Sacred Road 2019
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
A week full of life
The Sacred Road Ministry
"The Sacred Road team reaches out to the community through: Hope Fellowship church services; children's ministry, youth ministry; Kingdom Kids after-school program; a variety of acts of service and mercy; recruiting, hosting and organizing one week service teams, etc."
Imagine living in a town without clean drinking water. Most people you know have experience some form of physical or sexual abuse. If you are a boy, you are expected to die a violent death before you reach your 30th birthday. You probably think I'm referring to a town somewhere in a third world country. South America? Maybe Afghanistan? I'm not. I'm talking about Warm Springs, Oregon.
Sacred Road is a Christian ministry based out of Yakima, Washington. They have been serving Christ and the Native American people since 2003. According to their website, "The Sacred Road team reaches out to the community through: Hope Fellowship church services; children's ministry, youth ministry; Kingdom Kids after-school program; a variety of acts of service and mercy; recruiting, hosting and organizing one week service teams, etc."
The Joys and Challenges of Being Part of a One Week Service Team
Sacred Road has two different bases of operation. One is located in Yakama, Washington and reaches out to the Yakama people. The other is located in Warm Springs, Oregon and is dedicated to serving the Warm Springs Tribe.
This is the third year I have been able to serve on a one week service team with Sacred Road and the second time I have served in Warm Springs. Each year I serve with my brothers and sisters from Redeemer Redmond. This would be the first year my cousin Josiah and my brother Andrew were coming with me to Sacred Road. I was PUMPED. In addition, other groups from around the country would be coming to serve alongside us.
We arrived at the First Baptist Church in Madras, Oregon where we would be staying for the week. We talked some with the leaders Evan, Hollie, Tomo and Tom. The four of them work full time for Sacred Road during the summer and manage each of the one week teams that come to serve. They are currently transitioning to serving Sacred Road year round. The four of them strike me as somewhat quiet, but insightful and kind.
Josiah, Andrew and I unpacked our things and set up our sleeping bags. Spirits were high.
The church has a gym, so we hung out in there for a little bit. It just so happens that this gym has no windows and is HOT. I broke a sweat just walking around in there for ten minutes. We relaxed and played Uno with our youth group for the rest of the night.
Someone mentioned that a team would be arriving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at two in the morning. I didn't think much of it. During the past two trips, I felt like I haven't been able to make deep connections with the other teams. This year would be very, very different.
During the past two trips, I felt like I haven't been able to make deep connections with the other teams. This year would be very, very different.
I fell asleep comfortable and peaceful.
The next day, I quickly met some people from other groups then went to church. Pastor Don had the congregation say the Pledge of Allegiance even though the congregation is mostly Native American - including the pastor. After that, Pastor Don called the kids up for the children's sermon. He encouraged people from the Sacred Road team to come up as well. No one did except for my brother Andrew.
That afternoon we had orientation. During orientation, they gave us safety guidelines for the week. They also informed us of cultural traditions and mannerisms that we should be aware of. For example, shaking hands firmly with a native can be viewed as aggressive.
Towards the end of orientation, Josiah had to return home. Jed and I talked during the drive for almost six hours straight about business. Somehow, I was still in a pretty good mood when we got back to the church at 2:15 AM even though we had to get up in 5 hours to work in the sun.
The first half of Monday went pretty well. We got up, ate breakfast and headed to the work site. Our team started painting the Warm Springs community center.
One guy would go over the bricks with a roller, then I would follow him with a paint brush and fill in the cracks where the roller couldn't reach. We got a lot done that day. I got to talk with some guys from other groups. I met Josiah who wants to go into full-time music management / production at a church. I also met Jeff, one of the leaders from the Pennsylvania team. More on him later.
In the afternoon we played with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club. I decided that I was going to be in charge of Kickball all week long so that I could make a deep connection with those kids specifically.
That evening I continued reading a book I had recently started called Sell It Like Serhant. I'm currently trying to improve my marketing skills and this is one of the books I've been going through to help with that. I stumbled across this line.
"Ditch the shyness. Don't be afraid to take risks; you have nothing to lose. . . So the next time you feel apprehensive about taking a risk, just remember that in the end, putting your phone in your pocket, getting out of that corner, and letting the world see how awesome you really are can take you somewhere bigger and better than you'd ever thought you'd go. And do you want to see where your story will take you?"
I put the book down and thought about that for a little bit. I'm not shy. I'm also not an egotist. I am so incredibly broken and not awesome. I don't believe that the point of being brave is to show people how awesome you are. But what I do believe is that God calls us to take risks in faith and I do believe that taking risks can lead you to incredible places. I made a commitment to myself that night. I renewed my commitment to pour myself out for Christ and for the people there. I renewed my commitment to taking risks and not running from uncomfortable or less-than-ideal situations. You've only got one life to live, make good use of every moment.
Later that night, we had another meeting. This time, my brother Andrew had a panic attack. He has a history of anxiety but had been doing great for a long time, so this surprised me. I calmed him down a little bit, then talked to Jed about it. Jed, Andrew and I decided to walk up to Safeway, hoping that some fresh air would help Andrew out. Jed talked with Andrew a little, asked what he was worried about. Suddenly Jed says "Andrew, do you mind if I'm really blunt with you?"
Jed launches into it. He says something like:
"Listen to me, God has been so fucking good to me time and time again. Either God is who he says he is or my entire fucking life is a lie. So here's what we're gonna do. Every time you have an anxious thought, we're going to offer it to God and Peter and I are going to FIGHT for you. I'm not going to let these lies sit here and feed you bullshit."
It was awe inspiring. So Andrew started listing things he was anxious about and we would pray with him while were walking up to Safeway. On our way out of Safeway Jed goes "Alright Andrew, we're going to keep fighting for you. What are you anxious about? Even if we've already prayed for it, we can pray for it again." One of the natives overheard us and said "Yeah, keep fighting Andrew!" He put up his fists and shook 'em like he was preparing for a boxing match. Then he said "You want to hear something?" We said sure. He suddenly lets out this super loud yell in the middle of the Safeway parking lot. It sounded something like "yeeeeeWOOOOP." I've heard some of the Natives do this before but never understood what it meant and still don't. Regardless, it made me smile. It was POWERFUL. "Again?" he asks, then does it again, louder this time. He says "You guys be safe and take care," then ducks into his car.
This was of the strangest yet impactful encounters I've ever had with a stranger. I felt like that Native-American man cared about Andrew's struggles, even though he had no idea what they were.
Praying with Andrew seemed to help some at first, but he was still extremely anxious. The next day (Tuesday) he rested in the van at the work site and at the Boys and Girls Club. My parents drove the six and a half hours to come get him. Tuesday was definitely a low point for me. Two of the people I cared about most had left the mission trip thanks to anxiety attacks.
We had a meeting with just our youth group that night and talked about how we felt the week was going. I tried to be there for my friends but felt distracted and just kind of off.
I remember lying in my sleeping bag afterwards and being angry with God. I had told Jed only two nights ago how thankful I was that Andrew hadn't had any struggles with anxiety for a long time.
Wednesday morning I woke up pretty tired. I hadn't slept well for three nights in a row. Regardless, I remembered my commitment to pouring myself out in service. I feel like Wednesday was the day that everything started to come together. The kids were really warmed up to me at that point. They would high five me and joke around with me while were playing kickball. They'd listen to me when I tried to break up fights. It was nice getting to learn more about them and just be there for them.
I also remember while working that day, I went over to help Jackie and Ashley dig up some weeds. All I had was a shovel, but the ground was dry and almost rock hard. I decided to go at it anyway. I went at those weeds for a good 15 minutes and dug them out most of the way but couldn't get to the entire root for the life of me. All I got were tons of blisters on my hands. I definitely should have listened to you Jackie and given it up. :P
On Wednesday, I also got to know Jeff better. He's honestly one of the most amazing and genuine people I've ever met. He's 51, has blue hair and an incredibly sharp, unique sense of humor. I don't think I've ever met anyone with a sense of humor like his. He's passionate, thoughtful and wise. I get this feeling like you could go to him with any sort of messy situation and he could sort it out no problem.
I also got to know better some of the other youth there. Calvin, Lucius, Everett, another Josiah, Eva, Rachel, Joe Sullivan, Nathan, Hannah and Joseph.
I finally felt like I was making meaningful connections with the others teams. I don't know what it was. Maybe I just got along better with those teams than I had teams in the years past. Or maybe it was God working his magic. Whatever, the case I'm thankful for every one of them and their unique personalities. I miss them already.
On Thursday, our youth group got to use a boat out on Lake Billy Chinook. It was a nice 21 foot Seaswirl. We had a blast inner tubing and enjoying the sun. I had quite the scare though at the beginning. On my first run, Jordan (one of the youth leaders) and I went flying off the tube. When we surfaced, I asked if Jordan was okay. He didn't respond and just kept gasping for air. After about thirty seconds he was finally able to get some air in. Apparently he got a bunch of water stuck in his throat and was trying to get it out. Most everyone took a turn on the tube, even Judah.
That afternoon at kids club, I was sprinting back onto the court after getting the ball after it went over the fence. My foot caught on a concrete parking stop and I tripped and hit the asphalt hard. The asphalt was covered in sharp rocks and pebbles. I scratched up both knees, both hands, my arm and my shoulder. My knees bled through the rest of the afternoon and almost all night. It sucked.
Thursday evening I played Uno with people from my group, as well as people from other groups. We played with crazy rules. Sevens let you swap hands with someone else and zeroes forced everyone to swap hands in play order. Twos forced everyone to slap the center and last person to slap had to draw two cards. It was AWESOME. I remember I was sitting next to Rachel. We kept cracking jokes and having a great time. I figured out that she went to film school and wants to create documentaries. It was pretty cool to meet someone else with a passion for telling stories.
On Friday, some of the Natives surprised us while we were working by bringing benches and tables. They set them up for us and made a delicious meal. Before eating, they said a traditional prayer song for us. It was beautiful and strangely haunting at the same time, but in a good way. The man leading the song, Erwin, repeated the song three times saying "Three is an important number. Everyone has a mind, heart and spirit." He also told us that they were praying for us and asking God to give us safe travels on our way back. I felt honored and extremely humbled. Apparently they hadn't done this for a group before. They said that our group (the other teams included) in particular did a good job of connecting with them, taking care to learn their names and learn about them.
On Friday night, Rachel, Joe, Josiah, Calvin, Eva, Lucius and I all stayed up until early morning playing all kinds of card games together. We played several different forms of poker and a game called BS.
It was an awesome night - one that I will remember for the rest of my life.
On Saturday morning, we said our painful goodbyes to the other teams and began the long drive home.
This week turned out way different than I expected it to in ways both painful and beautiful. I laughed, loved, lived, cried and hurt more than I thought I would. Life is good. God is good. Anyway, that's it for this blog post. I've been at this for hours and I'm pretty darn tired.