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Women and Girls: A life of service

Rhoda Shank has been a staple of the Ear Falls community for nearly 50 ears.

Rhoda Shank has been a staple of the Ear Falls community for three decades.

She lived in Red Lake and Cocheneur for 10 years prior to settling in Ear Falls.

Originally from Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, she came to Red Lake in 1974 with Northern Light Gospel Mission. She worked at the Red Lake children’s home for two years.

The children’s home received children needing placement through social services. She would care for up to 45 kids at a time, rotating jobs with the other staff.

“We tried to make it like a home - sometimes I’d be cleaning, sometimes id be cooking, other times I would just be caring for the babies and toddlers,” says Rhoda, “And every Thursday we’d do family night.”

She met her future husband Ray through the mission. Ray was also from Pennsylvania, working on a vacation Bible school at the same mission. They began dating in her second year in Red Lake.

After her time at the children’s home, she returned home. She and Ray wrote letters to each other for six months until she came to visit him in 1978, and they were married shortly after.

After moving to Red Lake, she continued to help with the mission by writing for newsletters and operated a sunshine club watching children while their mothers attended Bible studies. she would do snacks and crafts Wednesday mornings and Monday evenings for about 8-10 girls.

She then took on doing tea parties with the girls in Brownies, Sparks and Girl Guides. During her time hosting tea parties, he would bring out her old clothes and the girls would put on fashion shows. In her spare time, she babysat for many children within their church groups over the years.

She worked as a Red Cross Homemaker in the Red Lake and Ear Falls area for 12 years. After the company that she worked for changed ownership, she left to continue providing homemaking services privately. Members of the community had reached out to ask for her help caring for family members. She would help with housework, play games, and take the senior women out for visits with friends.

“It was really fun, it was what I really enjoyed doing,” says Rhoda.

Her husband Ray began teaching Sunday school in Ear Falls, and after doing so for a couple of months, they decided to make the move permanently. During this time, an offer was made on their house in McMarmic, so they began looking around Ear Falls for a new home. A for sale sign was in the window of a boarded-up home, and they called the number on the sign. Three days later, they were moving in to the house where they still live to this day.

Ray began working for Pearson’s Auto shop that year, and worked there until 2019. He and Rhoda then began hosting a youth group, and ran it for 27 years.

Though they’ve pulled back in the last few years, they continue to help the new youth leader. Rhoda worked as a teacher's aid at the church private school for a couple of years before its close. They worked as counsellors and bible teachers at Eagle Lake Bible Camp for three years. They have also worked at the local Awana Club once a week for the past 16 years.

Together Rhoda and her husband have done a lot of travelling. They went on two mission trips with New Tribes mission. They went to Senegal in 1990 to build a high school, and Papua New Guinea in 1994 to build a couple of missionary houses.

They went to Libera in 1998, 2000, and 2002 to share the Jesus video. There they visited orphanages, refugee camps, and even one prison to share the gospel. They were the only ones permitted to go into the prison.

“They asked us to share and talk and visit and just encourage people,” says Rhoda.

Of the three Liberia teams, Ray and Rhoda’s group were tasked with showing the video several times a day, sometimes to thousands of people.

“I never got tired of it though, would be so emotional, and it was so powerful,” says Rhoda.

Apart from the mission trips, the couple tries to travel down to Pennsylvania every year to visit family, and have managed a few other trips in recent years.

Rhoda has spent her whole life serving others in many different ways. To this day, she continues to work with kids through the church with the Awana Club and Youth group. She spends her free time enjoying her garden, visiting her friends in the community and helping people.