Williams Lake, ‘the puddle’ as many people know it, is a small city in central BC. It has a population of 11,000 with approximately 14 First Nation reserves around us. The proximity and influence of the First Nations bring richness to our people and culture, but there is a stark difference between life in ‘the city’ and life ‘on reserve’. It didn’t take us long to realize this as we heard stories of incredible poverty, hunger, victimization and a constant fear people live under.
Our vision is to send mission-minded Christians to live and serve on reserves, but resources prevent us from doing so. We barely have enough leaders and workers for the ministry we offer in our church, many of which serve First Nations in our city. The problem seems overwhelming so we pray, asking God to reveal to us His solution to these obstacles.
God answers prayer. We are seeing community partnerships with First Nation organizations repair, build and grow. We aren’t duplicating services, but are working together.
The Salvation Army embraces the culture of First Nations people. I went to a First Nations gathering in our city park. Here I met Caroline. She was dressed in full Native regalia, dancing in a circle with other First Nation friends, beating her deer hide drum and smiling with an unforgettable smile.
Not long after, I again came in contact with Caroline’s infectious smile. It was in the drop-in at our church. I didn’t know her name at the time, but I knew of her. Caroline is lovingly referred to as the ‘bannock lady’ because she brings home cooked bannock (a fried flat cake made primarily of flour) to our drop in to serve at lunch along with the hot meal prepared in the soup kitchen.
Caroline smiles because she loves Jesus with her whole heart and lives everyday to share God’s love with whoever she meets. It was when Caroline introduced me to her mom, Adele, I began again to see God’s answer to our prayers regarding ministry on the reserves.
Adele lives with her young granddaughter on a reserve west of Williams Lake. She not only lives among those living in oppression and poverty but she has experienced it first hand.
A victim of alcoholism, abuse, extreme poverty, racism and criticism she comes to town on weekends to share God’s love and His message. Adele is The Salvation Army presence in her community on reserve. Today, the Williams Lake church resources the ministry Caroline and Adele offer. They are Jesus’ hands and feet, and a voice of hope among the surrounding First Nation communities.
Each weekend Adele takes meat and bread from the food bank back to her community. When her car broke down people in our church paid for a new engine and they continue to help maintain her vehicle, and provide gas money for her ministry. As Adele and Caroline travel around central British Columbia they give out Bibles and Christian reading materials purchased by the church. They take the work of The Salvation Army and the love of God into places where there is none.