Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been so long since my last update – things have been pretty busy over here. It’s pretty crazy to think it’s been over nine months of living on mission in Ahousaht now. I feel like the morning I left for Ahousaht last June was a lifetime ago with how much has happened since then.
Our goal for this second half of the trip was to focus on being more vocally evangelistic and building up a formal group from the connections that we’d built in our first six months in Ahousaht. Since my last post where we were ramping up towards our “Bible Ball” project, Michael and I have made a lot of progress. We wrote a letter to the band office (the building where all politics and projects in Ahousaht run through) to ask if we could have a key to volunteer at the gym, opening it on weekends when nobody was using it and opening it for our group after our meetings. We got approved for the key, and that’s been a catalyst in the forming of our youth group. Friday and Saturday evenings we open up the gym for a couple hours. Every time we open it, tons of kids and teens in our focused age group come and hang out – it’s the perfect place to create memories and develop friendships in an exciting way. Another nice benefit is that it’s kept me in shape because basketball is intense and those kids have a lot more energy than I do.
With the frequent gym openings, some friendships really started to develop. A couple of guys drew really close and started coming over to our place practically every day. There’s only so much hanging out one can do before getting frustrated by a lack of formal discipleship, so we started praying for opportunities to have our first meeting. I was still working through some of that fear I expressed in my last post, so I was definitely making it a bigger deal than it needed to be. It seemed so daunting, but eventually, we felt called to dive in headfirst and invite our group over to talk about Genesis 1.
It still took a lot of preparation and unnecessary anxiety, but after a few weeks we finally invited everyone over for the first meeting on a Sunday night at five. Five o’clock came and passed, and only one of the guys, Lennox, showed up. We shared the story of Jesus casting out Legion in Mark 5 instead of the intended story, the creation story because it related more closely to a struggle his family was having at the time.
I wasn’t really disappointed despite the lack of attendance. Michael and I were just relieved that we were obedient to God telling us to hold a meeting, whoever showed up was out of our control. We were still determined to try again though. The next night, about six guys who we wanted in our group were over. Everyone was playing card games, having a good time and slowly heading home as they reached their curfews. It ended up being Lennox as the last one there, and totally unprompted, he said that he wanted to come over and do the “Bible thingy” after school tomorrow, and he would make sure he brought everyone with him.
He stayed true to his word and the next day we had four guys over and told the Creation story. Once we started, phones were put down and eye contact was held throughout the story. I was amazed and so refreshed to see how they responded. Their interest and engagement put me at ease and I realized I was stressing about nothing. God had their hearts ready for this and was making sure everything moved how he wanted.
I had been preparing my heart to go home from the trip trusting that the Holy Spirit was at work with our time here even if we didn’t see them respond to any of our efforts, but I was even more grateful to be able to experience a personal victory of them listening and engaging with the story. Nine months I’d been praying for something I could see to give me encouragement and this was just that for me. It was such a blessing to be able to share our first story with these guys who we’ve been pouring ourselves into, praying for and truly love and see them respond and engage.
Our expectation was definitely that they’d be more interested in the basketball aspect of the meetings, but they didn’t even care about the prizes or the basketball half of the meetings. We didn’t even go up to the gym that night. They were more excited by the prospect of us bringing our group back to see Seattle sometime, which is not guaranteed, but definitely something we’re praying for and hoping God opens to door to have happened. But we basically have cut off the ball part of Bible Ball, and it’s just a Bible study.
Unfortunately, they had to leave almost immediately after that meeting for a basketball tournament in a whole different province. After they’d come back from the basketball tournament, I was a little worried we’d lost our momentum towards the meetings. The Holy Spirit had not stopped working in their hearts though. I was out for a walk around the reservation when I saw them all hanging out by the gym, so I went to say hi. Again, totally unprompted, they asked when the next time we were going to learn more about the Bible was because we had just “told them how we were created and then didn’t tell them anymore”. We scheduled our next meeting for that Sunday again and had another wonderful study.
It’s been a joy watching them hear about these stories for the first time. As someone who’s grown up in the church with a lot of my friends, these stories have been pretty deeply ingrained throughout our lives. Most of these guys have heard next to nothing about the Bible. My own amazement and wonder at the incredible things God has done over history has been renewed with their discovery. It can also be pretty hilarious. I loved going on a walk with one of our guys, Brandon, and he was asking me if Jesus was really real and walked the earth. Our conversation led towards his birth and Mary, and his face when I told him Jesus was born of a virgin was priceless, I wish I could’ve got a picture to show all of you, but it was pure surprise and a little bit of confusion. In our most recent meeting, we went over the fall of man in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. One of our discussion questions was “what decisions could the characters have made differently and what could’ve some different outcomes been?”. I was expecting some discussion about why God placed the tree there in the first place, or why the serpent was allowed in the garden, all those typical answers. Instead, Lennox paused for a moment, and said: “Well, why didn’t God just not create women and just spawn a bunch of Adams to keep each other company and reproduce.” Something about that just caught me so off guard and had me and Michael cracking up laughing.
Either way, it was awesome to have some engagement with the story and make some great memories. I feel like I’m learning just as much as they are digging through the Old Testament and learning the stories. We’ve established somewhat of a schedule, meeting every Sunday and Thursday to go over a story. I’m very excited to see how deep we can get into the big ole book and who God brings to hear these stories.
If you haven’t picked it up yet, we have gone with a Bible storytelling strategy to share our faith with the Ahousaht people. It’s a common missionary strategy in oral cultures such as Ahousaht (cultures where information is dominantly passed through storytelling and other oral methods) to share stories, and pretty close to how people would do “missions” in Bible times. Storytelling is quick, efficient and interesting, and even more than that it creates other missionaries instantly because literally anybody can remember and share a story without any sort of training. It has been very rewarding, and useful in more situations than just our meetings. Any time someone has a need that has been fulfilled by God and recorded in the Bible, it is a great evangelistic opportunity to share a story that relates to their life situation. Storytelling has also increased my knowledge of the Bible, and I’ve read more Old Testament and learned so much from it than I ever have in my life.
I am so thankful that God has given us the opportunity to share these stories and given us a consistent ministry because it really has helped to stay hopeful and find joy in partaking in the privilege of missions, even when I miss home or am drained after hanging out with people all day.
Between the lessons learned by living life here and an amazing class I’ve been taking about world missions, God has been teaching me so much. I’ve already typed too much on this blog post so I’ll spare you guys all the details, but I am constantly being challenged and blessed in different ways. Sometimes the challenges get the best of me and I get overwhelmed by homesickness or selfishness, but the thing I’ve learned about missions is that it’s not at all like the short term trips we took in high school where every day is incredible and jam-packed. Part of the challenge is staying faithful through the boring days when nobody is around and you just want to go home for a little bit. Part of the challenge is staying faithful through the crazy days when you just want to retreat to your room and get some sleep but there are 6+ teen guys in the building wanting to hang out. No matter what happens, as long as I go back to worshipping God and desiring everyone else to worship Him with me, I can come back to being refreshed and excited by my amazing privilege of being in Ahousaht.
Thank you guys for reading all that, apologies for not being more consistent about the blog, but your guys’ prayer is extremely important and we need it more than ever right now. We’re going to be in Ahousaht for two more weeks, visiting home for the second half of April and then we’ll be back in Ahousaht until July. We’d really love for you all to be praying for Michael and me, and all the guys we’re trying to reach for the rest of our time here.
Pray for the Bible story guys: Xavier, Moses, Brandon, Lennox, Matthias, Chaasta and Jeremy. Pray for the spirit to be moving in them as they hear these Bible stories and that their hearts can be open to however God wants them to be moved.
Pray for Michael and me. Pray that God can continue to refresh us and remind us of the joy of being a part of His purpose and mission daily, and for energy and wisdom to show Jesus to these young men consistently.
Pray for the continued transformation of our lives and the lives of the people around us.