Down & Up the Mackenzie

Ron Knightly hasn't purposely sought danger; it just seemed to come ... (from Issue #522)

Ron Knightly hasn’t purposely sought danger. It just seemed to come as he and his wife, Marge, served as missionaries in Canada’s northwest. Still their greatest adventure was seeing God work in people’s lives. Here are excerpts (adapted) from Ron’s new book “From Dog Team to Wings”:

by Ron Knightly

Ron and Marge KnightlyAll this time we tried to use as much of the language as possible, did visitation, played Gospel messages on tape, and by now I was reading Scripture in the Slavey language.

It seemed the Spirit of God was working in people’s hearts, even more so than before. One dear elderly lady who came regularly to our meetings told us of her concerns for her people’s spiritual needs. She was just about in tears. Three men admitted their need of the Lord, and their weakness to booze and other addictions.

One day one of the men came and said, “How come every time I’m in the meeting, and you are preaching, you are pointing your finger right at me?”
I am sure it was not intentional. Another young man I prayed much for, but the more I brought him before the Lord, the more trouble he seemed to get into.

There were others who the Lord seemed to be dealing with. Later the Knightlys moved from Wrigley to Ft. Liard, NWT. Ron’s plan was to move his family and belongings by boat up the Mackenzie River, one of the world’s largest waterways.

“The distance we had to go would be somewhere in the vicinity of 370 miles, all upstream in a south-easterly direction. We wanted to visit all the people who were our neighbours and friends of the past eight years, to remind them to follow the Lord, those who had taken a stand for Him.

I had bent birch poles over the boat and covered them with tarps to shelter Marge and the boys from the sun, wind and weather. It looked a lot like an old covered wagon with no big wheels. We had a large load with only about three inches of free board at the transom.

Now I would never even consider such a trip – no available life jackets, nothing but trust in our great and mighty God who we were sure had brought us here for a purpose …

… The next morning, after a good breakfast, clean-up, loading the boat, and a devotional time, I had a big decision to make. Should we make two trips through the rapids, so we could travel lighter? Or should we try the whole 15 miles with the one load, which would be much slower and safer. After much thought and calculation, it seemed that one trip might be the best solution, because we did not like the thought of splitting up our load and/or the family …

… I took my homemade paddle out from its place under the gunnel, dipped it over the side of the boat and into the water to check the water depth. Wrong move! … in a flash the powerful current whipped the paddle right out of my hand. It was gone for good … no retrieving it.

Still watching my spot, which must have been only three or four feet from the edge of the boat to the shoreline, it appeared like we may have gained an inch or two. So we held her there and waited another 15 minutes or so to see if there was any change.

Time dragged on ever so slowly, but it was paying off, as we had moved ahead almost a foot or so. In another couple or three or four feet or so, we would be past the notable spot that had claimed many a boat and, I think, a few lives as well.

From Dog Team to WingsBuilding the Knightlys’ house involved getting lumber upstream. One evening, after a long day of hard work, Ron was floating home on a raft of logs. Things were going as planned until his motor boat (tied to the log raft) got loose and drifted away!

Darkness fell and fog rolled in. Ron’s two friends were to meet him with their motor boat, but now he knew his firepot on the raft wouldn’t be visible. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

I kept listening, straining my ears for any sound of their boat motor. Nothing was heard but the muffled slap of the water against the logs. Now I could not see either shore and, as the river was over a mile wide right in this area, I had the feeling of being a bit helpless and alone.

Thinking, “Lord, you are here; You are in control,” I started praying, “Lord, forgive me for getting into this predicament. I could sure use some much needed help right now.”

I knew I was now near the village. I could hear the village dogs barking and howling up a storm. Would anyone be able to hear me calling? “Ela ela!” I called (which is “boat” in the Slavey language, or “canoe,” which most of the people had).

“Ela ela!” I yelled as loudly as I could. But the dogs were getting even more frantic now. Suddenly a very sharp and distinctive woman’s voice cried out with vigorous authority to the dogs: “Shut up!”

And they did! Immediately there was silence. I recognized that voice – it was a neighbor. I took that quick and quiet moment to yell again, “Ela ela, ela ela” – and then the dogs were whipped up into another frenzy of howling.

Was I heard? Would anyone come out on the river this time of night? And if they did, would they be able to locate me and the logs in the darkness?

To order “From Dog Team to Wings” (239 pages) write or call our Prince Albert office or our Bookstore.