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
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.
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.
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.