Four weeks ago, just over 40 volunteers returned to Winnipeg from a week of service, learning and community engagement in Cross Lake, Man. This marked the 10th year that our church, Sterling Mennonite Fellowship, has taken an eight-hour trek to spend a week in the Cree First Nation, also known as Pimicikamak.
Every time I come back from Cross Lake, I’m filled with stories of where I and others have seen God do amazing things we could never have imagined.
Let me give you one example from this year.
One night, I decided to wander down to the water with a group of people. We were on a steep hill above the shore. As I looked down from the top, I saw a group of kids surrounding a young mother who was holding a baby beside a stroller. She was about halfway down the hill.
As I got closer, I met one of the little boys. I said “Hi” and asked him how he was. All he said was, “My cousin’s baby is choking.” I realized that he meant the baby who was being held by the young mother, so I ran to see what was going on.
I’ve never had a baby, and I’ve never had a baby choke while I’ve held it. I didn’t know what to do, so I introduced myself and asked if everything was okay. Her baby was crying loudly as she shook her head, “No.” Then I remembered that one of our volunteers is a nurse. So I told her we have a nurse with us and asked her if I could go call her. She nodded, “Yes.” She looked terrified.
I ran back and got our nurse (I’ll call her Sarah). As we ran back down the hill, I explained what was going on. As soon as Sarah got there, she knew what to do.
I later learned that crying is actually good news for a choking baby. It means that air is getting to the lungs, even if it’s unpleasant. It turned out that the baby had swallowed a rock, and because the baby wouldn’t stop crying, the mother thought her baby was choking. But as scary as that experience was, the baby and mother were all okay in the end.
Sarah sat with this mother for quite some time, checking the baby and talking to the mother about all kinds of things from family matters to baby nutrition. I remember looking back to see what was going on and watching as the mother burst into tears. She was so terrified about her baby choking, and then so relieved to learn that her baby would be okay. To have Sarah there beside her made all the difference.
Sarah was able to offer a calming and reassuring presence for this mother and her baby at the exact moment after the baby swallowed a rock. But let’s remember, the mother is from Cross Lake and Sarah is from Winnipeg. 800 kilometres separate these two places. We were only in Cross Lake for one week, and at the family camp for about three hours.
So here’s the big question: Was it just coincidence?
This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed something like this, and it’s not the only story of extraordinary timing that occurred this year in Cross Lake. No matter how much I try to run it through my head, I can’t fathom the idea that all of this was just a matter of chance. That doesn’t mean I understand it completely or can now claim to know how God works, but a certain level of mystery seems to be healthy when it comes to understanding God’s timing.
It’s moments like these that make me even more convinced that there is a God out there who can work in all situations to do amazing things that reveal God’s goodness and love to the world. I believe more and more that God uses people and brings them into relationships in ways and with timing that could never have been planned by us or even happen by chance
It’s an astonishing thought - that there is a God out there. Not just any god, but a God who stands above time and space, who knows all of history, everything about us, and still chooses to be in relationship with us.
To have the chance to experience that God isn’t a coincidence. It’s a gift.
Moses Falco is the pastor at Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, Man. A longer version of this post originally appeared on his blog at mosesfalco.com.
A very special relationship