Friday, June 9, 2017

Tiny House Update

After a long, confusing, and sometimes difficult process, we have a building permit! The foundation is now poured and here's a time lapse:

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

God Moves In Mysterious Ways

Kids Club is one of the biggest parts of the ministry of Sacred Road.  It’s hard knowing that we only reach two of the seven housing projects on the Yakama Reservation.  There are also three just a short drive off the Reservation.  One of these housing projects is the tiny fishing village of Celilo, Oregon.  For a while, Mary Granberry has floated the idea of doing a Kids Club at Celilo to get a bigger view and heart for Natives elsewhere and see a few kids there that used to live in White Swan. It was a long shot but we decided to give it a try last summer.  Here’s what happened:
We pull the trigger and load up the interns and try and do a Kids Club at Celilo.  I have everything loaded and we head out.  On the two hour drive, Mary tries to reach our contact, Moniqah, in the community several times without any luck.  We stop for lunch at a park, mull our options, leave the interns to eat lunch, and a couple of us drive ahead to Celilo to try and find Moniqah.  Mary, in an effort to preemptively dampen expectations, reminds us that summer school might have just started and the kids might not be around.  As we drive through the neighborhood, looking for house number 21, we quickly realize there are only 17 homes. Now we’re wandering around a neighborhood where we don’t know anybody and we’re strangers. Most Native communities are very closed and apprehensive about outsiders.  I’m fearing that we’ve colossally failed, but we stop at a random house because there’s a man sitting outside.  Chris Granberry talks to him, and, it turns out, Moniqah lives across the street.  Moniqah is home, her kids are home, and we’re pumped!! We tell them we’ll be back in just a few minutes and have Kids Club. When we get back to the park, we excitedly tell the interns what happened and I’m standing there eating my sandwich, when Emily Maxfield says, “Is that Jason?”
I turn around and see Jason, a boy from White Swan, who we haven’t seen in a year! I’m excited to see him and we start talking while his teenage cousins look on quizzically. While we’re talking, I find out that Jason is here with his uncle and they’re looking for a hose and a tarp.  Soon, his uncle shows up, and it turns out…he knows Chris Granberry because Chris married he and his wife years ago.  So, we’re all standing around talking and reconnecting and it turns out they are with the Yakama Nation Youth Activities, and they’re going to Celilo with a bouncy house, water slide, games, crafts, and food. This is the one day of the year when they do this kind of thing! So now, we’re even more pumped as we quickly agree to join forces and have a joint Kids Club-Block Party. 

We had a great couple of hours playing with the kids of Celilo, basketball with teens, making crafts with old veterans, hearing stories from elders, and being part of a party that totally surprised us.  Several elders invited us back. It was a glorious, amazing, blessed time. Heading into it, I was full of doubt and unbelief. I thought no one would show. I thought it would be an awkward mess. I thought we would be given the cold shoulder by an unfamiliar community, and a Kids Club without previous connections would crash and burn.  Little did I know what God had in mind that day.  And little do I know what He’s doing each and every day as I doubt, waiver, and dither about. 

Church For Drug Addicts

  On Sunday, we send out buses and vans and pick up people.  It’s a normal thing for people to also get dropped off by friends or family.  But this wasn’t a normal Sunday.  When Marlene was dropped off, it was clear right away that something was off.  Marlene was talking to herself, being quite loud, and acting strangely. We suspected she was on drugs.  It was about 9:30 and Church starts at 10:30, so not many people were there yet - just a few of us getting things set up.  We needed to do something because we didn’t want to have an intoxicated person around the kids, because they need to feel safe.  Mary Granberry talked to her and got her some coffee.  I went back to my regular routine of preparing for the kids. During Church, Sarah asked me to open the bathroom because the lights were off and the door was locked (a regular occurrence with the bathrooms).  After opening it, Sarah told me someone was in the shower and clothes and water was all over the floor.  My first thought was, “Oh man, one of the kids is taking a shower during Church!” But when I asked Mary about it, she informed me it was Marlene in there and she was keeping an eye on her. 
The service continued and at one point, we looked out the windows and Marlene was running around and tossing giants pieces of firewood.  Fortunately, the kids went back to what they were doing and it was a fairly normal Sunday.  After Church ended and after the kids were all gone, I found out that the police had picked up Marlene and dropped her off before Church.  I also found out that when Chris was preaching, she was yelling and cursing in the bathroom. She wound up outside so we could minimize the disruption and chaos.  Some of us on staff were a bit dumfounded, wondering, “Why would the police do that, instead of arrest her for public intoxication? What were they thinking?”

Later in the week though, as we thought about Marlene’s situation more, we were happy the police brought her.  She’s been involved with our Church off and on for a maybe a year or so. She’s been in and out of jail, and addicted to drugs for some time.  When the police picked her up early Sunday morning, she asked them to take her to Church, and they did.  As a Church, we work with a lot of addicts - current, and recovering. Most of the kids are children of addicts. I love that we are a Church for drug addicts, and when the police have someone who needs help, the Church people can help.  The Church is a hospital for the sick, and unless the sick people are showing up to get help, then the Church needs to rethink some priorities and purpose.  Ultimately we were unable to help Marlene as she won’t go to rehab, but Hope Fellowship is a place where broken people are loved, helped, and pointed in the right direction.  And while she wouldn’t go to rehab that day, Marlene knows we love and care for her and will help her when she’s ready to get help.   

Spinning Wheels

I rarely get to do work projects, so I was excited to go with Chuck and patch over a busted out window for a family.  The window was broken in an attempted break in.  Now, in freezing winter weather, the house was cold and the family asked us for help.  This winter has had the most snow in 20 years, and almost none of it melted.
And so the adventure began.
When I go outside to gather tools, I mostly just step into giants piles of snow and feel snow slip into my shoes.  All the locks for the toolsheds are frozen. Piles of snow block the door and all the lumber is buried, making it nearly impossible to get.  So I have to do what I’ve been doing all winter, shovel more snow. 
After a bit, I give up on the lumber and decide to get the work truck warmed up and over to the tool shed.  However, the truck is dead and opening the hood requires moving more snow and ice and tiny fingers to reach the latch.  I don’t have tiny fingers.  My fingers can just fit in the gap, and barely touch the hood latch, but it won’t open.  I try various implements from my car before it finally gives in and the hood is open. Jumper cables attached, I turn the key and…nothing.  The car won’t crank at all and indicates the battery is fully charged.  So something else must be wrong – the ignition switch, electrical something. I have no idea.  I abandon that truck and try another one, except it’s blocked in by a 3 foot snow mountain. I try backing the truck out, but I can’t get the right angle to drive around the snow mountain. In frustration, I turn to Plan B: Drive through the snow mountain.  I rev the truck and drive through the snow mountain, but the truck promptly makes a horrible sound, spews black smoke, and dies.  Now I’m full of anger, frustration, and fear that I’ve blown the engine. Thankfully it restarts, and Chuck and I load up our tools and head out to go board up a window.
The roads are icy, forcing us to drive there slowly and get to work. We are all ready to start screwing in the board when we discover that all five batteries are dead – every one of them.  So we have to leave the work project, drive slowly to the church building, get working batteries, and drive back slowly.  This project is taking too long, stressing me out, and we’re cutting it close on time because Chuck has to pick up his kids from school.  A short distance from the house, a giant farm machine armed with a massive pokey snow plow, heads straight at us.  Logically, I scoot over a bit so it can pass by. Of course, once we try to get out, the truck slides off the shoulder and is now royally stuck. I get outside and try to push and rock it while Chuck drives, but to no avail.  Then I lose it.  I start cursing: the snow, the truck, the farm machine that made us run off the road, the Rez, and pretty much everything.  As I’m doing that, from the distance comes the farm machine.  It turns out he saw us slide off the road, turned around, and came back to help us.  In no time, we are out of the ditch and the window is done with time to spare. 
On the ride back, I asked Chuck, “Does it ever feel like all we do is spin our wheels? We’re trying hard, but nothing ever happens.  You just keep turning and nothing improves, but only gets worse?” We talked for it a bit and that helped, but I had a Eureka moment the next morning when the Men’s Prayer Breakfast met and we read Psalm 53.  Verses 1-3 lay out that everything stinks: no one does good, nobody seeks God, and everyone is fallen and corrupt.  In verse 4 it turns: God will punish the wicked and scatter their bones, putting them to shame and terror.  And then it ends with “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”
When I’m angry, frustrated, and sad, it’s easy for me to look around and think: “God doesn’t care.  He doesn’t see.  He’s probably making everything more difficult for me, and laughing at my failures.” It’s like Asaph in Psalm 73, it’s easy to slip into the belief that evil people will win and they are happy.

But the truth is: God has sent salvation, is sending salvation, and will send salvation so that we can rejoice and be glad. We do spin our wheels a lot.  Life can be really hard and frustrating sometimes.  But we are not alone – God is with us, working things for our good and His glory, and He’s put people alongside of us who can hear our gripes and hold us up when we feel like we can’t keep going. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Christmas

Here are some pictures from Christmas (Service, Deliveries, and Sledding Day).  But first, here's a  Christmas video made by Davy Granberry.


Sledding Day:






Kids Christmas Program:


The bus full of gifts, foodboxes, blankets, and helpers:


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Mouthful of Sand

There are those moments that you completely hate, yet stick with you forever.  In the summer of 2015, I had one of those moments.  Every once in a while, kids have a bad attitude they can’t shake or hurt other children at Kids Club and have to go home early.  And sometimes, maybe once a year, a child has a complete meltdown, and I’m tasked with picking the child up and carrying them to the van that will take them home.  Deshaun was having one of those days. 

An intern told me Deshaun had punched another kid and was walking away from Kids Club.  When we found Deshaun, he was just a little ways away from the Park, sitting on the ground by a tree.  After talking for a bit, it was clear Deshaun wasn’t going to move, and I was going to have to carry him.  I explained everything and told him we would have to carry him, but he still wouldn’t budge.  Deshaun’s in fourth grade (2015) and isn’t really big, but he’s stocky and strong.  I could’ve carried him by myself, but when I picked him up, he started punching, kicking, flailing, biting, spiting, scratching, and throwing dirt.  It took me and an intern to carry him, as I carried his arms and chest while he held his legs.  It was one of the most heartbreaking days for me, because Deshaun is one of my favorite kids.  He has a rough home life, and I was convinced we had lost him forever.

Many of the kids here get into rough stuff when they are in fourth or fifth grade.  Some start running around White Swan at all hours, messing with drugs, breaking into homes, and causing havoc.  Many times I’ve seen kids in that age range stop coming to Church and begin a descent.  So when this incident happened with Deshaun, I was convinced this was just the beginning – his anger and rage were out of control, and he would hate us for having taken him home.  After talking to his mother, she said he couldn’t come to Church anymore, and we were also worried about having him around given his anger and inability to listen to leaders. 

Here’s a little background on Deshaun: at the time, he and his mom, her boyfriend, and three little sisters had been living for a year in a tiny camper.  They had cardboard over some of the windows and garbage bags over others.  The lot they’re on is their cousins, who have kids in a house on the same lot.  The area is surrounded with old cars, tall weeds, and garbage.  It’s a depressing place.  There are rough people going in and out of the house and drugs are almost certainly being used within.  Deshaun and his sisters, Church regulars, are living there. 

Deshaun is one of my favorites because he’s always helpful, smart, a regular volunteer for the stories, and often very kind.  When he gets in trouble, he’s sneaky about it, and it’s usually for messing with other kids or bullying.  During Christmas (2014), he got a tiny Lego set, put it together, and proudly brought it to Church, saying: “Joshua gave this to me!” When he forgot it at Church, I took it by his home, stood in the snow and ice, and knocked on the flimsy cardboard-metal door to return it to him as he beamed with joy and returned to his hellish home. 

After Deshaun’s meltdown at Kids Club, I was a mixture of discouragement and anger.  I was discouraged because I thought: 1. He’s not going to be able to come to Church again, 2. He’s descending into anger and we won’t be able to get him back, 3. When he does come back, he’s going to hate us, 4. I hate that his home is so rough, 5. If he can’t “make it” none of the kids will, and 6. Deshaun might be beyond help or hope.  I was also angry at: him, his mom, his family, their housing, and the way the Rez chews up and spits out so many kids just like him.  After we got back from Kids Club that day, I felt completely spent, and even though I thoroughly rinsed my mouth out from the dirt he threw at me, all evening I kept finding sand and grit in my teeth. 

How do you deal with kids like that? How do you go forward when the obstacles are insurmountable? At the time, I couldn’t see a way forward.  I didn’t know how to help or who to turn to for help.  But thankfully the staff here reminded me:
·         We still have hope because
o   God does miracles who does amazing things
o   God comforts the brokenhearted
o   God is bigger than us, or our sin, or Deshaun’s sin, or his family’s sin. 
o   God wants us to come to Him with our disappointment and sadness and broken hearts and tears.  We are called to weep and mourn and be angry and fight for things to be different. 

Chris Granberry often points out the importance of small short Bible verses and often cites:  “Jesus went around doing good.”  (Acts 10:38 NLT).  It’s a short tiny verse that reminds us when we don’t know what to do or what’s happening or how to help: Jesus did good things and helped and healed people.  I may not know what to do with Deshaun or have a clue about how to help or know what the future holds, but I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and follow Jesus as we try to do good and help people, and trust God is in control and loving. 

A few weeks later, Deshaun started coming back to Church, and has been regularly involved since.  Now he’s in the After School Program. For maybe six months (the winter months!!) his home life changed for the better but now they’re back in the same camper.  He, his sisters, and cousins are still regularly involved with Church, and I pray we can reach them and they know Jesus more and more.

Pillars Of Flame And Ash

“You know there are some children who aren’t really children at all, they’re just pillars of flame that burn everything they touch.  And there are some children who are just pillars of ash, that fall apart if you touch ‘em. . . Me and Victor, we were children born of flame and ash.” From the film Smoke Signals, 1998.
On the Rez, especially at Kids Club, you’ll see children that appear to just be pillars of ash. They show little emotion.  They don’t laugh.  They don’t cry, or cry very easily.  They don’t smile.  They don’t engage or do much of anything but sit and watch with blank faces.  Sometimes they’ll start a craft or play, but break down or quit at the slightest adversity.  These children are the pillars of ash.  The pillars of flame stand out at Kids Club, because they’re the ones who fight, throw rocks, cuss, destroy crafts, and cause general havoc. 
Pierre was a pillar of ash.  During the first week of Kids Club, I noticed Pierre every day at Kids Club.  He would sit on a wooden box in the middle of the basketball court and just watch.  Pierre, in 2015, was maybe four and not at all interested in crafts, games, playing, chalk, or much of anything.  (You see, Pierre lives in a rough home; a place that’s so chaotic Pierre's toddler cousin died in an accident the previous fall).  Several times, I approached Pierre and offered to read to him and sat beside him and read aloud to him and other kids, but he never spoke.
However, I didn’t think much of it – it’s just another kid that is hard to reach.  It’s tragic and heartbreaking, but I’m putting it in the back of my mind because there are lots more kids and I didn’t have time to dwell on it.  I also didn’t pray at all for Pierre, his situation, or the other kids there. 
On the first day of the next team week, it rained, so we had Kids Club at our Church Building.  Team members were assigned stations, and one guy named Carl volunteered to lead the reading table.  For 2/3 of the time, Carl had zero visitors – I felt badly for him, but someone has to man the station in case a kid shows up and wants to read a book.  Eventually, Pierre showed up and spent 15-20 minutes reading with Carl.  And then things started to change. 
Pierre connected with Carl and they were buddies all week.  They did crafts together, colored, tossed balls, did sidewalk chalk, and the most memorable thing: bubbles.  Throughout the week, I would be doing something, hear squealing laughter, and turn to see Carl running with his arms stretched high above him as he held Pierre in the air and chased bubbles being carried by the wind.  It was an amazing contrast as Carl is a big strong man who played linebacker in an SEC program, and Pierre is tiny.  But I couldn’t get over the change in Pierre.  He was engaged, laughing, smiling, joyful, safe, loved, radiant, and happy.
Psalm 30:10-12 says: “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper! You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”
For that week, Carl was able to be a picture of God to little Pierre and exchange his mourning and sackcloth for gladness, dancing, praise, thankfulness, and joy.  And for that week, Pierre was no longer a pillar of ash. 
Over the next year (2015), Pierre continued coming to Church and was noticeably different.  He connected with more team members, started talking, laughed more, and was happier.  He didn’t come around weekly, but was still regularly involved.  When spring teams of this year rolled around, I was pumped to find out Carl was coming back, and I shared with his team the story about him and Pierre and the difference one person can make on one kid for a week.  And on the first day, I watched with a mix of trepidation and exhilaration as the two reconnected.  Again, Carl made Pierre laugh and smile and chase bubbles, and they spent every moment of Kids Club together. 
Later in the week Carl shared that he loved hanging with Pierre and seeing him smile and laugh, but he was blown away when they were playing with chalk.  One day that week, they were drawing with sidewalk chalk and made a giant house and all sorts of things, when Pierre asked, “Where’s the slide?” Then Carl remembered – the previous year the two of them had a made a giant house, with a huge slide that wound all over the basketball court.  Carl had completely forgotten about it, but Pierre remembered the slide.  Pierre remembered the slide.
Back in May, Pierre and his siblings and cousins moved out of White Swan.  We still see them occasionally when they’re visiting cousins.  For every kid we work with, we don’t know what the future holds.  We don’t know if CPS will take them away, or if they’ll move to Oregon, or completely disappear with no kids or adults remembering them or knowing where they went.  It happens a lot – too many times to count; sometimes even the remembering can be too painful to retrace.  We don’t know what will happen with Pierre or if he’ll be in a Church. 

Right now, Pierre is five or six and in kindergarten.  I don’t know if Carl will return, but if he doesn’t, Pierre won’t remember his name, and probably won’t remember the fun stuff they did.  I pray and hope that he remembers the Church people loved him, made him feel safe and happy, and he finds Church people and Jesus one day.  As Church people, we can be an oasis for the kids, a place of rest and peace in the middle of a sun scorched desert.  Some kids won’t care, but others do and are changed.  Some stick around and we see growth and leadership, while others get scattered to the winds.  But God knows where every single kid went, and their story, and He will bring many back to Him and other Church people down the road.  And it’s an amazing thing to be a part of. 
Reading Time at Kids Club: 

Face Painting