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You’ve come a long way baby…

When I was a kid they used to have advertisements for cigarettes and although the Marlboro Man was clearly my favorite (if you don’t understand why just google his picture), I still remember the famous slogan for “Virginia Slims.” Launched in 1968 (I was 5 years old), it was one of the most famous advertising campaigns in US history.

“You’ve come a long way” (sometimes with “baby” added at the end) was the provocative tagline for a new, thinner cigarette marketed specifically to women. The phrase became a national catch-phrase overnight.

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The advertising focused on the emerging feminist and the rise of  “the New Woman,” a woman who was independent, self-sufficient, and eager to demonstrate her confidence.

I’m not here to promote cigarettes.  I never smoked and don’t plan to start. Nor do I see myself as a “New Woman.”  But the phrase does come to mind as I contemplate the ten weeks, 7,800 miles and 140 hours spent in my car this summer.

From Louisiana to the Choctaw Reservation in MS.  From MS to the Cheyenne River Reservation in SD. From SD to the Colville Reservation in WA. From WA to the Hoopa Reservation in CA. From CA to the Navajo Reservation in NM. These, with all of the places in between, made for a summer that changed me. I dare say it changed my teams as well as the people we ministered to and who ministered to us.

The teams….Pisgah BC from Forest Hill, North Monroe BC, Twin Bridges BC from Alexandria, Old Saline BC and New Life International Outreach from Woodworth. Good people.  Hard workers.  Dedicated followers of Christ. My friends. 

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There was beauty at every turn.

The real beauty though was found in the people.  Strong, smart, able, broken, filled with joy and sadness…America’s “First Nations” people.  A people loved and desired by God. A people tied to these beautiful lands and to one another.

Then there are the children. For me its all about them. We had plenty of sports and outdoor fun.

There was Bible Study…

…along with singing and dancing in some cases!

There were always crafts for the little ones…

…along with bubbles, sidewalk chalk, face painting, manicures in the salvation colors…

…and snacks for everyone. Some even got a full meal each day!

Each camp ended with an awards ceremony…

…as well as a Family Night.

There is always a great deal of work on everyone’s part in putting all of this together. The teams, the churches we are working with on the reservations, those who contribute gifts, prizes, and sports equipment, those who contribute through prayer and donations…everyone has a part to play.  Allowing God to work before, during and after each of these camps is crucial to how each individual will be impacted.

We even had a couple of construction projects this year. Some of the guys from North Monroe BC built a Noah’s Ark themed swing set for the kids at Cheyenne River and a team of Pisgah men and youth built the front steps and deck on the front of the new church building that is in progress on the Choctaw Reservation. The team from Twin Bridges BC saw the chance to minister to the owner of the motel where we were staying by offering to repair the roof on one of the motel buildings. The owner is from India and is not a Christian but this simple act of kindness opened doors for our team members to minister in ways that only God could have arranged.

Some of the people who work the hardest get the least recognition. They are the cooks for each of our teams. Their job never ends. They cook for the team, they cook for the camp…they never stop cooking! They do an awesome job…sometimes too awesome. I was trying to lose weight and they were cooking like we all needed fattening up!

Joining our brothers and sisters in Christ in worship and fellowship as well as taking time to enjoy one another as a team is all part of the experience. From worship services, to playing games, having poolside devotions, checking out the local scenery, passing out flyers and eating out…we always have a great time and return home with new friends and a desire to return. Lives are always changed when doing this work…especially mine.

I’ve taken a multitude of roads in this ministry and I’ve loved every one.  Yes, I have “Come a long way baby,”  but the most exciting part is knowing that there are always new roads ahead.

The next road leads to Wisconsin in September and then on to the organization of the Christmas shoeboxes. I hope you plan on joining me!

Better late than never!

Christmas Shoeboxes. A Missions Fair. The Flu. Putting together the spring and summer schedule. A mission to Oregon. What do all these things have in common? My failure to report on any of them! My apologies to everyone for taking so long to update this blog.

Let’s start with the Christmas Shoeboxes.  Once again, many of you helped make this ministry a success. There were 291 boxes sent to three different reservations…the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi, the Colville Reservation in Washington State and the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

There were nine churches and four individuals/families who participated in this ministry and I appreciate all of you!

John Phillips, youth minister at Twin Bridges Baptist Church in Alexandria and some of his youth group preparing boxes for the Cheyenne River Reservation.

John Phillips, youth minister at Twin Bridges Baptist Church in Alexandria and some of his youth group preparing boxes for the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Will & Bethany Butterfield, youth ministers at The Gathering Place Church in Pineville joined the youth at Corinth Baptist Church on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi.  Both groups went on a hayride and delivered gifts to many of the children on the reservation.

Will & Bethany Butterfield, youth ministers at The Gathering Place Church in Pineville joined the youth at Corinth Baptist Church on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi. Both groups went on a hayride and delivered gifts to many of the children on the reservation.

 

The children of the Colville Reservation in Washington State were some who received gifts from all of you!

Now, about that Missions Fair.  This fair was a great experience thanks to everyone involved.  Randy Hales, the DOM for the Webster-Claiborne and Bienville associations sponsors a very successful missions fair every five years.  I was invited to attend this three day event after Randy Carruth was asked and unable to attend. I had no idea what I was in for and God used this event in a mighty way in my life.  I arrived in Minden on Friday and was amazed at the red carpet treatment Randy and his staff provided for the missionaries.

Mike & Susan Sanders

Mike & Susan Sanders

Then I met Mike and Susan Sanders.  Mike is the pastor of Old Saline Baptist Church and he and Susan were my sponsors.  I stayed with them in their home for the weekend and I can safely say I have made some forever friends in those two…and their dog. 🙂 They made me feel at home with their hospitality and easy manner and they are a big part of what made the weekend so special. (It didn’t hurt that they liked the A/C on as much as I do.)

On Saturday we all attended the fair where hundreds of people came through. On Sunday I spoke at two churches, Old Saline Baptist Church and Pine Grove Baptist. Both churches showed such generosity and I appreciate them so much.  After another day of red carpet treatment with dinner on the grounds and visitation with some wonderful people we ended the night with another meal at the New Ebenezer Baptist Church and a panel discussion with a packed house.

I came away with a love for the people and a new group to go with me to the Hoopa Reservation in California! There’s a lesson in everything and my lesson here was that nothing happens by chance…God always has a purpose and will reveal that purpose in His perfect timing.

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And then there was the flu. I came home from Shreveport happy, tired and…sick.  I spent the next month on medication for Strain A Flu and then a sinus infection. No, I did not get my flu shot. You have my word, I will next year though. :/ Nuff said. I only mention it because that is why I took so long to update you all!

The month of February was spent finalizing all of the ministry plans for the spring and summer.  Check out the page titled “Schedule” on this blog for an updated schedule.

BAAD smallerBeing B.A.A.D in Oregon. That’s Basketball Against Alcohol and Drugs. This is a tournament that has taken place every year during Spring Break on the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon for the past 28 years.

As usual I am always amazed at how God opens doors.  And I’m pretty sure that every time He opens these particular doors for me He is laughing under His breath.  I have finally come to just accept that this girl who cares nothing for and has no experience with sports is living proof that God chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. I am a missions mobilizer for Basketball Camps, Sports Camps and now a full blown Basketball Tournament attended by Indian Reservations from all over the Northwest. It’s obviously what I do. And every group I have spoken to about a potential ministry in the future have requested, you guessed it, a Sports Camp. All Biblically based but all involving sports in some way.

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Weston, Walker, Kim, Kelsi, Shane & Will Cheek

So when this opportunity arose I embraced it and put out the call for a group to participate with me. Enter my good friends Shane and Kim Cheek and their children, Will, Weston, Walker and Kelsi. They homeschool and can participate in ministries like this that come up during the school year.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect family to do this with me. They show tremendous grace under pressure, calm spirits, welcoming natures and a willingness to do anything required. In other words, they are nothing like me and I love them for it!

This mission was unlike any other I have done. We weren’t going in to provide the activities. We were going in to serve at this tournament in the hopes that God would open the door for us to return with a VBS or Sports Camp or whatever they might need. I’ll admit…my biggest fear was that we were driving 5,000 miles round trip to watch a bunch of basketball games. My fears were unwarranted.

Weston on trash detail

Weston on trash detail

We picked up trash, took up money at the door, cleaned bathrooms, cleaned the break room every day, organized rooms, and any other job we could find.  It took a couple of days but the volunteers and staff (all Native Americans) gradually began to accept us.

Working the check in table

Working the check in table

 

Shane preparing Gumbo

Shane preparing Gumbo

Shane and Kim even decided to make the volunteers and staff a Gumbo for lunch one day. That pretty much solidified it…we were officially a part of their “team.” So much so that the next night two of the ladies decided to make Indian Tacos.

Indian Taco night...notice my empty plate. In the foreground is the leader of the tournament, Lloyd Commander... a good friend and a brother in Christ.

Indian Taco night…notice my empty plate. In the foreground is the leader of the tournament, Lloyd Commander… a good friend and a brother in Christ.

For those of you who haven’t experienced Indian Tacos, I am sorry. You are missing out.  They are made with Indian Fry Bread (I’m pretty sure this was the same bread rained down upon the Israelites in the dessert) and all the fixings for tacos…beans, meat, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. They were nothing short of divine and little Kelsi had the honor of helping make them!

I was blessed by this mission. I enjoyed the people and I enjoyed sharing this time with the Cheeks. When you share something like this with someone a bond is created. You’ve slept with these people. You’ve seen each other at your best and your worst.  You’ve  experienced bodily functions, lots of laughter and a certain amount of hysteria from being so tired. You’ve prayed together, you’ve cried together and you’ve trusted God together.

I was never sure about what would take place on this mission because I wasn’t “in charge.” As usual God provided everything…a great team, open doors, a chance to worship with a sweet body of believers at the Tutuillo Presbyterian Church, a chance to observe and learn about the Native customs of that area and the opportunity to work with Garry Benfield, the NAMB missionary working on the field in Oregon and Washington State. More importantly, we now have an opening to return and share the Gospel with the special people of the Umatilla Reservation and THAT is what it’s really all about.

Oh, but the trip home. It was…memorable. The day before we left Walker got a stomach virus that had the Cheeks pulling off at almost every exit on the way home. On the same day I developed another sinus infection that went straight to my ears and had me pretty deaf and disoriented. All I could really hear was a rushing wind in my ears. It was like the day of Pentecost in my head. Although uncomfortable, I decided to count my blessings because I wasn’t experiencing what Walker was experiencing. I just decided to enjoy the scenery.

Devil's Washbowl in Idaho

Devil’s Washbowl in Idaho

Then Monday rolled around. I’d been driving home since Saturday so I was wishing God would give me the gift of teleportation because I was sick of being in that car. Well, He heard my cries. I heard a very bad noise under the hood of my car.

Let me explain where I was. THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, Colorado. Out there in the middle of nowhere it could have been miles before there was a place to pull over and get help. But I was right at an exit to one lone gas station.
What a blessing!  As I was looking under the hood a man came out and helped me. Not a mechanic, just a nice man. Again, a blessing. He could have just said he didn’t know what it was but he got water and filled up my empty coolant container. Then he checked the hoses and said my radiator hose had broken. I was feeling a little less blessed but still recognizing how bad this could have been.

He then went in and found out where I could take it after he determined it could be driven. Lord be praised, blessed again! There was a Napa Parts dealer and mechanic only 10 miles back in Flagler, Colorado. He told me to drive with the heater on. I did.

My metal throne in the middle of nowhere.

My metal throne in the middle of nowhere.

I arrived at the Napa dealer (very old school, greasy mechanic kind of place, which made me happy) safely and was offered a seat in an old metal rolling chair from the 1950’s held together with duct tape and prayer in said greasy auto parts store while I waited. It was cool inside and that  made me happy. Another blessing.

Even better is that there was one motel right next to the greasy Napa dealer.  I didn’t know if it was a roach den or a place where teenagers went to fool around but it was a motel none the less. Another “Only God” moment. So if it was going to take longer than expected to repair my car I would at least have a place to stay. As I sat on my 1950’s metal throne I contemplated just how closely God was watching out for me. I wrote about it on Facebook singing His praises.

It wasn’t long before the guy figured out that a serpentine belt broke and knocked a hole in my radiator. The good news was he could fix it. The bad news? He couldn’t until in the morning because he had to go and get the radiator. The worse news was it was going to be 500.00. But that’s ok because God had provided me with some extra money that could help take care of it.

My oasis in the desert

My oasis in the desert

I gathered the things I needed and checked in at the motel. It was an old motel owned by a very old lady and her 40 dogs and it only cost 49.00. The blessings just kept on coming. There was even a diner in the same parking lot and that was a good thing because I had eaten nothing and it was already mid afternoon. The food tasted awful but beggars can’t be choosy. It was either that or the gas station next door. By the way, each business I named is ALL that exists in this little town in the middle of nowhere. I digress…back to the motel.

Much to my delight the room was old but well maintained and it had a pretty, quaint appearance on the outside. Looks can be deceiving. I decided to take a shower and found that the cold water did not work. I put a positive spin on it and decided it was much better to have no cold water than no hot. It wasn’t scalding so it was all good.

A bed of bricks in my "quaint" room.

A bed of bricks in my “quaint” room.

Then I lay down on the bed. If I had been Goldilocks I would have run from the room. The bed was so hard that I was afraid that if I rolled over I would get bruised.

Then there was the commode. No big deal that the spot the commode was in was too small to maneuver in…I managed. But then the toilet clogged. Seriously people, I didn’t use enough to clog anything! Well, Granny and the dogs next door were  already asleep so there was no asking for a plunger. So I did the only thing I could. I stuck my hand down the toilet to unclog it. I discovered then where all the cold water was.

Just in case you were wondering...

Just in case you were wondering…

After washing my hands until they were bleeding I decided to end that day and go to bed on that brick someone disguised as a mattress. And then I saw it. A bug. In the bed. I looked at it and then swept it off onto the floor. Suddenly it came to me..there was a BUG in the BED. I then googled images of bed bugs. Yes boys and girls, the bug in my bed was indeed a bed bug.

Let me stop here and tell you a little tale about some mustard. When I was about 12 I had had a very bad day. I had managed to not let it get to me until I went to the refrigerator to make myself a sandwich only to find that we had no mustard. I didn’t like mayonnaise, I liked mustard. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I sat down on the kitchen floor with the refrigerator door still open and cried like a baby.

This bed bug was the mustard all over again. I sat down and bawled. Then I  commenced to tearing the bed apart to see if there were more. I was still crying you understand. But I was fast at work picking things up off the floor and checking every inch of the bed.

I found nothing else but I can tell you this. I just wanted to go home to my crooked house with the rotten floor.  I was tired of being positive. I just wanted to go home.

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Me losing my mind.

I was very aware that I got my wish and was out of my car. I was also aware that all of this was gonna make a GREAT story. I was even more aware that God arranged all of those circumstances in my favor. But at that moment, I could feel imaginary bugs crawling all over me and I was DONE with that trip.

I awoke the next morning with a much better attitude and no bug bites. I collected my car and got on the road. It was all over. I told myself that the rest of the trip home would be a breeze. I lied.

I discovered a few miles into that trip that I had Walker’s virus. It was now my turn to stop at most of the exits along the way.

It took me 6 days to make a 4 day trip. I arrived home deaf and dehydrated. Three days after I returned home I finally got rid of the stomach virus. 18 days, 2 doctor’s visits, a steroid shot, antibiotic shot and a prescription for antibiotics and steroids later and I am still as deaf as I was on day one. Perhaps this second round of meds will take care of it. I leave for Washington on May 25 so here’s hoping I can hear again by then.

You just never know. You never know what adventures await when God calls. You never know who you’ll share the adventure with. You never know if the trip will be filled with laughter or tears or both. What I do know is this…God is in control and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 

We don’t know anything about doing a basketball camp but we’ll do one anyway…

When I was in High School I flunked P.E. One of the many reasons was because the P.E. teacher was a basketball coach and all she wanted to do was play basketball.  I love to watch basketball but I did NOT want to play it…so I sat on the bleachers with a couple of other girls and watched.  Needless to say, when I visited the Cheyenne River Reservation last Fall and was told that what they really needed this summer was a basketball camp, I didn’t think much would come of it. However, we all know that God works in mysterious ways AND has a sense of humor so this P.E. dropout got a group together to do a basketball camp.

Don’t get me wrong…I didn’t play basketball…that would have been an attempt at too little too late…but I did recognize that God was calling me to make this happen. So, after arguing with God for a few days, I gave David McCormick with North Monroe Baptist Church a call and he began the process of putting together a great team. Now, David is not exactly a basketball guru himself so it was like the blind leading the blind here.  But God is like that…He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.  All He wants from us is obedience and it’s a good thing because that’s all David or I had to offer in the form of basketball.

David McCormick, David Tidwell and Coach Delmar Pippins proving that God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise!

David McCormick, David Tidwell and Coach Delmar Pippin proving that God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise!

North Monroe Baptist Church is a church that can be depended upon to put everything together, provide everything needed and work like their lives depend upon it. I knew this camp was in good hands.  David’s nephew, Blake Bosely, began working and training and so did Lee Ainsworth, another go getter. They were all working hard to provide Cheyenne River with the best they could offer…but God had other plans.  Two weeks before the camp began, through a series of circumstances that only God could have put together, Coach Delmar Pippin and his wife Lori came on board.  Delmar and Lori don’t even go to North Monroe but isn’t it like God to surprise you at the last minute?  Also coming on board at the last minute was Derek Griffon, the youth minister at Simpson Baptist Church, who is also a gifted basketball player.  Two weeks before takeoff God put together the perfect team.

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Front Row: Toni, Shelly Lockwood, Rachel Tillman; 2nd Row: Lee Ainsworth, Melissa Cassiere, Evelyn Tidwell, Jason Bonner; 3rd Row: Richard Ainsworth, Brittany Bosely, David Tidwell, Terry Tanner, Megan Williams; 4th Row: Deborah Golmon, David McCormick, Coach Delmar Pippin, Lori Pippin, Blake Bosely, Derek Griffon

As always, this team worked hard!  We once again had Richard Ainsworth with us to prepare all of our meals and lunch for the kids.  The man is a genius in the kitchen! He was sick most of the time we were there and he never quit working.

Richard and Lee Ainsworth

Richard and Lee Ainsworth

The group slept on air mattresses in the church activity building.  Each morning, we awoke to a great breakfast and the day would begin…but only after David and Derek sang “Who Let the Dogs Out” when they saw me each morning! 😛

We started the day by picking the kids up. We worked with Grades 1-6 from 9:30 -12:00…

Grades 1-6

Grades 1-6

…and with Grades 7-12 from 1:00-3:30.

Grades 7-12

Grades 7-12

Jason Bonner, Brittany Bosely, Lee Ainsworth, Evelyn Tidwell, Deborah Golemon, David Tidwell and Lori Pippin had the job of picking the kids up and bringing them home each day.

We began by checking the kids in….

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Then they would spend hours in a hot gym learning drills.  Coach Pippin was GREAT at holding their interest.  These kids wanted to excel!

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Toward the middle of practice Brittany Bosley would introduce a team building activity that was always a lot of fun…

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We ended each group with a short devotional from David and a testimony from one of the younger adults on our team…

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Then we would feed them lunch…

Jason Bonner dishing up hotdogs for lunch!

Jason Bonner dishing up hotdogs for lunch!

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Lori Pippin is dishing out fajitas to the older kids!

There’s always going to be some children who just don’t want to play basketball.  We were prepared for that. Thanks to my last mission in Washington State (and Twin Bridges Baptist Church) I had craft supplies, face paint and bubbles to keep those kids busy.  Shelly Lockwood and Melissa Cassiere were great about working with them…

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Sometimes the crafts weren’t enough so they would make do with hula hoops and alot of love…

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We also took the opportunity to introduce them to Christ with the “Wordless Book” I told you about in my last blog entry…

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Mrs. Sally Jezek, the Pastor’s wife and Megan Williams, their summer missionary from Alabama teaching the girls about Christ with the Wordless Book.

On our last day of camp some of the players were recognized for their outstanding abilities with certificates…Coach’s Award, Outstanding Player, 3 point Champion, Best Hustler, Best Ball Handler, etc.  These kids were so excited to be recognized for their hard work but this young man really touched my heart.  When the coach called his name, this tough teen jumped up grinning…his excitement was obvious.

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One award that brought tears to my eyes was a special award from the Coach.  Kansas Ghostbear had only made it to camp for two days so he didn’t get a certificate recognizing his abilities; however, he and Coach Pippin had a special bond.  The coach gave Kansas a Cypress Knee with “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” written on it.  Kansas was all smiles.

Coach Pippins and Kansas Ghostbear

Coach Pippin and Kansas Ghostbear

Kansas even had the Coach write down all the drills for him so he could continue to practice what he had learned.

This basketball camp was incredibly successful.  We gained attendance each day, starting out with 37 on day one and ending up with 52 on day four.  We ministered to a total of 65 children and teens in a community that is extremely small at a school that usually only has 4 or 5 graduating seniors each year.

From time to time I was concerned that we weren’t getting enough of the Gospel to them but God made me realize that we got the chance to show them the Gospel through our love and guidance in ways many of them never would have encountered outside of a basketball camp.  He also showed me that we had paved the way for the upcoming VBS and Women’s Ministry happening the next weeks.

There was a lot more to this week than just the basketball camp.  The first Sunday we were there, North Monroe sang in the morning service…check out my Facebook page to see the video.  I gave a brief testimony about Mission Ventures and the Pastor gave a powerful sermon.  One Native lady said she felt as if she had experienced heaven that day.  The beauty of the service brought new life to their little sanctuary on the reservation and with it a renewed joy.

After the service we had grilled burgers and fries with everyone and got to fellowship…

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Then, on Monday, I got the honor of a lifetime.  A lady who had been in the service on Sunday told her husband some of the things I had said about God using the Native American community and he came to the church to speak with me.  This isn’t a common occurrence and I am still in awe that God put me in that place at that time.  What we discussed is not something I can publish here but it’s something I’ll never forget.

This is Mr. Ronnie, the gentleman who honored me with a visit.

This is Mr. Ronnie, the gentleman who honored me with a visit.

On Wednesday night North Monroe again participated in the service with songs.  This time they also included sign language by Rachel Tillman.

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And then came Thursday night. We extended an invitation to the adults and children alike in the surrounding communities to join us at the church that evening for some Louisiana fun…gumbo, music, etc.  Pastor Jed feared that we would be disappointed with the number of people who would come…we weren’t!  110 adults and children joined us that night!

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The room was filled to capacity and then began to spill outside.

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The line for food was long…

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…but there was plenty for everyone thanks to Richard and Deborah! The gumbo was a big success as well as the spaghetti they prepared for those not brave enough to try the gumbo.

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After the meal we headed over to the chapel where we sang and shared stories of Louisiana and they shared stories of the reservation history.  It was loud and boisterous and crazy and wonderful!

We presented Sally and Jed Jezek with a framed photo of a Louisiana Bayou in the Fall that the talented Deborah Golemon had taken.

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We also left behind two more framed photos, also taken by Deborah, for the Jezek’s to give to the school and to a dedicated member of their congregation.

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Cheyenne River shares many of the same troubles that other reservations have…low or no income, health issues, suicide, alcoholism, drugs and spiritual attacks. I also see God moving here, just as I’ve seen on other reservations…proving that God has something amazing in store for the Native American community.

What happened on this reservation was a mighty work of God.  The Native adults don’t usually participate as much as we experienced here at Cheyenne River.  It’s also unusual to have that many teens participate. The ministry that took place here was nothing short of a miracle.

I’m so grateful I listened to God and pursued the idea of a basketball camp.  I’m grateful that Sally and Jed Jezek obediently answered the phone and invited me into their home to discuss the possibilities of working there this summer.  I stand amazed at the fact that two weeks before we left God provided a Christian coach so that these kids would get a “true” basketball camp.  My mind is still reeling at the fact that an unprecedented number of adults and children joined us in this ministry. And I am beyond thankful that David McCormick and the team from North Monroe said, “We don’t know anything about doing a basketball camp but we’ll do one anyway.”

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