Far up in the unexplored provinces of North Manitoba, my young wife and I wondered if what we had felt the call of God to be among the Cree Indians was the real ‘still, small Voice.’
Hamilton churches sent out missionaries and teachers. I, for one, built up courage to face the unknown.
Divine grace, sufficient every moment, assured of God’s calling to serve among the Indians. I had prepared myself two years learning about them. Apart from the growing passion for missions to the unreached “Red Americans”, my young wife and I, newly married, ventured to answer the Call. She too, had the heart for people needing the Saviour, but hadn’t had the clue which part of the globe God would send her.
Primitive means of transport baffled me with amazement at how God would bring us to the Indians up north. Two months journey were spent to Winnipeg City, then known as Fort Garry. Then we spent many days waiting for some means of conveyance on the great lakes and rivers. In the two-month journey, we set camps on prairies, shores, marshes or lagoons. Red River channels provided en-route to the great Lake Winnipeg.
At Fort Garry, company of travelers parted. Some pushed on to fifteen hundred miles toward west. Some remained in the Red River Settlement.
“We’ll travel northward few more days,” I affirmed my patient wife.
“This has been one of the longest delays I’m sure. It’ll end sometime,” my wife’s smile never faded from her face. And I knew the two months journey wearied her.
After days of waiting, the summons to get ready finally came-- the trip northward began. We hastily packed up our sleeping-bags. My wife hurriedly bunned up her hair, fixed her bonnet, straightened her traveling dress. And we hurried down the bank.
Excitement stirred our hearts and spirit.
Our luggage was thrown into the boat. Our perilous journey was about to begin. As I recalled, the conveyance was no more than a large skiff. My wife and I were spared the seat at the far, sharp end. We snuggled in our little rear seat reserved for us, at the stern close to the guide.
The other end did not make ten feet steps to make. The Hudson Bay Company’s inland boat, or skiff, whatever they named it, was small and flat-bottomed. It had neither deck, awning, nor cabin to boost.
But it contained a crew of eight Indians, one of whom was the guide.
“Whooa,” with expertise, the guide at the stern steered the boat with a long, heavy oar.
I watched them. I was amazed and awed at the Indian boatmen. With their oars, they pushed out the boat off the shore.
As the boatmen rowed, they captured my admiration and respect. Starting down the Red River, I saw a promising future of our mission journey. I clasped my wife’s hand and kissed it, gesturing my gratefulness for her endurance.
We stopped at Stonewall to pick up the mails for the Northern Hudson Bay’s Company ports. In to the boat, Indians loaded more supplies. My mouth hung open, my eyes widened and cocked my hat to a tilted angle.
“I wonder how much more our small boat can hold!” I whispered to my wife.
Then, off we set out to the placid Red River. I pictured the Indian Mission with the comforts of home, snugly church, handsome-looking natives-- floated by with the moving scenery.
I found out what our steerman’s name was. Tim.
“What’s the matter, Tim?” I asked him as I noticed our boat heading for the shore.
“We take board passenger.” Tim’s basal tone revealed his Indian stoic nature taught me lessons for life.
I turned to my wife, “What!” Courtesy begged me to contain my disgust.
Cree Indians brought him. Down the shore, stalwart eight-crew men soon had him on to the boat.
This companion in our voyage, a four-hundred pound bison joined us. Facing directly at us, it bobbed its massive head, crowned with thick, curly hairpiece. Its tail swatted mosquitoes.
We sailed again.
At the border of Lake Winnipeg, we camped for the night. I watched at how our Indian friends processed plentiful pemmican, from which the short life of our animal companion was made --without the use of conventional kitchen gadgets. Only hands, feet, and knees.
Sun-dried meat flakes--pemmican for our food!
This was the beginning of our adventures and strange experiences in our journey, added to the package of Divine calling.
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