10 Sep The Joys of the Country (The North Woods in Canada)
“One of the reasons this ministry is successful is because of the dedication of my wife. This article was written in 1981 as we were planting our first church. Her dedication to her family and the ministry is clearly evident. I thought it important for this article to be published again.”
Dr. Earl Jessup
Written by Mrs. Beth Jessup
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a town of 1,000 people with only one grocery and retail clothing store within 170 miles? How about living in a town without a hospital, hair dresser, or a place for your husband to take you out to eat? Have you ever dreamed of living in a log cabin, heating with wood and having a beautiful fireplace? Have you ever thought of having cold temperatures of fifty and sixty degrees below zero in the dead of winter? Have you ever thought of what you would do if a wolf ate your dog or if bears ate from your garbage can? What if you shared a road with wolves that kill dogs, and bears that turn over your garbage night after night in the spring and fall? These are only a few of the joys of living in Northern Ontario, Canada.
My husband and I moved to Pickle Lake, Ontario, three years ago. We started a church which is, to our knowledge, the most northern Baptist church in Ontario. Pickle Lake is 350 miles north of Lake Superior and isolated from other communities. The nearest town is 170 miles to the south. If you are traveling further north by road, you may travel on gravel for only 100 miles. In winter, there are ice roads plowed over the large lakes that lead to Indian reserves.
We have seen God do wonderful things before us. He has built a strong work here and given us faithful soul winners. There are many things I have learned to do living here. Had I been where there were lots of conveniences, I would not have taken advantage of the opportunity to “learn how.”
The people in Pickle Lake are mainly miners and bush pilots. A lot of women who live here are quite bored, to say the least, and unless an individual gets involved in some activity, whether it be work, an outdoor sport, or a community organization, they are subject to being “bushed.” This is a mild term for going crazy. When the winters are long and very cold, people get tired of the weather and frustrated with themselves. Being “bushed” can sometimes end up in suicide.
Since living here we have seen lives changed through finding Christ as their Saviour. People get involved with church activities and serving the Lord. It is a joy to see men and women saved and finding satisfaction in living for God. It has been our privilege to collect many of the Christian Womanhood tapes for our church library and so many have been helped by these tapes.
Living in such an isolated town has helped me to become a better homemaker. I make bread weekly instead of buying bread, which from the store is sometimes nine days old. Often the store is out of eggs, milk, and bread. Many things are sold as fast as they come into the store. The produce is sometimes in pretty bad shape after traveling so far by truck. There is not much choice of variety in any item.
I shall never ever forget the first trip out to the city (350 miles south). We try to “go out” three or four times during the year to do shopping for the children and get some groceries that we could get a little cheaper. On this first trip when we walked into the K-Mart, I just stood there in amazement! There were ten different kinds of panty hose! Wow! I could not believe such a big store existed. I thought it must be about ten times bigger that our Hudson Bay retail store.
I have learned to cut my own hair and my husband’s hair. In fact, I have cut some men’s hair in the church. I am not trying to make a habit of it. I only do this as a last resort. They say to me, “You’ll have to cut our hair or tell your husband to quit preaching.” Well, first of all I am not telling my husband to do any such thing. I do this service as unto the Lord. I am very grateful that my husband preaches the Word as the Holy Spirit deals in hearts.
A place to eat? There is not much here a Christian can enjoy. When we first came to take a look at this town (before moving here) we stayed at the motel for one night. When we went to supper, the lowest price was $7.95 for a family meal. We could not even get a hamburger for our children, because it was not on the menu. We really enjoy having a pleasant meal out in a nice family restaurant when we get out to a town. We really enjoy “Old” McDonald’s, as the children call it. It is really funny to my husband and me that our children can really, I mean really, enjoy McDonald’s. It is because they only have a chance at it about two or three times a year. I am so glad it is a “treat” to them.
The medical facilities are limited. We have doctors that come on a rotating basis and are here for only two weeks at a time. Occasionally there is a doctor who will stay a few months. There is a clinic with emergency-room facilities. Emergencies are flown out on “Medevac” to Thunder Bay which is located 350 miles south. A five-year-old boy from our church was shot accidentally by a high powered rifle, and it took him several hours to “get out” and get the proper attention he needed. It was a miracle that only God could do to save his little life, and He did.
Once, I had to use the Medevac as well. I had to “go out” with a miscarriage. It took me four hours to get to the hospital, and after hemorrhaging for four hours, my blood count had gotten very low. I took quite a while to get my blood built back up, and it takes a lot of faith and trust in God to live in a town like this.
Ladies who are expecting have to be out of town at least two weeks before their due date. When I went “out” to have our last child, I was out for six weeks, and I did not get to go to Mama’s either! Fortunately, we have friends in Dryden (250 miles from here) who were able to have me stay at their house during my wait. My husband was able to visit a few times during my wait, and I praise the Lord he was there when our little bundle of joy arrived.
When we came to Pickle Lake we were given a place to live with a limited time of six months to find another place. After two months the Lord opened the door to buy two log cabins built in l932. The larger one we used for church services and we live in the smaller one. Then the church grew so much in six months that we had to build an auditorium onto it which held seventy-five people. This year we have broken our record with 113 in attendance, and our February average was 101 for Sunday mornings.
The small cabin has been a real joy to live in. Our wood-burning heater is a blessing when the north winds blow. We have tried to economize with wood, because it is so plenteous; however, it takes a lot of time and energy to supply it. We have done some remodeling and made the cabin warmer than it used to be. Every year it gets better. The Lord is providing, and we are slowly getting it to be a very comfortable place to live. Our lovely fireplace is made of some stones from this area, and some have gold in them taken from the mine which is next to our house.
There is much “excitement” in this house. In the fall and spring we have lots of fun waking up to bats flying around the room. I do not know about you, my friend, but I am not sleeping in the same room with a bat if I can help it! My husband has tried to say, “It is only a moth. Go back to sleep.” But the flutter is just too loud! He has gotten up and killed them. That is when the fun (or terror) starts. He looks at it as fun, and I consider it terror! I find it very frightening to be awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a bat!
There are a lot of inconveniences here, but God has made the North a wonderful place to live and rear a family. We would not be fulfilled anywhere else right now, because God has given us this place to serve Him. We love it!
Just think, we are not crowded out with busy department stores, streets, and sidewalks full of people. There is fresh clean air to fill our lungs every day. It is so good to walk out to a beautiful lake and see a place untouched by human hands! It is such a peaceful lifestyle! There are fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries in summer everywhere, and they are so delicious. The moose meat is great, and the fresh pickerel fish is just “out of this world!”
God’s creation is beautiful. The fall, winter, spring, and summer are all unique in their own way. I am glad I have given my heart and life to serve the Lord in the North no matter what the cost! I can say with Paul in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”