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.