities tomorrow.   “They’re probably too big,” I thought, but I figured that at the worst, he could grow into them.

I stood up with the skates and started to tell Christy the story of Johnny’s request.  As we walked and talked, there was Johnny right in front of us.  For the second time in two minutes, I couldn’t believe my eyes! 

“Johnny!”  I called, holding up my prize.  “Look!  God heard your prayer!  Skates!”  I got ready to apologize to those shining eyes because surely they couldn’t be the right size, but before I had a chance, he was down on the pavement and with Christy’s help, was strapping on his answer to prayer.  His smile was wide and, oh, did those eyes sparkle.  But I’m sure he didn’t feel half the joy I did in that moment.  And can you believe it? They fit!!! 

We finished packing up and drove back to the school with tired but happy hearts.  I couldn’t wait to tell the story to Belinda, who listened with eyes as shiny as Johnny’s. 

The next morning I found the skates on the stairs to the stage inside the Community Centre.  At first I was surprised, but as I thought it through, I realized that this was no sign of carelessness.  Rather it was evidence of one of the lessons we had learned, one of those aforementioned gifts we had been given during our time in Mish.  Possessions in this culture seem like they are loosely held, even seemingly coveted treasures and answers to prayer like Johnny’s skates had been.  Much like the boat left behind “in the water” at the beach earlier that day, and which Belinda told us about in a previous post, after a little boy had the joy of playing with those skates for a whole summer’s evening they were left behind to be discovered by another child – whose treasure they would be for another day.  Who knows how many children will end up having the use of those skates before winter’s cold creeps in and the snow falls and those roller blades will no longer be of any use.  But seeing how much they were enjoyed during the short time we were there, I’m still going skate shopping before next summer.  J


Brave Raven said…
We have 2 pairs to give. Mens size 12 and ladies size 9. We never use them and I never really got the hang of it. I'm sure there are teens that could use them. I'll dig them out when we move in and put them in the sea container for the next trip up north. What a great story!! It reminds me of how possessions in the early church were "distributed."
Belinda Burston said…
Yeay, Brave Raven! Yes, we have much to learn about "possessions." The word is so telling, isn't it? :)

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