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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!

Happiness comes from your circumstances but joy comes from God…

It’s been a while since my last blog entry. A lot has happened. I was home for a couple of weeks after I got back from South Dakota. I then headed out again in July to meet Open Door Missions in Farmington, New Mexico. The drive there was incredible…

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Colorado Plateau Mesa on Scenic Hwy. 550 in New Mexico

Part of the beauty of driving everywhere is the chance to enjoy what God has created and Red Rock Country is always my favorite!

When everyone arrived we had to hit the ground running.  We had to prepare for, set up, and begin a VBS all on our first day there! Thanks to Jessica Dubea, David Anderson and my good friends at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, I had the literature for everyone when they arrived or we would have been even more overwhelmed than we were.

We had VBS during the day.  We did this year’s Lifeway VBS, Colossal Coaster World, for an Anglo church in Farmington.

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Then, each evening, we held revival services and handed out backpacks with school supplies in several Native American churches in Bloomfield, Aztec and the surrounding areas.

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Tammy & Morgan Hanson handing out backpacks to some of the children on the Navajo Reservation

My mornings consisted of this…

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The three fifth and sixth grade boys in my class during VBS

And my evenings looked more like this…

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Loving these babies!

Bro. Lavelle Spillers,  a pastor in Homer, LA as well as a board member of Open Door Missions was our leader.  I always enjoy working with Bro. Lavelle and his wife Diane.  This year I got to room with their daughter, Pamela Mathews, and their two grandchildren. Poor Diane broke her arm while we were there and the woman never quit!  Bro. Lavelle was preaching, pouring his heart out each night.  They are both devoted and determined to share the Gospel with everyone they come in contact with.

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Diane & Lavelle Spillers

16 adults, youth and children accepted Christ while we were there!  Here are a few of them from Gospel Victory Baptist Church on the Navajo Reservation.

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Some of those saved at Gospel Victory Baptist Church on the Navajo Reservation

Before heading home I made it a point to visit Monument Valley, part of the Navajo Nation landmarks in southern Utah. It’s a place I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw my first western movie as a child.  I wasn’t disappointed!  Driving in I got my “Forrest Gump” shot.  You know the one where he was running and he just stopped and turned around and went home?  Here it is…

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My “Forrest Gump” shot heading into Monument Valley

Then I proceeded on.  It was hot. The sun was high in the sky.  It was dry and dusty.  The road through the valley is only 17 miles but is a terrible road.  I had red dirt covering everything…inside and outside of my car.  And I loved it all!!!!!

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A picture I had been waiting my whole life to capture!

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Monument Valley did not disappoint!

The summer didn’t end here though.  After a couple of more weeks at home it was time to join my friends at the annual “Gathering” at the Bible Baptist Church on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation in Wisconsin.

These north woods are as different as night and day in comparison to red rock country but none the less beautiful.  For as much dirt and rock as you see out west, you see just as much grass and water here.

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North Woods country

Fall was even beginning to show it’s colors in a few of the leaves and the underbrush…

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The underbrush was already beginning to change colors

I’m always at peace on this reservation.  There are cool, dry breezes that make the leaves sing and being here is like slipping back in time.  But the true peace that pervades my soul while at Lac du Flambeau is found in Christ who resides in these good people.

Our days were spent attending discipleship classes in the morning, gathering in the evening for jam sessions outside and services at night.

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Evening jam sessions

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The kids would just do their own thing during these jam sessions…

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Sometimes I would just sit back and marvel at the mixture of races coming together…all of us one because of Christ.

The best part was that the leaders for this gathering were also Native American. Pastor Wesley Castillo of Pine Hill Baptist Church and his wife, Paulette, their daughter and three young brothers from their congregation came all the way from the Navajo reservation in Cuba, New Mexico. We were blessed by what God did through them.

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Pine Hill Baptist Church from Cuba, NM

They ministered through music, testimony and sermons that left me in tears each night.  And just when you thought everything was coming to a close, the Holy Spirit would keep it going.  I won’t soon forget any of it.

The group of believers at Lac du Flambeau are strong.  Pam and Dar, Kevin, Mrs. Virginia and Mr. Ed, Mrs. Judy, Bernadine, Mr. Buddy, Pastor Bill and Bridget and their family…they’ve all become my family. But upon returning home I found out that I lost a member of that family.

Mr. Ed Seneca, probably one of the most original men as well as one of the most devoted Christian men I’ve ever known (Red, Yellow, Black or White), went home August 27, 2013.

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Ed Seneca…an original!

Mr. Ed loved Jesus, Mrs. Virginia and music…in that order.  Last year I sat with him in the hospital and found myself amazed that he rejoiced at being there because it gave him the chance to minister to the doctors and nurses who attended him. I’ve listened to him sing in English as well as in his native tongue and each time it left me in tears.  I recorded some of his stories and his songs because I didn’t want to ever forget his voice. I spent as much time with him as I could but it’s never enough is it?

My heart grieves for Mrs. Virginia but rejoices with Mr. Ed because I know he was dancing a jig at the throne!  It makes me smile every time I think about it.  I look forward to seeing him again and I’m grateful God allowed me one more visit with him before He took him.

Mrs. Virginia & Mr. Ed being silly after his stay in the hospital in the spring of 2012

Mrs. Virginia & Mr. Ed being silly after his stay in the hospital in the spring of 2012

This has been a summer filled with beauty, sadness, tears, sickness, frustration and overwhelming joy but more importantly it has been filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

I’ve traveled 12,560 miles. I’ve had the privilege of ministering and being ministered to on reservations in Washington State, South Dakota, New Mexico and Wisconsin. I never had to worry about finances and there were some obstacles but they pale in comparison to what I  witnessed God doing.  I saw lives changed, people saved and experienced God at work in my own life.  I was allowed to minister with some amazing groups…Pisgah Baptist Church in Forest Hill, Twin Bridges Baptist Church in Alexandria, Vicki & Fred James of Morning Star Ministries in Washington State, North Monroe Baptist Church in Monroe, Open Door Missions and Jed & Sally Jezek at LaPlant Baptist Church in South Dakota.

The best part? It never ends!!  I’m so thankful to all of you for being a part of this ministry!  I appreciate and pray for you all.  I’ll keep you posted on what’s next. Until then, I hope you are all happy, happy, happy but remember…happiness comes from your circumstances but joy comes from God! 

And the journey continues…

Here I sit…another night in a motel.  I’ve been to Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and now New Mexico.  My last mission for the summer is complete and it’s a little bittersweet.  I’m anxious to get home and see all “my people” but I’ll miss the days on the road and the scenery.  More importantly, I’ll miss the children I am leaving behind.  Some I will see again…others I won’t.  My biggest concern is that I see them ALL again in heaven! That is my prayer. Look at these faces…

How can I help but miss them!?

So, what now?  I’m picking my Mama up in Denver on Wednesday and she and I are going to explore Colorado.  But while I am waiting I decided to see a little of New Mexico.  I lit out today for a trip to Angel Peak Recreation Area.  It is the Badlands of New Mexico.  Take a look…

 It’s the same concept as “Badlands National Park” in South Dakota but the colors aren’t quite as vivid. There’s a starkness about this place that makes it beautiful and eerie all at the same time.  I was all alone except for this little guy.

We had an agreement…he would be really still while I zoomed in on him to take his picture and when we were finished he wouldn’t come near me.  He stuck to his end of the deal!

While I was there the clouds began to roll in and I even got a little rain.

And don’t ask me how but I manage to find a grave everywhere I go!

The world was quiet here and I felt small in a place that was so vast.

 It’s as if God just let His imagination run wild in this place…

…creating beauty in the wild and dark…

 …and then throwing in a pop of color just to mix it all up!

I probably won’t do anymore site seeing here in New Mexico.  I’ll take the day off tomorrow to rest, balance my checkbook and get my things together.  Then I’ll head for Denver and another adventure…this time with my Mama!  I’ll be glad to see her.

In the meantime, please keep us in your prayers as we travel and head home and even more importantly, please pray for all those we came in contact with this summer…that they will all find Christ and lead others to Him as well.  I can only imagine what heaven will be like when we all get to see one another again!

Blessings to all of you and I’ll keep you posted on what comes next!

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