In 1997, Hope for the First Nations got its start when nine high school students and one teacher met the challenge of a mission trip to Minnesota to lead a Vacation Bible School.
Through All Nations Mission, the team from Lutheran High School in Springfield, Illinois, was partnered with Mt. Calvary Full Gospel Fellowship, a small church on the edge of the White Earth Reservation. They didn’t really know what to expect. They went on the “Minnesota trip” totally in faith that God would meet them there.
And He did.
The week proved to be a life-changing experience for the students, their teachers and the children who came. By the end of the week, 18 children came to VBS and had wonderful experiences, singing songs, making crafts and learning about Creator. So did the team. In the evening, they praised God, singing songs and praying together.
Harry, a medicine man of the tribe, called that original team Ogichidaquay, or “warrior women.” The team members knew they had made a difference … or maybe it was that God had made a difference in them!
Every year, new teams journey to White Earth. We have watched so many children grow. They are our friends and part of our hearts. Many have come to know Christ over the years. Many have come and gone, and our hearts ache not knowing what has happened to them.
Our ministry has grown as well. What started with a few teenagers now includes team members from across the country – and across denominations. So many children now attend our summer program that it has grown too big for the tiny church building in Ponsford, Minnesota. We’ve moved into the Old School/Pine Point Community Center on the reservation in Pine Point.
We have formed precious relationships with elders and community members and have been invited to hold a weeklong, summertime Hope Day Camp in six different communities on the reservation: Pine Point, White Earth, Rice Lake, Big Elbow Lake, Mahnomen and Naytauwaush. We also organize trips to visit our friends at powwow and at Christmastime.
And our team members have found jobs and homes on the reservation, making our vision of a permanent presence there closer to a reality.
Our experiences over the years could fill pages. We have laughed, cried, prayed together and seen God move in ways we could never imagine. Where the darkness is, His light shines brighter.
We who have gone share a bond – the bond of Christ in action. We are blessed to be a part of His work on this earth in such an extraordinary way. Our prayer is that the seeds that have been planted in us and on the reservation continue to grow. We are His lights and we have shined in Him.
We look forward to what He has in store for us and for the Anishinaabe!