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.
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.
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!