Believers in northern communities, where the only way in is seasonal ice road, twice-weekly train, or private plane, often feel isolated from the rest of the church.
Indigenous ambassador Paul Winter (far left) and his co-pastor at Living Word Temple, Winnipeg, Katherine Thomas (right image) are regularly invited to communities in Northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario to encourage and pray with the believers there.
Apr. 8–12, 2019, I joined them and a group from Kitchener, Ontario, on their visit to the Matias Colomb First Nation community of Pukatawagan, Man., to lead a worship service and support the church however we could.
It was amazing how God orchestrated things. The plan was to fly from The Pas, Man., to Pukatawagan, but due to weather, our whole team took the train, along with several Pukatawagan families travelling home. We learned the train was also transporting three deceased residents home to be buried.
Our team pulled out a guitar and started singing worship songs. Children gathered around.
Some of the women from Ontario and I took pictures of the children and let them use our cameras to photograph us.
When we arrived, we joined the funeral procession
At the burial the following day, an eagle circled overhead – a sign of the Creator’s presence.
God timed the trip. Most of the local church leaders were away for a conference all week. The congregation was grateful we were there to help with setup, music, and moral support at the three funerals.
One of the funerals was for the father of children who were with us on the train. Because of the trust and friendship built as we travelled together, they welcomed us to sit with them in their grief.
Paul always brings boxes of food as a thank-you gift to the community for hosting him. On our last night, we had lots left over, so we drove through town inviting people to the church to share a meal.
Between the unexpected blessing of a cancelled flight, the timing of our trip when the church needed us, the eagle circling the graveside service, and an awe-inspiring display of northern lights, by the end of the week, we got used to saying, “God, now you’re just showing off!”
Our denomination is encouraging MB churches to engage with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Learn more at
mennonitebrethren.ca/ministry-resources/stories-of-friendship and mbherald.com/mb-indigenous-reading-list