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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!

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It’s all about the math…

2 teams. 2 missions. 32 missionaries. 35 teenagers. 101 children. 5,600 miles. All these are numbers that make an eternal difference in the lives of the missionaries and those they ministered to.

First there’s the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington State.  Twin Bridges Baptist Church from Alexandria returned with me this year to help  Fred & Vicki James of Morning Star Ministries clean the park where the summer ministry takes place. We also provided another Back Yard Bible Club for the children as well as prayer walking and another Fry Bread Fellowship.

Then there’s the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.  North Monroe Baptist Church from Monroe returned with me this year to assist Sally & Jed Jezek’s ministry at LaPlant Baptist Church with another Basketball Camp. Like last year, we had a Louisiana Night where we served Gumbo to the people of the reservation.  In addition to these ministries, we also added a Ladies’ Bible Study & Crafts as well as church repairs & yard work.

The experiences were multiple and read like an extensive list of the seven dwarves…tired, dirty, hot, cold, grouchy, happy, sleepy, scared, excited, overwhelmed, irritated, sore and exhilarated. But always blessed.

There are other numbers to consider as well….these are the numbers that make all of this possible.

18 monthly contributors to Mission Ventures. 1 church that provided 72 Bibles to hand out at the Colville Reservation. 1 family that provides my cell phone. 1 brother, 1 sister in law & 1 niece that take care of my dog while I am gone.  1 Mother that takes care of my finances while I am away. 1 Daddy that makes sure my A/C is turned on before I get home. 1 Friend who mows my grass out of the goodness of his heart. 1 sweet lady who provides me with literature and wordless books. An abundance of others who provide me with finances and prayers to make all of this possible.

Finally, I am providing all of you with 2 videos….1 of the ministry at the Colville Reservation and 1 of the ministry at the Cheyenne River Reservation.  I hope you are as blessed by knowing you are a part of this ministry as I am by having you be a part of it!

 

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.”

“Čhankú Wašté Ranch” or “The Good Road in the Badlands”…

My trip here started out a little rough. I was experiencing fever and an infection and my group and I weren’t sure about coming when we got the news that a deadly virus called Hantavirus existed on the reservation.  However, I gradually healed and the group, minus a few, decided to continue on as planned with their week working with the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

And what a week it was!  The missions group from North Monroe Baptist Church and I arrived at Pine Ridge Saturday and never slowed down! Let me start off by saying that they worked MUCH harder than I did.  Yes, I walked up and down the same hills in the same sun and wind taking pictures and loving on the children.  I ran errands as needed and I even did a little “troubleshooting.”  But they did the hard part…actually teaching, setting up, taking down, cooking, cleaning, etc. I could have NEVER done this without all of them.

I was sleeping at the church but the rest of the group were staying in tents on the camp property.  They spent about two hours putting the tents up and it all looked great!

And then we sat down to eat fajitas prepared by the best cook ever (and our hero) Richard…more about Richard later…

When all of a sudden a tornado like wind came through causing us all to run for shelter.  It was all rather exciting until we realized that their tents must have been affected.  We checked and this is what we found…

 Yep, all of the tents were down except for two.  So, some of our guys stayed in the bath house…some of the girls stayed in the camp owner’s home and the “elders” in the group joined me at the church…

True, it wasn’t the best start but God provided in every way!  There just happened to be a trailer on the property that had nothing but bunk beds in it so most of the group stayed in the trailer the rest of the week.  We lost a few more things that week because of the wind but none of us were harmed and that was a blessing.

This group worked HARD! They got up every morning and set up camp…activity areas, canopies for shade (there’s not a tree on the place!), and got everything ready for the kids before they arrived. They drove the bus and vans to certain areas on the rez to pick up the kids…

And then the fun began!  We registered the kids each morning…

And then moved on to a group activity.  We were blessed to have Brittany Bosely with us.  She spent several years working at Centrifuge Camp and she was great at coming up with our group activities!

 After our group activity we would move on to one of several rotations.  We divided the kids up by age and they took turns at 5 stations.  There was music, which was led by the very talented Carey Amos and his sidekick, Taylor Huey. Taylor also provided us with some great music to listen to as we enjoyed a little rest and relaxation while waiting for our meals!

We also had crafts which were provided by Brittany Bosely (a woman of many talents!),,,

 Then they would move on to recreation provided by the very capable Brandy Hancock, aka Angelina Jolie.  I think it is pretty safe to say that the kids favorite two days for recreation were the two days Brandy provided them with a slip and slide…

Then there was Bible Study.  We had Rachel King and Kelly (who also used her skills as a nurse to serve as our camp nurse) teaching the youngest group; David Tidwell and Blake Bosely teaching the middle school boys; Evelyn Tidwell teaching the high school girls; David McCormick, aka D-Mac, teaching the high school boys and Valerie Barley and Tyler Ainsworth teaching middle school girls. Every one of these wonderful people did an excellent job leading their kids and believe me, some of these kids made it difficult!

We had a special teacher with us this week as well.  His name is Mark Tommerdahl, one of the coaches at Louisiana Tech.  This man made all the difference in the world to the boys at camp.  They lit up when they saw him because he was an actual coach who took an interest in them…

We had snack time…

And lunch time provided by Richard Ainsworth (again, more later on Richard)…

At 2:00 we would load them all up and head to the church where we would have chapel time.  We had music, question and answer time with prizes provided for the correct answers about their Bible Study that day, a powerpoint of the events of the day, a devotion or testimony and games. It was wild and deafening.  We even had powwow dancing to the Native Christian music! I loved it all and I believe they did too!

Then came the hard part for this group.  After a long day in the hot sun working with kids, they had to start taking down everything they had set up or the wind would blow it all away. Then it was time to sit and visit while waiting to eat.  Some of us couldn’t make it that long…

This was a group of dedicated, hardworking, loving people. They were willing to go the extra mile and then some.  There were others I haven’t mentioned that deserve some special attention. There was Lee Ainsworth who did a little bit of everything…snack time, helping out with crafts, organizing our “kitchen” in the garage, loading, unloading…you name it, this woman did it!  She was tireless and NEVER complained.

And then there was our fearless leader…David McCormick, aka D-Mac.  He is the man who got this group together and he served as our campus pastor.  He’s got a heart for God and missions and I appreciate his work here so much…

And then there’s Richard Ainsworth…the camp hero.  The man provided gumbo, spaghetti, hamburgers and french fries, beef and chicken fajitas, pork roast, brisket, green beans, deviled eggs, garlic bread, salad, scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast and biscuits…all on a grill!!!  The man is a genius and went above and beyond the title of camp cook.  He provided the kids with lunch every day and showed them love even from the “kitchen.” Our camp experience was definitely better because of his skills!

My favorite day with this group was on Tuesday when we all got together after supper and had a time of worship.  I haven’t been a part of a worship service like that in a long time.  We were all hot, dirty and tired but God was there and we were moved in His presence.

Our love for God led to a love for these children.  Take a look…

I grew to love this group.  We became a family…united in our purpose to serve God by serving the children of this reservation.  The elements worked against us, sheer exhaustion brought on some frustration, but we all fell in love with…the feel of the wind on our faces at the end of a long day, the setting sun over the South Dakota Plains, each other, and the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I want to say a great big “thank you” to all of you who helped us bring Christ to these children through your contributions and prayers.  When the kids drove away after our final closing ceremony, they were waving and calling out their love to us.  You, the team from North Monroe and I made a difference in the lives of these children and one day, some of them will be Christ to their own people. I look forward to that day and I thank all of you for making it all possible.

I am now in a hotel here on the reservation.  I’ll spend a couple of days here resting, washing clothes, etc. before I head to my next “mission venture” in Montana.  I hope you’ll all join me there.

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