“It always touches my heart”

In early 2020, Andre Avaala will leave the tiny Arctic community of Baker Lake and make a new start in Ottawa with his father. But first, he plans to bring Cale Riley, his three-year-old brother, to the Baker Lake Celebration of Hope with Will Graham so the little boy can make Jesus Christ his ‘forever friend.’

Just talking about the possibility, that Cale Riley could understand and accept the basic Gospel message during the Celebration’s Oct. 26-27 outreach weekend, brings tears to the eyes of Andre, 15.

“I get emotional when I talk about this,” he said amidst the noise and activity at Qamanittuaq Recreation Centre, an important meeting place for Baker Lake’s young people. “It always touches my heart.”

The Avaala family is split, with Andre’s father in Ottawa and his mother working at Baker Lake’s tiny airport. Andre often cares for Cale Riley, so he knows intimately about his brother’s heart murmur that can cause rapid breathing, difficulty eating, lack of energy, and stunted growth.

Victim of bullying

Meanwhile, Andre has his own challenges. He’s often been the victim of bullying. One terrible incident in 2018 landed him in hospital for three days after he was forced to climb an eight-meter-high electric power pole, then fell when he received a life-threatening shock.

That shock and fall, which almost caused Andre’s heart to stop, had one significant benefit: it solidified his faith in Jesus Christ, “for whom and by whom all things exist” (Hebrews 2:10, ESV).

“When I was near death, I was talking to Jesus so I believe way more than before,” he explained quietly.

Andre wants his young brother to have real hope as he grows up in the midst of Baker Lake’s myriad of social problems. Besides broken families, suicide is a serious problem—along with very crowded housing and poverty—among the village’s 2,000 residents.

Seeking strength for himself, Andre has attended many of the Baker Lake Celebration’s lead-up events, including the Momentum prayer and worship gathering and the youth-oriented FM419 (which stands for Matthew 4:19—follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men). Both of these events are possible at Celebrations of Hope because of prayers and financial support from Canadians like you.

Connie Jakab (right) shares her testimony with 120 youth at FM419.
Connie Jakab (right) shares her testimony with 120 youth at FM419.

“A whole culture can be changed”

At FM419, Andre and many others were visibly moved as guest speaker Connie Jakab encouraged the 120 mostly young people by saying “a whole culture can be changed when we stand together with Jesus at the center.” She invited anyone who had recent suicidal thoughts to step forward so they could be surrounded and prayed for. A significant number did so, many of them crying.

This was manna from heaven for Andre, especially when Connie, a youth evangelist, “talked about being strong and confident and being a leader.”

Andre is eagerly waiting to bring Cale Riley to the Celebration’s Oct. 26-27 outreach weekend. Those nights will feature music from Christian artists, testimonies, and Will Graham’s Gospel presentations.

Besides ensuring that his brother hears the Good News, Andre wants to attend so “I can learn even more about following Jesus.”

Please pray for Andre, Cale Riley, and Baker Lake’s other residents. And know that you can change lives through Christ—in this remote village and many other places in Canada and around the world—through your donations to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.