Locals Serving Locals Missions in the Yakama Nation

This spring break was a major mission emphasis. The Walla Walla City Church and Upper Columbia Academy joined forces totaling approximately 65 people who traveled to the Yakama Nation for a mission trip. They began arriving at the All Nations Center Monday March 15 and stayed through Thursday March 25.

This is the second year the Walla Walla City Church has come to the Yakama Reservation. Last year when their trip to Mexico was canceled, they began looking for other options. Coming here was a good option because it is close to home and keeps the expenses down, letting them spend money on the project instead of travel expenses.

There are many elderly on the reservation who live in homes that are in desperate need of repair. Often they do not have an income that will support minor home repair let alone major home repair. Volunteer Chore Services (VCS) is an organization that administers state funding for elder care in Washington State. Over the last 3 years, the All Nations Center has worked with our local coordinator, Tom Blackeagle, to find opportunities to help those who need a boost.

When Pastor Doug Brown called to see if there were any opportunities for mission work here, I called Tom Blackeagle. We soon met and began planning. As Pastor Doug began describing the amount of work that his group was capable of, Tom shared his skepticism. When all was said and done in 2009, the Walla Walla City Church worked on 18 separate homes which included the following tasks, five roofs stripped and re-shingled, two kitchens remodeled, 11 wood sheds built and wood cut, split and stacked, three porches built or repaired, two bathrooms remodeled, debris hauled to the dump, four houses painted, and a Vacation Bible School.

This year the planning was streamlined significantly as a result of what we learned from the previous year. This year several All Nations Center members joined the work force and we added a couple of projects outside the VCS program. One of them was to build cabinets for our local homeless shelter, Noah’s Ark. The Upper Columbia Academy students raised the funds for that project.

The other non-VCS project the All Nations Center took on was Tom Blackeagle’s house. Tom has a long history of working tirelessly for his community. He had been working on his house for a number of years and it still had not been sheet rocked. The congregation, together with Tom’s coworkers in his office, Yakama Area Agency On Aging, raised $2,300.00 to sheetrock, finish the plumbing, and prime the walls. Walla Walla City Church bought another $800.00 worth of paint and applied the first coat. Tom has given so much to his community, it was an honor for all of us to give back to him in a small way.

The projects worked on through VCS this year totaled 34. These included repair or build and paint 15 wheelchair ramps, repair and bring to code five porches, strip and re-roof four houses, remodel three bathrooms down to the floor joist, scrape and paint two houses, build 12 woodsheds; cut, split and stack wood at 14 sites; repair or re-install three doors, and haul off debris from several locations.

The total material cost for the projects was $26,255.14. Those who contributed to the total amount were Walla Walla City Church, Upper Columbia Academy Mission Group, Volunteer Chore Services, Ideal Lumber, Yakama Area Agency On Aging, Yakama Housing Improvement Program, VCS individual clients, Home Depot, and All Nations Center.

Vacation Bible School was held in the Adams View housing development. They acted out Bible stories, had crafts and games with the kids. Most importantly they made fiends.

One of the most exciting aspects of this week was the Salmon Bake. “I believe that this event may have been the most significant function held at ANC in the 10 years of its existence,” said George Sutton, All Nations Church Treasurer. There were about 80 volunteers who had worked on the various projects in attendance, about 20 community business people, and about 100 community members present at the meal.

During the meal, the floor was open to anyone who wanted to say a few words. Several clients spoke up and offered their thankfulness to those who had given their time and money to help them. One of the speakers made the observation that the relationship between the Indian people and the white people has historically been marked by wars and that those who were here that week were also soldiers, fighting a different kind of war. This spiritual warfare has a far different effect on the people here on the Reservation than the wars of old.

The meal consisted of salmon, grillers, and veggie links as the main course with potato salad, beans, salad and veggies. There was also homemade ice cream for dessert. The owners of Ideal Lumber in Toppenish underwrote the meal. Almost all of the building supplies were purchased through them. They are very active in their community and offered to fund the meal as a thank you to those who came to give of their time and effort for this project. Near the end of the meal, all of the volunteers were presented with beaded key locally hand made chains. Those who were in leadership received blankets made by members of the Walla Walla City Church.

A student from Upper Columbia Academy had this to say about their experience, “My favorite part about it was giving to the people without expectations of anything in return. I think mission trips are the best way to praise God and bring joy to both God and yourself. A lot of the time I just want to stay in my comfort zone, but staying in my own world doesn’t allow God to work through me. I had a lot of fun on the trip bringing other people happiness, which gave me a lot more joy than if I were to do something for myself.”

Each time a mission group comes here, God works miracles. Sometimes we see them and sometimes we don’t, but God has been working through the cooperation of all these people and organizations. We look forward to being witness to God’s power continuing to work here on the Yakama Indian Reservation.