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Acadian Coast “PrayerPaddle”

"He shall have dominion from sea to sea" Psalm 72:8

 

Geographic Focus:

The “Acadian Coast” stretches from Tide Head, New Brunswick to Cheticamp, Nova Scotia on the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Fig. 1). The distance to be paddled is approximately 900 miles. Settled by French, Scottish, Irish, and English, there has been a fair amount of mixing of these ethnic groups over the last few hundred years, with the traditional church allegiances being Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican. The French (mainly in New Brunswick) are descended both from survivors of the Acadian expulsion by the British in the 18th century (and therefore culturally tied to Louisiana Cajuns) (Fig. 4), and later settlers from Quebec. In the Cape Breton region of Nova Scotia, Scottish Gaelic is still actively spoken by some. A few of the original inhabitants, Micmacs, remain around scattered “First Nations” reserves, with some still preserving their language (Fig. 6). Recently a new translation of the New Testament has been completed into the Micmac language.

 

The traditional churches are generally dwindling in numbers and vitality, and it seems that only a few scattered congregations of the other denominations are showing any significant growth. Many churches are strongly influenced by liberal theology, as well as the “Emergent Church” movement. In the more rural areas, opportunities to encounter the witness of Bible-believing Christians are often even more limited. Both English and French are used to varying degrees across the region (Fig. 5), with a significant amount of bilingualism in spite of sometimes ill feelings between ethnic groups. There have been multiple confrontations with Micmacs over the last several years related to fishing and logging rights. In summer, visitors from interior areas and other parts of Canada flock to the region, especially to the beaches.

 

Total population of the region is about 200,000, based on the 2006 census (Fig. 2).

 

Fig. 1: Acadian Coast: general route

 

 

Fig. 2: Population density from 2006 census.

 

Fig. 3: Income as reported in 2006 census

 

Fig. 4: General distribution of speakers of Acadian French (from Wikipedia)

 

Fig. 5: French speaking population in 2006 census

 

Fig. 6: Native American population centers, from 2006 census

 

 

Mission/Goals:

To raise awareness of the Acadian Coast’s spiritual needs, to pray for revival, and to plant seeds of evangelism and discipleship. Eventually we hope to see healthy Bible-believing churches ministering to Francophone, Anglophone, and First Nations communities within each of the civil parishes and county subdivisions along the coast.

 

Why a “PrayerPaddle”?

The population, history, and cultural foci of the Atlantic Provinces are in the narrow coastal strips. In the tradition of “prayer walking”, paddling the entire Acadian Coast by sea kayak with a strategy of intentionally praying that strongholds of dead tradition, post-modern apathy, and anti-Christian moral perversion will be broken down will provide the opportunity to encounter the region on a different level than is possible within church walls or driving by on a highway. The physical challenge is intended to complement the intensity of the encounter with God, similar to fasting.

 

Why me?

1)      Over the last ten years, I have witnessed (through personal visits and my wife’s family) the spiritual oppression that often seems to pervade the region and the general discouragement in the churches.

2)      My wife’s family has lived in the region continuously since the early 1800’s.

3)      I have long desired to use my love for paddling in order to further the Gospel. Although I have always been interested in doing a long-distance paddling expedition, this is far beyond any trip I have done before (120 miles by canoe many years ago) and is expected to be a major personal challenge.

4)      As a university professor, I am able to be away from my job for an extended period of time during the summer months in order to do the PrayerPaddle.

 

Methods (subject to revision):

1)      Existing churches within the region will be contacted and encouraged to participate in whatever ways they can. In particular, they are expected to help with local publicity, logistical support, translation, and prayer. In general, their financial resources to contribute are expected to be minimal.

2)      Outside of the region, Bible-believing evangelical churches and their denominational organizations (especially in Mississippi/Louisiana) will be encouraged to support the PrayerPaddle through prayer, financial support, and on-site participation. It is hoped that long-term relationships will be established that lead to churches adopting an area to help plant a new church or actively encouraging the ministry of a partner local church.

3)      Along the PrayerPaddle route, venues will be identified for evangelism/discipleship meetings, corporate prayer services, etc. Most venues are expected to be public facilities near the water (rather than churches), such as parks, campgrounds, community halls, beaches, and tourism sites. On average, two events are expected per day, lasting about an hour each, with around 15 people in attendance, and at least a couple of helpers. (Larger numbers would be great, of course!)

4)      In between scheduled venues, providential encounters with fishermen, residents, and visitors may provide more opportunities for outreach. Although the current assumption is that I will kayak mostly alone, others may paddle as well if they are determined to be spiritually and physically prepared.

5)      Sponsorship and/or publicity may also be sought from secular groups interested in promoting the recreational opportunities of the region, in particular for sea kayaking. Care must be taken however not to compromise the primary purpose of spiritual awakening.

6)      The PrayerPaddle is not intended to operate with a huge budget. Enough should be spent to get the people’s attention, but not so much as to appear as a heavy-handed, institutionalized attempt to buy their interest. Requirements might include: basic refreshments, shelter (tent), seats, music (both Christian and local traditional), transportation, Bibles/Testaments, and tracts. Sponsorship of some gear and food for the kayaking would be helpful.

7)      A likely timeframe would be to make contacts, raise support, and possibly make some on-site scouting visits during summer 2008. The PrayerPaddle could then actually take place during about two months of the summer of 2009. It could also be broken up over two summers, with one month in New Brunswick in 2009 and one month in Nova Scotia in 2010.

8)      I would like to see at least two non-local people participating on-site during each of the weeks of the PrayerPaddle. At least one of these should be either a minister or a lay person gifted in evangelism. The other might be a strong “prayer warrior”, or just someone with a servant’s heart.

 

Status:

I have begun tentative planning of the detailed kayaking route, along with documentation of potential outreach/prayer venues. Besides DeLorme Street Atlas 2007 software, I have found detailed topographic maps and aerial photography available online to use in the planning. I have begun compiling a database of churches within the region, along with denominational contacts. Census summary data for 2006 has been compiled for each census subdivision along the coast. I will begin incorporating most of the databases and planning into a Geographic Information System (GIS) that I have recently installed on my computer.

 

During the Spring semester, I took a non-credit course on “Christ in Culture” at Wesley Biblical Seminary. I have also gotten involved with Mission Mississippi (http://www.missionmississippi.org) and ministry through music in one of the local nursing homes. We moved our church membership to Daniel Memorial Baptist Church in February, where I have spoken on Wednesdays about the state of the church in Eastern Canada and the Emerging Church movement.

 

Over the last couple months I’ve been moving myself back into paddling, trying out a few demo kayaks from Buffalo Peak Outfitters and paddling both my canoe and my inflatable kayak on a local lake. (It sure feels great to be out on the water again!) I also got a sea kayaking video, a new edition of Sea Kayaking, and have been looking into options for getting a sea kayak that would be appropriate for the PrayerPaddle.

 

I intend to provide periodic updates about the PrayerPaddle to anyone interested, on approximately a monthly basis. I am also considering developing a basic web site, or at least adding a section of related internet URLs to this document.

 

My family is planning to travel to Canada for about a month this summer to help out my inlaws. While up there, I hope to do some scouting of the paddling route and potential venues, and to meet with some key churches/ministries in the area. I had hoped to find an opportunity for an intensive French immersion class that I could take, but apparently there is nothing that would suit our time frame. The immediate concern for our summer plans is the financial impact of high gas prices for the 2100 mile (each way) trip up to Bathurst.

 

Over the last month, I have discussed the PrayerPaddle with a friend who is interested in helping to develop video materials for promotion and documentation. And I have bought a French Bible to start improving my limited French ability. I have done quite a bit of research into the spiritual heritage of Eastern Canada as a whole.

 

As of mid-May 2008, I have discussed the PrayerPaddle with the following people:

1)      Kevin Ivy (Pastor, Cleary Baptist Church, Florence, MS)

2)      Dr. Joe Martin (Professor of Missions, Belhaven College, Jackson, MS)

3)      Tim Dortch (Hispaniola Mountain Mission, Florence, MS)

4)      Lawrence Baylot (Pastor, Daniel Memorial Baptist Church, Jackson, MS)

5)      Jon Gillis (e-Life Ministries, Atlanta, GA)

6)      Steve Charles (Jacksonville, FL)

7)      Dr. Helen MacMinn (Pentecostal Bible College, Nairobi, Kenya)

8)      Elizabeth McGarrigle (Fredericton, NB, Canada)

9)      David Swanson (College Station, TX)

10)  Dr. John Taylor (Metro Baptist Association, Jackson, MS)

11)  Rebecca Blakeley (Miramichi, NB, Canada)

Additionally, the following people have now been informed via email:

12)  Dr. Matt Friedeman (Pastor, Dayspring Community Church, Clinton, MS; Professor, Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS)

13)  Raul Vasquez (Dallas, TX)

14)  Brett Clarke (The Navigators, Colorado Springs, CO)

15)  Gabriel Gutierrez (Tucson, AZ)

16)  Dr. David Potvin (Belhaven College, Jackson, MS)

I plan to set up opportunities to discuss the PrayerPaddle with the following people:

17)  Dr. Gene Gillis (Pastor, Pleasant Hills Baptist Church, Columbus, MS)

18)  Guy Hughes/Larry Stephens (Rankin Baptist Association)

19)  Jerry Owen (Way-To-Go Ministries, Florence, MS)

20)  Sheree Tynes (Mission Mississippi, Jackson, MS)

21)  Robert Smith (church planter, Bathurst, NB)

22)  Art Sawler (Eagles Landing Ministries on Eskasoni First Nation Reserve, NS)

23)  Various ministries and churches in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Additional people that I intend to discuss the PrayerPaddle with:

24)  Jeff Parker (Pastor, Southside Baptist Church, Jackson, MS)

25)  Spencer Ford (Pelahatchie, MS)

26)  Billy MacMinn (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

27)  JoAnn Arnett (Tallahassee Bible Institute, Tallahassee, FL)

28)  Arthur Hebert (Baton Rouge, LA)

 

What can you do right now?

1)      Provide suggestions, comments, encouragement, cautions, etc.

2)      Pray.

3)      Consider how you, your church/ministry, and others might plan to get involved.

4)      Share the vision of the PrayerPaddle with others who you believe may be interested.

5)      Ask questions and keep in touch with me by email (ldwhite68@gmail.com), phone (601-346-6211 home; 601-979-3635 work), or in person.

6)      Whatever else God leads you to do!