Ben Maxson, Vicar at Makah Lutheran Church on the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, Washington, is not Makah.
His wife, Natalie, and his children are.
Ben comes from the dominant, white culture, but he now lives with and serves the Makah people. He is committed to their community, both literally by marriage, but also by his calling through Lutheran Indian Ministries to proclaim, disciple, and heal.
And it's not always easy.
"Being the minority in a small community (Neah Bay has less than 1,000 people) is never easy. Unlike my wife, I wasn't born here, and every day I'm learning new things about the people and the history and the culture, but I find that really exciting," Ben explains. "I may not be Makah, but my wife and my children are, so this community is more important to me than any other."
"We know God is using us for His work here, in Neah Bay, but we're also here because it's where we choose to be for our family."
Ben reveals that in the three years since they moved to Neah Bay, he has worked hard to be accepted into the community. His previous work as a local business owner (captain of a fishing charter boat) and at the Sophie Trettevick Indian Health Center in town, as well as involvement in community events and organizations, have helped to nurture relationships with tribal members outside of the family.
His hardwork is paying off and ministry is moving forward.
The church and community recently had a Back-to-School Blessing where 125 students received school supplies, which was followed by an extra blessing to the teachers. The next day, Natalie and two volunteers delivered boxes of supplies to the classrooms, including hand sanitizer, kleenex, and whiteboard markers.
"It was a great individual event and people really pitched in, plus we got to take care of the school and the teachers!" Ben recalls.
After all, Generosity is meant to be shared, which also happens to be Ben and Natalie's motto for every event and action they take as they move forward.
Building upon that motto and the success of the Back-to-School Blessing, they are currently organizing a Trunk-or-Treat event.
Ben tells us, "We're hoping to get more than 50 trunks decorated and handing out candy for the evening. We already have a number of local businesses that have sponsored cars, like the museum, a few fishing charters, the clinic, and the tribal financial group, but we're hoping to make this really big! We'll be holding it in the parking lot of the Gym and Teen Center, so we have lots of space to fill!"
Continuing to build the connection with the community, this Trunk-or-Treat event is another step toward making Makah Lutheran a vital and central part of the Neah Bay community, which we hope will, in turn, draw more of the Makah into a relationship with their Heavenly Father.
Along with these events, add into the mix Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, and a women's sewing club that meet at the church weekly, not to mention church services, and you have a busy ministry growing at Makah Lutheran Church.
We give thanks to God for the opportunities He has put in front of Lutheran Indian Ministries to proclaim, disciple, and heal the Makah people through the work of the Holy Spirit and for men like Ben who are willing to be His hands and feet in the community.