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Tag: Chippewa

A crazy and amazing week with a crazy and amazing God

“What a crazy and amazing week. We loved and remained flexible and let Creator do what He needed to do. Hands and feet; loaves and fishes; turtles, bacon and ‘Hey, girl.’ Miigwech, Gichi-manidoo. Giga-waabamin miinawaa, Gaa-waabaabiganikaag.” — Robyn Gerrells

We had prayed for flexibility before leaving for our Hope for the First Nations summer mission trip to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

Which is how we ended up leaving for the reservation two hours later than planned, after one team member’s alarm clock failed to ring in southern Illinois. And how we locked the keys to the trailer in the trailer; also, the keys to the 15-passenger van.

It also is how, on the first day of Hope Day Camp, I ended up making small talk with a 4-year-old while we were waiting for fresh bandages to arrive. The bandages were for the tips of two of his fingers, which he recently had lost. How this happened, I am not exactly sure, as I got the story from the 4-year-old. It involved one of the new playgrounds installed by the Boys and Girls Clubs around the reservation, wrapped in yellow tape to keep the kids off (which is to say it didn’t) until they can be cemented in and circled with woodchips, and his brother jumping on something and his fingers and slice. This left two fingertips black, spotted with dirt and fuzz from the old bandages he kept playing with during day camp until one team member begged somebody to pull him aside and re-wrap them.

But he wasn’t mad at his brother, he told me. His brother said he was sorry, so he forgave him.

This is a miraculous thing to hear from a 4-year-old who just has lost his fingers — really, from anyone who just has lost his or her fingers. It also is nearly word-for-word a line I had written for a skit about how God is our friend and friends forgive and don’t hold grudges for big group time earlier that afternoon at day camp. This makes it all the more miraculous to me: This wasn’t something I had labored over, like this blog post, making sure ever word was meaningful and memorable. I had scribbled that skit on the back of the lesson plan I just had seen for the first time the night before. (Also, in that skit, Robyn just had tried to take my husband’s iPod. His fingers were fine.)

Flexibility.

Flexibility is how an 11-person team served hundreds of people dinner at the wake for our dear friend and former White Earth Tribal Chairman John B. Buckanaga, then served lunch to even more people with even less food at the funeral the next day. Loaves and fishes and flexibility.

Flexibility evidently is something God blesses. At the very least, it is something He expects.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” — Proverbs 19:21

I like the way Bob Goff put it in his book Love Does, which I read on the 11-hour drive to White Earth: “Like the disciples, we had no plan, no program and no preparation.”

Sure, we have “plans.” We planned four days of Hope Day Camp at The Old School-turned-Pine Point Community Center during our summer mission trip. That turned into two days at The Old School and two days at The New School because of funerals, and somehow 40 kids showed up at day camp anyway. We planned to go to powwow Friday. But this year, the date the treaty that established the White Earth Reservation was signed fell closer to the next weekend, so we had a day off. That turned into drinking coffee with the elders and organizing and taking inventory (long overdue) of all the supplies we have stored on the reservation. The things we did turned out way better than the things we had planned.

We plan to start a children’s home someday on the reservation. Who knows what the Lord’s purpose is? I don’t. But I know it will prevail.

And until then, we’ll stay flexible.

Linking up with:

     Beholding Glory

Photo credit: Robyn Gerrells.

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Help write our Minnesota story — and celebrate our first anniversary!

UPDATE (May 20, 2012): Praise God! Our trip to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota already is fully funded! But we still could use your prayers. Click through the links below to learn more about our mission, or comment below with questions about how you can be praying. Miigwech (thank you)!

I’ve written before about how God can use your life story. And I’ve written before about how growing up spending summers at my family’s cabin near the St. Croix Chippewa Reservation in Wisconsin foreshadowed my involvement with the Chippewa of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. My friends and I founded a nonprofit there about 10 years ago. It’s called Hope for the First Nations.

Here’s the part of the story where God does something awesome.

Because Joel and I need to raise $1,500 in, oh, two weeks to travel June 2 to 9 to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota to work with Hope for the First Nations. And we believe if He wants us to go, He’ll make it happen.

{Click here to learn more about our summer trip to White Earth.} It’s where you can consider how God can use you in the story. And where you can contribute money (tax-deductible) or prayers to help us go.

I can’t wait to tell the story God already is writing this summer on the reservation!

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Psalm 96:3 (NLT)

(Oh, and if you need another reason to give… next week is our first wedding anniversary. Isn’t that worth celebrating?)

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Linking up with:

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

How God can use your life story: Denouement

I like “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I like the just-released movie adaptation, too. I may even like Miller’s 2009 sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” more. All three describe the elements of plot in a story; specifically, how God can use those elements in your life story.  So does this sermon I gave in 2007 about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations.

You can read more about this series here. Here’s the resolution, or denouement. Because we all know jazz music doesn’t resolve.

V. Denouement

When Pastor Berg asked me to talk today about what I do on the reservation, why I do it and why I’ve kept doing it for the past eight years, he surprised me when He said, “Because I don’t think I could do what you do.” This, after he was a missionary in Africa for years. I can tell you right now I don’t think I could do that. But I don’t think God expects me to.

God is the Author of Life. He’s the Author of your life. And your life story may be very different from mine. My family has a cabin on a lake in northwestern Wisconsin on the edge of the St. Croix reservation, which is also an Anishinaabe reservation. So I’ve spent every summer of my entire life on and around reservations. I’ve always been fascinated by the Native American cultures around me. I’ve always been passionate about social justice issues. And I’m honored to share Christ’s love with the Anishinaabeg. God’s been able to use that for Hope for the First Nations. It’s a theme carried through my life story.

Maybe you’ve got a high-paying job and you can support charities and missionaries in the field. Like I said, I’m a professional intern. I couldn’t do that. But you should talk to me after the service. Maybe you’ve battled a disease or an addiction or an injustice in your life, or you know someone who has, and now you want to help others in similar situations. That’s something God can use if you let Him. Each of us has a unique life story, and that story fits into the story of hope and salvation that began at creation and reached its climax at Easter.

Take a look back at your life story and see what it is God can use. Turn the pen over to Him. And let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

Amen.

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

How God can use your life story: Falling action

I like “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I like the just-released movie adaptation, too. I may even like Miller’s 2009 sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” more. All three describe the elements of plot in a story; specifically, how God can use those elements in your life story.  So does this sermon I gave in 2007 about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations.

You can read more about this series here. And you can read the rest of it this week here. Here’s the falling action.

IV. Falling Action

There’s another passage of Scripture that refers to God as Author, and that’s in Hebrews 12:2-3. Paul writes:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at theright hand of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, and still He submits His pen to God’s plan. He submits to the cross. He takes everything that’s happened in His life up to this point, and He lets God use it. Because of this, we are able to share in the hope of salvation.

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

How God can use your life story: Climax

I like “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I like the just-released movie adaptation, too. I may even like Miller’s 2009 sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” more. All three describe the elements of plot in a story; specifically, how God can use those elements in your life story.  So does this sermon I gave in 2007 about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations.

You can read more about this series here. And you can read the rest of it this week here. Here’s the climax.

III. Climax

By the time I started college, Lutheran High School had lost interest in continuing the Minnesota trip. At the same time, we were averaging more than 50 kids each day at VBS and had grown too big for the one-room church. For those of us who had spent all our last few summers on the reservation, there was no way we were not coming back. Not when the memory is fresh for so many elders on the reservation of being taken away from their families and forced into Christian boarding schools, where needles were jabbed into their tongues for speaking the Anishinaabe language. Not when the suicide rate among Native Americans is three times the national average. Not when prejudice against the Anishinaabe is so strong in the communities immediately surrounding the reservation. Not when Minnesota Public Radio reported an estimated 40 percent of White Earth tribal members are addicted to drugs or alcohol. From our experiences on the reservation, we’d even put that number much higher. Few people on the reservation escape the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Many of the kids we work with exhibit symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

The root cause of these problems is hopelessness.

And so, clinging to the Scripture in Matthew that says, “In His name, the nations will put their hope,” we decided to file the paperwork to officially become a nonprofit organization. Pretty soon, we had a name: Hope for the First Nations. We had a board of directors; At 20 years old, I was our secretary. And we had a mission. Our mission statement is, “Partnering with the people of the White Earth Reservation, Hope for the First Nations is building unity through relationships with individuals in the community and sharing the love of Christ in culturally relevant ways.”

And so we got out into the community, and we started building relationships.

We left Mt. Calvary Full Gospel Fellowship and moved VBS into the Old School, which is now the community center. We went to watch our kids dance at the powwow, which surprised them, because they’d been told by other Christians their cultural expressions were “of the devil.” We planned trips to the reservation throughout the year, not just in the summer. We helped find beds for one of our friends who lives on the reservation, who wanted to help start a Christian drug and alcohol treatment center there. And we started volunteering at the brand-new Boys & Girls Club at the Old School. Since then, we have been given the blessing of White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor.

Our VBS is the same as it ever was, only now many of the oldest kids we taught in years past have come back to help us lead, and we’ve added a community outreach event at the end of the week. We make a big dinner, and the kids sing songs and recite Bible verses and show their friends and families what they’ve been up to all week. One year we had a little girl at VBS named Vickie who was deaf, and we were determined that she was going to be able to recite her Bible verses just like everyone else. So a couple of team members and I sat up late every night with a sign language dictionary, and I’d spend the next day signing verses at Vickie while the other kids read them. She had to correct me a lot. But I think it was one of the proudest moment of my life when she stood up with the rest of the kids at the community outreach and signed the Bible verses along with them.

Hope for the First Nations has also been invited to start Vacation Bible Schools in other communities across the reservation. Until 2006, we worked exclusively at the south of the reservation in a community called Pine Point. That year, we led another VBS at the north of the reservation in Rice Lake and trained a team from a church youth group in Nebraska to take it over. Since then, we’ve planted another in the town of White Earth with a youth group from Springfield, Ill.

We’re not sure what the next chapter in the story of Hope for the First Nations will bring. We know love is making a difference, and we have plans: We’d like to see a children’s home built on the reservation for the kids who get passed from house to house. But we surrendered the pen to the Author of Life a long time ago. We trust, from what He’s done in the past, that God has a plan for our future. We’re turning the pages as eagerly as everyone else.

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.