Forward…

Not proofing.  Want to get this posted.

Yep!  It’s been awhile.  A lot and not much has happened at the same time it seems.  For starters, if you didn’t know.  I was home for a couple weeks at Christmas.  I had been back in Montana for about a week and a half when Adam came out for a few days.  We had a good and productive visit and then it started.  What’s it?  The winter crud hit in a couple of different forms.  As soon as Adam left I spent 3 or 4 days not feeling quite right.  I wasn’t sick per se, but something was off.  Kelly and Erika said the same thing at the time and that was after 5 of their 7 got to fight the flu in mid January.  My guess is I was fighting off something, but I’m not sure what.

I think I had about a week of feeling good, and then around the first of February something sinus/allergy related hit.  The worst of it lasted around a week, but it chose to linger…and linger.  I used all the remedies I’d been told to try including a neti pot, but I just couldn’t shake it.  Since I’ve been going to the Boys and Girls Club, I was being exposed to a lot of bugs.  That and a weakened immune system left me vulnerable to an attack.  And guess what?  I was hit hard.

For the first time in my adult life—and possibly whole life—it was my turn for the flu.  Ten glorious days of fever and being generally isolated.  I was basically able to care for myself for which I am thankful.  I did not want the Mitchells to take a chance on revisiting the cad.  They along with a Vicky from church did do a couple of grocery runs for me though.

While I didn’t feel like I was hit by a train, bus, or Mack truck, my tank was pretty much sitting on empty for the first 4 or 5 days.  My smeller and taster both died and my voice was operating at about half strength.  I don’t think I ever knew the flu was a respiratory infection.  It makes sense that certain populations need to be careful because of the risk of pneumonia though.  Other than my voice, I finally got over it and felt well for about a week.  But after that I’ve been dealing with slight sinus issues for about a month now…and spring pollen hasn’t even started!  When I started thinking about it, I realized the last 10 months have been the sickest I’ve been since I was a kid.  Oh what fun.

Enough about me though.  The biggest thing that’s happened affects the Mitchells and a family from church.  Two and a half weeks ago the Mitchells got a call from the tribes’ child protective service.  They were removing 4 children from the home of a church member.  I’ve spoken about Tiffany before, and the tribe was taking her 5 and 3 year old sons along with her 16 and 4 year old sisters.  CPS couldn’t get in touch with any of Tiffany’s emergency contacts so she gave them the Mitchells names.  They asked them if they would consider taking the boys for emergency fostering.  Initially it sounded as if the girls were going to be going to their grandmas even though she isn’t capable of caring for them.

Within a couple of hours the Mitchells were at CPS and all four kids were there.  They had decided to take the boys with the initial thought they would have them for 5 or 6 days.  When they left, they had 4 more kids to add to a 1,200 square feet home that already was seemingly maxed out with 7 people.

But what about Tiffany?  I don’t know all of the details, but there was initially an accusation regarding a return to drug use that started things.  Her mom and step-father lived with her and they play into things as well since the 2 sisters were removed as well.  The general care the children were getting is also in question.  The young ones all have dental issues that need to be addressed.  None of them were potty trained either (which is not uncommon).  Tiffany has tried before but had given up.

I’m not going to speculate what’s true and not at this point, but it’s now been two and a half weeks into what is now a 90 day commitment for the Mitchells.  They can opt out, but they are going to try and make it work in hopes that the families can be reunited.  Tiffany and her parents are all in parenting classes right now.  They have much to do to get to where they need to be.  The parents have moved in with grandma for the time being.  That was a tribal requirement and is actually something that is good for Tiffany.  Tiffany knows they are bad influences but felt like she had to house them once they lost their prior home.

So how do you pray? Wow!  Good and big question.  Because of long-term history, many natives don’t know how to parent.  Because of recent history with alcohol and drug abuse, most kids don’t have parents much less than one who knows how to parent.  Pray that Tiffany and her parents can be free from any substance abuse that may have happened or is happening.  Pray that they will learn and be able to implement things in the parenting classes they are taking.  Pray that Erika and Kelly will be able to mentor Tiffany now and in the future in how to be a parent.  Pray for Tiffany as she is home alone for now.  She gets to see the kids 2 or 3 times a week, but she is alone much of the time.  Loneliness can make you desperate at time, so pray that God will fill her with what she needs instead of her looking elsewhere.  Generally speaking, pray the same for her parents (Kris and Man)…and pray for their salvation.  Tiffany is a Christian.

Pray for the children—Andraidyn (3), Kasi (4), Zaidyn (5) and Kiersten (16).  They are handling things relatively well, but this is obviously traumatic for them.  They definitely know they are loved by their family but also by the Mitchells.  They seem almost torn right now.  Pray also for the Mitchells.  This is a huge undertaking for them.  Thankfully they have a couple of friends who have fostered and eventually adopted.  They are a wealth of knowledge and encouragement during this time.  The Mitchell kids also need prayer.  Their space has been invaded.  Their parents’ attention is now divided.  It is definitely hard on them although they are making their way through this difficult time.  I’m sure there is much more I could mention, but I think you can easily imagine things that likely fit the situation.

Vicky (I’ve mention before) is doing really well right now.  Pray for her as she starts a new job and for continued victory over substance abuse.  Lydia Wolfblack (with her husband Warren along for encouragement) has recently gone to Wyoming to start an alcohol rehab program.  Pray for her general health in addition to her ability to overcome her addiction with God’s help.

My storying is going fairly well.  I feel like the more I do it the better I am getting.  The problem is when I go back and read the early attempts I am left thinking how bad they are.  I thought I would be able to just replace a few words in my samples and it’s not that easy.  With diligence and inspiration things will come together though.

So long for now.  And by the way, the 3 youngest children are basically potty trained at this point!

 

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Pressing On…

Not a great quality picture, but it is a great quality subject.IMG_2674

I’ve been trying to decide what to write about for the last couple weeks…I’ve been drawing a huge blank.  There’s not been anything obvious that has come to mind.  I finally realized that many of you didn’t get to hear what I shared when I was home in November. So that is going to be my jumping off point!

First of all, there has not been a whole lot that has surprised me since I’ve been here.  I knew it would not be easy and it hasn’t been.  From building relationships to figuring out creative, positive and beneficial ways to fill my time, it has been somewhat difficult.  That doesn’t mean there haven’t been positive things happening though.

At some point this summer I think I shared that early on I realized I didn’t always have to be “doing” something.  It was okay to simply participate in whatever was naturally happening during the day.  What do I mean by that?  I listened and observed.  Who knew you can learn by keeping your mouth closed with ears tuned in and eyes wide open?  You don’t have to be reading a book, listening to a teacher or even asking a question!

I’ve been volunteering a few hours a week at the Boys and Girls Club for a couple of months now, and this story provides a prime example of what I’m talking about.  In full disclosure, this did start with me asking a question…a seemingly simple and straightforward question.  I was sitting next to 2nd grader Donna in a club van on our way to see a Montana Grizzlies football game when I ask her, “Do you live in Pablo or Ronan?” She replied, “We did live in Pablo with our mom, but she’s on drugs so they took us away from her.  Now we live in Ronan with our aunt.” She probably used a few more words but not many more.

So you’re probably thinking, “Wow! That’s sad,” and I would say you are correct.  But this statement didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Addiction is real and very much alive on the reservation.  The fact Donna and her brother live with someone other than a parent is also not a surprise.  In some areas here that’s likely the rule instead of the exception.  What was striking is not what she said, but how she said it.  It was stated in a very matter of fact way—the facts, ma’am…just the facts.  I didn’t hear or see any emotion.  It was something that wasn’t lost on the club director either.  After listening to Donna’s declaration, Ashley turned, looked at me and said, “Well there you go.”

I wasn’t really sure why that conversation was important, but when placed alongside similar conversations, a pattern began to develop.  I was conveying several stories to Adam one day when he exclaimed, “That’s it!  That’s their worldview!” As we planned for my coming to Montana, we had made the assumption that we needed to understand the People’s worldview as a result of their historical, native religion and culture.  Since arriving we had begun questioning the importance of this assumption.  Most people seem to know little of either.  Even if they “practice” something, that doesn’t mean they know why they do it (hmm…sounds familiar).

The worldview Adam was talking about is one that is fatalistic.  Webster defines fatalism as:  a doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them; also: a belief in or attitude determined by this doctrine – fatalism that regards social problems as simply inevitable.  There’s a 21st century phrase that simply states…“it is what it is.”  When one grows up seeing what seems like everything around them being broken and also having zero control in his or her life, it begins forming this attitude.  Unfortunately growing up doesn’t help.  Life is still broken, and there is still no control.  Why should one attempt to change things?  It’s not going to work.  Nothing will help.

This is their “new history”.  The government took their land.  The government, primarily through the work of church-ran boarding schools, did a generally good job of taking their culture.  In the process of dismantling culture, identity was removed and nothing was put in its place.  I don’t want to give the impression that everything is broken and hopeless on this reservation.  There are those who have jobs, and families do the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt.  There are remnants of culture they are actively trying to keep. It does seem, however, that brokenness somehow touches everyone—and it’s often severe.

Realizing that fatalism is likely a large part of the native worldview doesn’t mean it’s the complete worldview.  I’m not sure if this understanding is good or bad, but at least it is evident there are other elements.  For instance, there is a nod to Christianity—primarily a Catholic understanding.  There is still the influence of native religion.  Unlike the western, secular mindset that wants to push God away, if not completely deny his existence, it seems natives are still open to spiritual things.  There are those who want nothing to do with Christianity, but based on my brief time here, I’m not sure that attitude comes anywhere close to being a majority opinion (I could be wrong).  These are good things to know.

Where do we go now with what we have learned?  Acknowledging we definitely don’t know everything we need to know yet, it does appear we can begin what is known as storying.  This process involves using our current knowledge to choose biblical stories that are likely to “speak” to a person’s/peoples’ worldview in the hope the Gospel will be seen as quite relevant.  For instance, most worldview story-sets will have creation, fall of man and gospel stories included, and our setting is no exception.  But what else is needed?  Do we need to show that the gospel story in not just a “white-man’s” story?  If we say “yes” to that question, does including stories about the tribes of Israel or Revelation 7:9 address those questions?  And the process continues.

“But why do we need a set of stories to begin with?” you’re wondering.  I’m not sure how significant this is in our setting, but historically, indigenous cultures generally pass along stories and traditions orally.  On this reservation a bigger question is the reading level/comprehension of the average individual.  While children do go to school, until recently there hasn’t been an emphasis put on education past the 8th grade.  There are not always jobs to be found, and there is likely not a huge desire for them if they were available.  Plus, everybody’s doing it and they’re okay. (Okay in the loosest possible sense.) So why go to school?

Another positive with storying is it makes it easier to tell others.  If our ultimate goal is to have individuals sharing their faith and teaching others about Christ, stories are an easy way for them to do this.  It’s kind of like Sunday School.  It allows one to easily say, “This is what God has said, and this is what it means for you and me.”  Acknowledging it is the Holy Spirit who draws and saves people, this will make it easier for them to be a part of God’s plan.  Think about it.  What part/parts of a sermon or lectures does one normally remember most?  Stories…and hopefully stories lead one to remember the point or application.

That is the direction we are beginning to go even as we are still trying to learn more about the culture and worldview.  It sounds easy, but not as easy as one would think.  So that is a good place to start a list of prayer request.  Pray that we would be able to determine what stories need to be emphasized.  Pray we would be able to condense and write them in a way that is easily understood and impactful. Pray for the process itself to be easy.  Pray that God would open doors to be able to practice and share the stories…and bear fruit!

Continue to pray that God would pour down his Spirit to the Flathead Reservation to open the hearts and minds of the people to Him.  Pray for harvesters to be raised up and ready.  As part of that particular request, pray for local churches here to be open and ready for whatever you would have them do.  Pray for physical, emotional and spiritual healing through salvation that is only available through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Pray the natives will see the one true God, Jehovah, as the God of all creation and not just of white men and women.

Thank you for your prayers for me personally, Westwood family!  I’ll likely never realize how important they are in sustaining me during this time.  I will be flying home Christmas Eve and will be in for a couple of weeks.  I’ll hopefully see many of you then!

 

 

Tick Tock…

“Time keeps on slippin…into the future.” What a great lyric.  Where does time go?!  As children things can never happen fast enough.  “How much longer?” is a question that can easily be exchanged with the exclamation, “This is taking forever!”  As adults we find ourselves at the opposite end of the spectrum.  “Where has the time gone”, “Time flies…”, and “I can’t believe October is half over” are phrases that one seems to hear, or at least think, every other day.

That is definitely where I find myself.  For the moment I’m finding it difficult to believe it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve posted an update.  Didn’t the Westwood team leave last Saturday?  Oh wait, it was 2 Saturdays ago.  Looking at the bigger picture, where have the last four and a half months gone.  In a way those 30+/- day segments of time seem like forever, but reality jumps in and slaps me in the face with “what just happened”. Is it already time for bed?  Is tomorrow actually Saturday?  Is it really just over a month until Thanksgiving?!  While admittedly there are days, and maybe even weeks, that I just want to be done and over, the bulk of my longings is for time to slow down.

My time with the Westwood team flew by.  At one point while planning for their arrival, I assumed there would be some down time during each day’s activities.  Was I ever wrong.  We basically went from daylight to past dark most days.  While we were able to do a few odd jobs around the church, our primary purposes for this trip were prayer walking, building relationships and learning anything we could about the culture that may prove helpful in knowing how to present the Gospel to the peoples here.

So this trip didn’t look like what we normally think about when we think of mission trips.  There was no medical or dental ministry.  We didn’t work in an orphanage or help in a shelter.  We didn’t build anything-buildings or otherwise (although we did do minor church repairs).  We did no door to door evangelism.  What did we do?  We prayer walked/drove, hung out with kids at the Boys and Girls Club, hung out with kids at Pablo Baptist Church, held a native beading event with childcare for ladies at the church, ate meals at a couple of restaurants to determine if natives hung out at those places, assisted at a Native American Awareness event for school children at the Salish/Kootenai museum, toured a couple museums and attended a scaled down powwow.  Whew!

The next logical question is “did we accomplish anything?”  I suppose that depends on how you define “accomplish”.  Did we pray for the reservation?  Did we start or help build upon existing relationships?  Did we learn anything about the culture we didn’t already know?  The answer to all three questions is “yes”.  So we accomplished things that were all key purposes for this trip.  It does me good to think about and evaluate the week I spent with my Westwood family in light of those questions.  I can easily get caught in the trap of wanting to see results—or numbers if you will.  It is a slow process here.  We are laying a foundation that will take some time, maybe years.  That is why the prayer part of what we are doing here is so important.  We are asking God to take the lead in this endeavor and are trying to be obedient in what he asks us to do.  We want his kingdom to multiply and not simply be added to (although that is important).  Kingdom multiplication is a God-sized task and we are trusting that he will do it on the Flathead Reservation and beyond.

 

Moving forward, how do we pray?  If you’ve been to any missions training with Adam, you have likely been given a guide for prayer walking.  For those who haven’t been able to attend a session, it is basically as follows:

Pray for:

  • Open Heavens – Pray for God’s Spirit to draw and save
  • Open Hearts – Pray for receptivity and a hunger for Truth
  • Open Homes – Pray for persons of Peace to be revealed and for Gospel Hospitality
  • Open Highways – Pray for the Gospel to spread through neighborhoods, communities, etc.
  • Open Hands – Pray for God to be Honored and Worshipped on the Flathead Reservation

Pray for places of government and education.  Pray for places of commerce/business.  Pray for places of religion and culture.  Pray for places where people come together for community.

While most of you have not been here to be able to get a real sense of who and what for which you’re praying, you can still follow this guide.  And while you’re at it, use this guide to pray for your neighborhood or community in Cleveland/Bradley County.  Please continue praying for the individuals and families I have mentioned in the past.  Please start praying for God to release this reservation from darkness.  As I am able to talk to kids, I’m astonished by the things that very young children experience in the media and real life.  There is a fascination with horror movies and spirits.  And to most of us many of these young lives would be seen as horrific. Pray for the strong man to be bound.

Thank you for continuing to pray for me and the Mitchells.  Thank you especially for praying for the Salish and Kootenai of the Flathead Reservation.  While we may not see results or answers to our prayers at the moment, they are indeed effective because of Him who hears them—and answers.

Love you, Westwood family.  See you soon.  Seriously.

Time with friends

Wow!  Where is the time going?  As I begin writing, I realize it is approaching 3 weeks since I last posted.  That was definitely not my intention, but that’s where I have found myself.  With cooler temps arriving in the last week or so, I will likely find myself frequenting the coffee shop more.  With that welcomed event, along with a REAL fireplace, my writing should pick up.

I have spent much of the morning and part of yesterday preparing for our very own Westwood team’s arrival.  I’ve been cleaning, laundering, and collecting and arranging bedding.  It’s a bit more involved than it sounds, but you get the point.  I’m excited for the team’s arrival and am looking forward to both hanging with and doing ministry with them the coming week. I have already been able to spend a bit of time with Doug and Cheryl Coffman who have been on a cross country adventure to get here.  And on that note, lift a prayer for Doug.  He took a fall this morning and has some soreness and a bit of a shiner based on Cheryl’s text and picture.  My guess is his toughness will pull him though.

One of our key phrases for next week is “be flexible”.  We have some specific things scheduled along with things that I hope will happen.  Pray for relationships to begin.  Pray for relationships to be strengthened.  As always pray that our paths will cross with people of peace and that it will be clear to us when it happens.  We will be working at the Boys/Girls Club, learning beading with a group at the church and then the museum, attending a social pow wow, helping with Wednesday night activities, helping with some appreciation activities and whatever else God may arrange for us. But regardless of specific plans, one of the keys for this week is bathing the valley with prayer.  Prayer generally precedes movements of the Holy Spirit (acknowledging he can act whenever he chooses).  I know there have been prayers lifted for this trip and for our long term mission here, but there is something special that takes place when “boots are on the ground”. I have read several books on church planting movements, and prayer/prayer-walking is foundational.  Please pray along with us and for us as we pray.

Please continue to pray for the individuals and families I listed in the last post.  These are families that are already connected to Pablo Baptist Church.  I am thankful that we are having regular contact with Tiffany and the Wolfblacks at this point.  Continue asking the Lord to heal them and their families.  Victoria is our biggest concern at the moment.  Pray for healing in all aspects of her life.

Once again, thank you for your prayers and support, Westwood family.  Please continue to pray as we move into next week and the future.

Fire on the mountain. Smoke in the valley.

What a day it has been.  First, and most importantly, we celebrated Lilia Mitchell’s 12 birthday. She spent much of the day riding her mini horses with her friends and siblings.  Tonight we went out for some gourmet pizza.  She is a kind, tender-hearted and beautiful young lady who loves her family, friends and animals.  This was just part one of birthday week, however; she is waiting to have her party until a friend gets into town later in the week.

Secondly, for those of you that haven’t heard, Montana is on fire.  We have had smoky and not so smoky days since sometime in late July. Today when I walked out of my room, I could smell the smoke in the church hallway. It’s the first time that has happened.  Glancing out the window, there was a weird orangey brown look to the air.  The sun was shining but was struggling to fulfill its potential.  We’ve had gray, hazy days but nothing like this.  I’ve not really smelled smoked here in Pablo until today either.  It’s strong.  We are in a valley and for whatever reason, the smoke decided to take up residence overnight.

I don’t know if it’s fair to compare, but this current state of affairs definitely reminds me of what happened last year in east Tennessee, west Carolina and north Georgia.  We seemingly had fires everywhere then, and Montana definitely has fires all over now.  Montana is a LARGE state, but regardless, 68 fires is a significant number.  It’s my understanding Washington, Idaho and portions of western Canada are in the same boat.

The Flathead Reservation sits in the middle of many of these fires and the tribe is dealing with at least 3 fires of their own.  One of the reservation fires has been burning since mid July.  The closest one to Pablo is about 15 miles to the north, and there are 2 around 40 to 50 miles to the south.  Outside of the reservation, there are fires in every direction.  Because most of the fires are in mountain wilderness, there is only so much the firefighters can do.  There has been at least one small community that has had to be evacuated.  I’m not sure if any structures have been damaged.  In Glacier National Park, they lost the 100 year old Sperry Chalet.  Pray for wisdom and safety for the first responders and for the residents whose homes may be in harm’s way.

So no matter which direction the wind blows (which helps spread the fire) the smoke will likely be here at some level for the short term.  There is basically no rainfall forecast for the next 2 weeks.  I’ve heard from several sources that it will likely take a significant snowfall to get them under control or put them out.  I think the first snowfall here last year was mid October.  Pray that significant rain (without lighting) will miraculously show up before then!

There are several things for which to pray regarding the church.  Pray for members Harold and Bonnie.  They are just wonderful, godly people.  Bonnie finally retired from massage therapy a couple weeks ago.  The problem is she is a spry early 70 something that wants to do something beneficial with her time.  The problem is she is blind.  Pray that God will show her where he wants her to be.  Harold is around 80 and took a fall in the garden this past week.  It required stitches over his eye and he scraped a significant amount of skin off of his arm.  He doesn’t remember what happened.  Pray that he will heal quickly and that his not remembering is not a bigger issue.

Just as important, pray for Tiffany and her family, Vicky and her family, and the Wolfblack family.  Tiffany is a native who is a young Christian.  She is surrounded by substance abuse and has been involved herself.  We are concerned that she may have gotten back into it.  Pray that God would take away the desire and need for drugs.  Pray for safety for her younger sisters and 2 young sons.  Pray that God would save her family members that use and may influence her choices.

Vicky is also a young native lady who has been saved out of alcohol abuse.  While we have seen her some this summer, it has been a few weeks since she’s been to church.  Erika tries to keep up with her, but based Facebook posts (for what they’re worth) she is struggling.  Her family is not christian and she lives within the dysfunction daily.  Pray the same for her.  Pray she will not even think about going back to her old ways.  Pray for the safety and well being of her children, nieces and nephews.  Pray that God would heal and save her entire family.

The Wolfblack family is a slightly different situation.  The mom and dad have been saved for years and seem to be somewhat mature in their faith.  I assume there adult children have been raised in the church base on what I’ve seen and heard.  Yet they find themselves dealing with what many natives face—alcohol abuse.  Pray that God would heal those that struggle with alcohol addiction.  Pray for salvation for those who need it.  Pray for strength for those who are trying to hold their family together and do the right thing.  Pray for safety and security for the grandchildren.  All of these families are special.  Pray the Mitchell’s, the church and myself would know how to help them.

We have 2 mission teams coming in the next 3 weeks to minister and be on mission here in the valley.  The team next week will primarily be here to do some work around the church and parsonage.  It’s not the only purpose though.  The team leader wants to cast a vision to the team and church back home (which is in Monterrey, TN). Pray that God will unify this congregation as to what his vision for them is.

Our second team is the team from Westwood during the last week of the month.  Pray that our ideas and plans would come together as God wants them.  Pray for our obedience and best effort in whatever we are called and able to do.  It would be easy to come up with a list of to-dos around the church, and while there may be a bit of that, we want to get into the community and engage.  We will do this through prayer intercession, which is vital, but we also hope to meet and begin relationships with people too.  Pray that will happen.

I have been doing well recently.  My focus is definitely better although it’s still hard to get going at times being there is no 40 hour schedule.  Having said that, I am getting my reading list ready for the long hard winter, and there are some events coming up that will hopefully be relationally fruitful.

My big news is that I am going to take 4 or 5 days and drive up into Canada.  I’ve checked to make sure there’s no major smoke in the Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper areas.  I’ve been considering going after Labor Day all summer.  The smoke this morning confirmed my decision.  I’m hoping to be on the road by 11 Tuesday morning and plan to be home Saturday evening.  With passport ready, pray that my border crossing will be uneventful both ways.  Pray for safety in travel and in my sightseeing.  Pray that God would be close to me, that he would speak, and that I would listen and obey.

Thanks for your prayers, love and support!  Talk with you later!

This is real.

If you have a heart, chances are it has been broken.  I’m not talking about love/relationship broken.  I’m talking about the situations in life where you are confronted with a truly “unfair” situation over which you have no control.  There is nothing you can do to help, and your heart is heavy for those directly affected.

I met a young girl, I’ll call her D’Arcy, when I came out to Montana last summer.  She lives in a family that includes her dad, stepmom and a combination of sisters that includes halves and steps.  I think there are 6 in all.  I was able to form a connection with these girls and their cousins driving them back and forth to the camp we were helping with.  Fast-forwarding to the beginning of this summer, I went and personally invited them to Creator Camp that I helped with in early June.  The connection was still there, and I’ve seen them a couple other times this summer.

Early yesterday morning, Erika texted me that D’Arcy’s real mom had died a couple days earlier, and they were going to her viewing later in the morning. I knew I wanted to go and did.  I wasn’t really prepared for what I would see though.  We entered the funeral home about 45 minutes into a 2 hour viewing.  Erika recognized D’Arcy’s maternal grandmother who was stepping out to smoke as we entered.  Looking into the parlor, we saw a man and woman sitting separately.  Up front looking at her mom was D’Arcy…alone.  She stood there looking while occasionally touching her mom’s hair and face.  We didn’t immediately go into the parlor.  A lady went and talked with D’Arcy in between sniffs.  Grandmother, accompanied by a friend, returned along with a few others.  By this time we had went in and sat down as we waited for the right time to go and talk to D’Arcy.

Now would be a good time for a bit more background.  D’Arcy is the youngest of 3 children from her mom.  She is 12 and has 14 and 18 year old half brothers.  D’Arcy and her brothers had not been with their mom for some time.  I’m not sure if they saw her on a regular basis or not.  She had struggled with drugs for several years.  From what Erika had heard, it sounds like she had been trying to get her life back together.  In doing this she had decided to go to the doctor/hospital earlier int the week to begin dealing with issues resulting from an enlarged heart.  She didn’t make it out of the hospital.  She is gone at what we think was 34 years old.

All 3 of these kids have been involved at some point with Pablo Baptist Church.  D’Arcy seems to be in the most stable environment at the moment, but she definitely likes to keep her boundaries.  She is likely very much afraid to get close to anyone.  The Mitchell’s haven’t seen the 14 year old (I’ll call him James) since the end of the school year.  Erika was able to track him down on Facebook having no idea where he is currently living.  He knew his mom had died but had no idea when and where the viewing was.  It sounds as if he’s been staying with friends recently.  Neither one knew where their older brother is.

As we were waiting for the right time to talk to D’Arcy, James came in and went to stand beside his little sister who was still looking at her mom.  They began to talk.  I could see a smile from James.  At some point James put his arm around D’Arcy.  That was it.  That was the moment I almost lost it.  Erika reached across Kelly to get a Kleenex at that moment.  I was already heartbroken at seeing a 12 year old being the only one standing with her mom.  Her grandmother wasn’t even up there with her.  But now to see a 14 year old boy—not a man—trying to console his sister was too much.  I know life is not fair, but this both stretches and stresses that feeble knowledge.

I had questions about what seems like an extreme event, and I found that Erika did as well.  D’Arcy’s mom is actually from a tribe in California which is where her body will be going.  Other than her mom, I don’t think she had any family here besides her children.  She did have friends that came while we were there.  That partly explains the lack of  people there, but we are not sure why the grandmother wasn’t more prominent.  We are not sure why her dad and stepmom weren’t there to support her regardless of how good or bad their relationship with D’Arcy’s mom may have been.  All we knew was there were 2 children there having to do a very adult thing for a mom who had not been able to be there for them while she was alive.

Friends, don’t think this is the exception on the reservation.  I feel I can say with confidence the majority of children are not being raised by a parent, much less 2 biological parents.  They are with grandmothers, aunts, cousins or in foster care.  There are those with a parent, but it’s not the norm, and there is a good chance that parent is abusing drugs or alcohol.  Children are losing parents to suicide and overdosing.  If this isn’t the case they are losing parents who can’t or won’t care for them.  I don’t want to paint too bleak of a picture, but things are bad here.  It’s like there is a missing generation of young adults.

Dennis Betts and I talked with a lady at the museum a couple weeks ago that had some insight regarding this.  Her take is that people don’t have anything to believe in.  If I recall it was specifically in reference to religion.  Whether it be her thought of what Christianity is or native religion, she feels like believing in something would make a difference.  While I obviously don’t think native religion would give what is needed, Christianity definitely offers the only hope that can bring true healing to this reservation.

We did get to talk with both D’Arcy and James for a while.  From a physical needs perspective, D’Arcy is taken care of, but James is not sure where he will end up.  His paternal grandmother is still here in Pablo and she may be the best and only option.  Pray that God will put him where he needs to be.  If that is here where we will be able to minister to him that would be super.  Pray for all three kids regarding their spiritual needs.  They all need Jesus, but they need to be loved on for the sake of being loved on too.  Pray that we are able to be part of that.  Pray these kids’ future would not be affected negatively because of their past and present circumstances.

Beyond this one family, I’ve given a glimpse of what is unfortunately all too common here.  Although it appears to be a hopeless cause it is not.  It’s difficult and seemingly impossible, BUT what’s impossible with man IS possible with God.  We CANNOT forget that.  We must not grow weary and lose heart.  We must trust that God has been, is and will continue to work here.  So pray for God’s healing to come to the Flathead Reservation.  It’s the only healing that matters and will last.  May he use us and allow us to see at least of glimpse of his work.

I’m still here.

P1180098 (2)I’m closing in on finishing the piece I’ve been working on.  It’s almost 4 pages as of now. What’s that all about?  I wanted it done and ready for Sunday morning but decided not to force publication for the sake of putting it out there.  The vast majority of it is what I think is a cool story, but there is an application and I’m not thrilled with how that’s coming together.  I have been more inspired to write the last couple of days though.

As you pray this week, as always pray for salvation to come to the Salish and Kootenai of the Flathead Reservation.  Ask God to use me, the Mitchell’s, Westwood and yourself in his plan.  Pray that God would raise up people among the tribes who would help in this process.  Whether they become members of the body of Christ,  provide information that helps us understand how the Gospel can cross into the local culture, or become evangelists to reach their own, pray for God to send people of peace.

Pray for the Mitchell’s as they will be returning Sunday evening from spending time with family in Washington state.  They have had a jam packed and busy summer.  It’s now time to start focusing on the their kids getting back into a routine and returning to school soon.  Wednesday night programming will start back soon as well.  Pray that kids, both old and new, will return and that their families will come with them.

I ask that you continue to pray for my being able to focus and get back into a routine. This past month has been difficult in that regards and that has brought discouragement. American success is all about numbers, results, job completions, etc.  Being a part of that culture, I buy into those standards and it can be difficult to remember that’s likely not how things are going to operate here.  I KNOW THAT, but it’s still hard not to go there.

I think I mentioned last time that I am enjoying being here.  I’ve been able to do some hiking and other sight seeing recently that have given an extra boost.  This  area of the country is stunning even with the haze from forest fires recently.  I have also thoroughly enjoyed the different groups I’ve been able to work with the last couple months.  And it has been a joy to hang with and get to know the Mitchell’s.  Life is good.

If you’re on Facebook feel free to friend request me.  I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of my adventures here. My email address is onesiphorus777@yahoo.com if you would like to drop a line.  If you’re more of the letter/card writer I would love to hear from you at: Todd Johnson, c/o Pablo Baptist Church, P.O Box 68, Pablo, MT 59855.  I have been receiving a few messages or cards along the way.  They have been an encouragement and much appreciated.

We do have a couple teams coming in September (one from Westwood) that you can pray for.  Pray that plans would come together and fruit would be seen.

As always, I love you, Westwood Family!

Todd

Focus…Trust…

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It’s been too long since an update from Pablo!  That’s partly because of a VERY busy last week, but it’s also because this week I’ve been in a lazy and uninspired writer’s mode/mood.  Because of the busyness, it’s been hard for me to stay or get into a good routine.  Things should calm down in August, however, with only a welcomed visit from Dennis Betts on the schedule (as far as I know).

And speaking of him, I will be picking him up tomorrow (Saturday) morning at the Missoula airport around 11.  He will be flying into the “smokey” mountains of the west.  Missoula is currently surrounded by wildfires so I will be interested to see what things look like down there.  We are getting a lot of the haze here in Pablo—enough to significantly obscure my mountain views—but we are definitely away from ground zero.  The dryness and heat that normally show up in late July made their appearances in late June this year.  That means that we are a major tender box right now!

But back to Dennis.  He will only be here 2 and a half days, but he has a list of things we hope to accomplish while here.  I’ve not seen the entire list but I know we will be attempting to do some spiritual mapping in a few neighborhoods, learning more about culture at the Peoples’ Center (museum) and Salish/Kootenai College Library, and hopefully figuring  out a bit more on relationship building.

Relationship building is a key part of the work here and is much harder than one would expect.  There are many variables involved.  The Mitchell’s have been here 5 years, and from my observation they seem to be connecting with a lot of people.  But most of their relationships are still surface level.  Yet they have finally gotten to the point where they feel like they have been accepted as a part of the community.  Pray for salvation fruit in their ministry, but also pray they/we will gain insight regarding how to best reach the Flathead Reservation for Christ.

So please pray for a productive time with Dennis.  Pray for his safety in arriving and for our safety as we travel around the Reservation.  Pray for me personally.  It is easy to be/feel lazy not having a “40 hour desk job”. It is easy to get discouraged knowing things one ought to do yet not feeling they are in your wheelhouse. I find myself wondering, “Why am I the one here?” But I am here!  Pray that I will trust God and continually remember that He is the one in control.  He is the one who equips.  He is the one with the plan.  I am here for a reason…even if that reason is beyond my sight and comprehension. (Having said all of that, I AM enjoying living here.)

I hear that the church is corporately praying for me.  I know there are small groups praying for me.  I have had several individuals personally let me know they are praying.  THANK YOU!  I cannot do this without you!  And while we are technically not needed to reach the Flathead Reservation, God uses us!  Continue to do what you can for now, but also ask for God to show you if there’s more he wants from you.  Praying…giving…going.  He wants 1 or maybe all of these.  But there may be other things he asks.  Be open to whatever, and then bounce what has been laid on your heart to someone in leadership. May we all be amazed at the ways God uses the Body of Christ known as Westwood (and beyond)!

I love you, Westwood Family!  Hopefully I will find time to finish my “introspective” post I started early last week shortly after Dennis leaves.  At the time it seemed inspired!  It will be interesting to see if it still seems that way!

He is…

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.  I find I need time to write and re-write, and time has been in short supply lately.  While this isn’t as introspective as I would like, it’s an update on what’s happening here.  Will hopefully have more soon!

Hello Westwood family!  It’s been a busy summer so far and next week will keep up the trend.  We have a group from Washington state coming in to help Pablo Baptist minister at the Lake County 4-H fair held in Ronan (about 10 minutes south of Pablo).  From my understanding, the fair is something the Mitchells were thinking about dropping because they weren’t really reaching and making contacts with people, specifically natives.  That has begun to change the last 2 years however.  Couple that with its close proximity to Pablo and fairly large amount of tribal housing, and it becomes a good place to try and establish significant relationships for future ministry and missions.

As I have been asking most of the summer, pray that God would put recognizable people of peace in our paths for next week and into the future.  Pray for the strengthening of existing relationships as well as the establishing of new ones.  Pray for safe travels for the Washington team as well as our safety next week.  Pray that this would not only be a week of ministry but also a week of missions.  Pray the Mitchells, Westwood leadership, and I would seek and be confident in the direction God is leading in this work.  Pray for a unified vision.  But above all, pray that God himself would do a mighty work on the Flathead Reservation.

On a personal note, when Adam, Sarah and Ethan left last week, I realized I had been going for 19 days straight without a break.  I am someone who needs a break.  I was tired.  This also got me out of what had become a fairly decent routine (at least as routine as things are likely to get here).  As a result, this has been a hard week.  Pray that I would find rest and some semblance of routine for the next week and a half.  Pray that I would seek God and be filled.  On the bright side, needing a break helped ease the sadness of having to see 2 Westwood teams filled with people I love departing.  But even as I type this, I find myself getting a bit misty eyed.

Will you also pray that God would send local harvest workers to Pablo Baptist Church.  Pray for natives Vickie, Tiffany, Warren and their respective families.  They are connected to the church.  Pray that God would work in each life as needed.

Thank you for the prayers for the Flathead people, the Mitchells and myself!  May God allow us to see the effects and results of those prayers.

It’s Still about Him

Please be praying for these events which will take place in the next couple of weeks.  The first is for the Arlee Pow Wow which begins set up today but officially takes off on Friday and runs through Tuesday.  (Arlee is about 40 miles south of Pablo.) The Mitchell’s use this event to build relationships with the Tribe but also to simply minister by primarily going on trash patrol (they do other things as well though).  This is one of the ways Pablo Baptist and the Mitchells have received favor from the Tribe.  Pray fruit will continue to come from this ministry but also that it will build relationships that lead to Gospel sowing.

Beyond the specific part we play, pray for those in attendance.  I was able to attend the pow wow one evening last summer, and it is definitely something to experience.  There is an excitement and splendor to the dances and singing that take place.  We were there on a low key night too! But beyond the pomp, there is no doubt there is a spiritual element to some of the things that take place…and not in a good way.  Pray the chains that bind will begin to break during this time.  Pray the scales that cover eyes will begin to flake away.  Pray the Lord will protect us from the evil one while we are there.

Our Westwood team led by Curtis and Shane will arrive Sunday evening while pow wow is happening. I’m not sure of their arrival day, but a small team from North Carolina will be joining us at some point during the week. Pray for both teams safety as they travel and for opportunities to share the gospel while in route.  The primary purpose of the trip is to lead an evening “camp” Wednesday thru Friday in the town of St. Ignatius which is about 20 miles south of Pablo.  This is the event our July 2016 team helped lead.

It sounds like the teams are well prepared to serve and minister, but we really don’t know what to expect attendance wise.  This is a ministry event the Mitchells were given last year that had been hosted by a couple who lived in St. Ignatius for years.  The couple moved shortly after last year’s event.  Will kids still come without them being there?  So how should we pray?  It sound cliché, but simply, “Thy will be done in St. Ignatius, as it is in heaven.”  It’s easy to want to pray that tons of kid come and that many will receive Christ.  And that’s not a bad prayer.  Praise God if that happens!  But I’m learning that it’s not really about how many come.  It’s about who comes.  My prayer is for God to send those he wants to be there…whether it’s 1 or 100…and that his will be done in the 1 or 100 lives and also ours. This is God’s work.  We are simply trying to be obedient in being his hands and feet.

It is not about me/us.  It is about Him, and He is about them.*  So please join me in praying that both at pow wow and the kids’ camp God’s will is done and he will receive glory!

*So that I won’t be accused of plagiarism, I am attributing this phrase to Adam Hammond.  If he got it from someone else that’s on him 🙂