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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!

Buffalo Gals…

I’ve never been a big fan of women’s meetings/conferences.  There always seems to be tears and hugs, prayer circles and holding hands and lots of  “touchy feely” emotions running high. I quit saying I wasn’t a fan because a good friend at the Baptist Building told me she wished I would quit saying that…of course, she worked in women’s ministry so who can blame her?  Because I didn’t want to offend her (and because I’m a BIG people pleaser-that’s for another post) I did quit saying it but it sure didn’t stop me from feeling it.

So, God being who He is (He likes to mess with me a lot), He sent me to….you guessed it….a women’s conference. But to make it even more interesting He decided to mess with me just a little more and have me work on something else I don’t like…repetition.  See, I not only helped with the women’s conference, I also helped with the women’s prison ministry and the Juvenile Detention Center girls’ ministry and they were all the exact same teachings. Lots of repetition.

It was all as I expected. Lots of tears and hugs…

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Prayer Circles…

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And the same lesson three times. (I only have photos from the first conference because I couldn’t take pictures at the prison or the Juvenile Detention Center)

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God also put me in more uncomfortable territory. I shared a trailer with two very Godly women. Linda Grajewsky, pictured above, has a ministry called Gaits to Heaven and this was her mission.  She does Horse and Bible Camps for kids and Recovery Ministries for women and girls.  I met her four years ago here at Pine Ridge and she has become a good friend.  With her was Pam Hollaway.  I didn’t know Pam before this trip but I’ve made a forever friend there as well.

So, what was the problem? Why was I uncomfortable?  Well, I’m a pretty jovial person and I love Jesus. I love to tell others about Jesus. I enjoy quiet time with Jesus. I want Jesus to be a part of all of my life. But, I don’t hold hands every time I pray with others.  And I don’t break out into song. I don’t wake up all happy, happy, happy either.  And, right or wrong, I don’t have a spiritual attitude all day long. These two do and are all of these things!  I told Pam that if I had to hold hands and pray again that I was going to make a scene! Yes, I know, I wasn’t being very holy. But then again, have you met me? Some of you may remember that when praying over me I won’t allow you to put your hand on my head because it might mess my hair up. And all the hand holding made me want hand sanitizer desperately!

Now that we have confirmed that I am not very “touchy feely” let me go on to say this. I needed this time at Pine Ridge.  I needed to be made to feel uncomfortable. From the run down trailer with the leaks and spiders that frolicked in the tub all night…

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To sharing it with these two horse women who are happy ALL OF THE TIME…

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To lots of hand holding and hugs.

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I needed it all.  I needed to hear those same lessons three times because God spoke to me about different things each time. I needed to spend time with ladies who are able to break out into song (someplace other than the car or the shower) just because they are happy to be alive and children of God.  I needed to knock down a few walls and be willing to hold hands in as many prayer circles as God (or Linda) put together. I needed all of it because God’s not finished with me yet. If He were He would take me on home!

I wasn’t the only one who needed it. For the first time, the ladies of the Pine Ridge Reservation and the ladies of the Cheyenne River Reservation (only 3 hours apart) came together to pray and learn and to begin a healing process that has been a long time coming.

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The young women in the prison needed it to prepare them to depend on Jesus while in prison and when they return home to bad situations.

The girls at the detention center needed it for the same reasons and to help them avoid a future that could consist of more prison time.

There’s a lot of hatred on these reservations…

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and a lot of hopelessness.

Waiting for the bars to open or for the drunk to wear off before they head back...

Waiting for the bars to open or for the drunk to wear off before they head back…

But there’s also a lot of wisdom…

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a great deal of love…

Restoration Church on Sunday...a Native church with a white pastor recognizing that all men are the same!

Restoration Church on Sunday…a Native church with a white pastor recognizing that all men are the same!

people with servant’s hearts…

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LaDonna, a Lakota Native, preparing the meal for our ladies.

and an abundance of natural beauty.

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There are lots of lessons to be learned here…for myself and for you as well.  Do you need to step out of your comfort zone?  Do you recognize that God has things for you if you will step out of that comfort zone?  Do you avoid certain people or circumstances because they are not who or what you are comfortable with and if so, are you willing to let God break you? Are you willing to be “Broken bread and poured out wine” for Jesus?

These are things God is doing in my heart and life. God is in control of my life and I, for one, am happy He put me here at this moment in time to share it with these two.

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Just call us the “Buffalo Gals!”

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! 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

The first movie I ever remember seeing was the “spaghetti western,” The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The movie was filmed in 1966 which means I was three years old at the time but I distinctly remember watching this Clint Eastwood film. It was my first taste of the “American West” even though it was filmed in Italy.

I’ve been searching for the personification of that movie ever since. I wanted to experience the dry desert air, the red dirt, the sagebrush.  I’ve been lots of places that had those things but until last week, I had never felt like I had stepped into another world. Forgive me but I am going to be shamelessly melodramatic here.

While in Utah last week,  I had the pleasure of experiencing Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest on my way to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.  I was so excited because the rocks were flaming orange and the sky was developing some dark clouds which brought many great photo opportunities…

Then the sun began to set which made the rocks even more brilliant…

Needless to say, I was pretty excited!  Then there was Bryce Canyon National Park.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been but the natural beauty and strangeness of the place is magical…

I was even blessed with a beautiful sunset as I left the park…

But…and here is where the melodrama begins…it wasn’t until the next day on my way to Kodachrome Basin State Park that I felt as if I had finally found “it.”  The American West I had been looking for all these years.

The difference lay in the fact that the drive there was very isolated.  Everyone else was at one of Utah’s 5 National Parks, while I was on my way to a state park.  No RV’s filled with families clogging the road…just me and a stray car every once in a while.  The drive itself was what was so exceptional…I had finally stepped into the American West.  The air was dry, the breeze was hot, the sun was high.  You could see forever on a day like this.

There was evidence of  past life here in this desert place…

But I was all alone on a planet I had created in my mind a long time ago.

My arrival at the state park was even more satisfying.  Once again, it was just me surrounded by sagebrush, red rocks, blue skies and sunshine!

 

Never have I felt so satisfied.  Well, maybe I have but at that moment is was the best feeling ever!

Then reality came crashing in.  I got back in my car and found that the motor had gone out in the window on the driver’s side. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the window was up but it wasn’t.  Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I was currently in my own little fairytale world…I had to get that window fixed!

First I began to beg God to just get it to go up!  That lasted for a few miles, especially when it started to rain.  Then, when I saw that He wasn’t going to work things out that way I consulted my GPS and drove to a mechanic…praying all the way that he would know what to do, that he would be open and that he would be fair when he charged me.

All I can say is, “God is good.”  The mechanic the GPS sent me to was the only one in a 50 mile radius that had the capability to know what to do, he was open at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday in a town smaller than Woodworth and he only charged me 25.00.  My prayers were answered!  Of course now I can’t roll my window down until I get home and have the motor replaced but that’s okay…I won’t get wet or hot and my belongings are safe.

Now I have spent the last few days in New Mexico working with the good people here in Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield.  We’ve had two days of VBS and 8 children have been saved so far!  I’m responsible for their Bible Study and Missions lesson. We’ve had two revival services, one of which was at a Navajo church on the reservation here.  I got to share my testimony at that service and it was such an honor.

So…I guess I would say that no matter how excited I was about finding what I considered “it”,  this is the true life experience…the “it” that really matters…sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeing new believers join the family!

For now, that’s the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.  I’ll share the pictures of this VBS and these revival services on my next post.  Until then, I pray that you enjoy your “journey” as much as I am enjoying mine.

 

 

 

It’s been a great few days on the rez…

Today we had three children show up for Sunday School here on the rez!  That may not sound like many to you but believe me, it’s a big deal.  The children also had a knowledge of Jesus and what He did on the cross and that was encouraging as well!

Wednesday night there were three of us that met for prayer meeting. We three discussed enough to make us all go home and continue seeking God for truth.  That’s the kind of Bible study I love…when everyone contributes and learns from each other.

Mr. Ed is still in the hospital but doing much better…the young lady who was beat up Wednesday is also better.  She is still pretty traumatized but that is starting to heal as well.

I made a trip to see my friend, Bernadine and her family on the Menominee reservation.  Bernie is a believer on a reservation with very few believers but she doesn’t let that stop her.  She’s got a love for the Lord and is teaching her niece and nephews about Jesus and the Word.  I’m so proud of how determined she is to follow through!  During our visit we took a trip to the cemetery (yep, another one!) to visit her mother’s grave.  I got this shot of Bernie with her niece Evian and her nephews Jarel and Jayquan while there.

The last few days have been beautiful so I took a quick trip to Madeline Island. There were very few people there since summer hasn’t arrived but I like it that way.  It was just me and beautiful Lake Superior.

I came upon an old church and…..another cemetery while on the island.

Right before I left to catch the ferry back to the mainland, I came upon this incredible wooded area.  It looked to me as if they were the woods straight from a fairy tale… Hey, your imagination runs wild when you are all alone on a practically deserted island!

Then, on the way home, I discovered this crazy collectibles shop. It was closed but all I wanted were some good photos! Here’s one of them…

Finally, I made a mad dash home so that I could capture the sun setting on Lac du Flambeau.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s another look…

Then, as I was about to walk away, this caught my eye.  Dare I say…smoke signals?  You decide!

 So, all in all it has been a great week!!!  I can’t wait to see what next week has in store for us here on the rez.

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