Mission work can be unpredictable but when you steadfastly follow God's will, amazing things will happen.
This is exactly what the volunteer team from St. Paul's Lutheran in Trenton, Michigan, discovered on their recent trip to Neah Bay, Washington, home of the Makah people.
"Our team has been traveling to Neah Bay for almost 10 years," one volunteer explained. "But this year was unlike anything we've ever experienced. Makah Lutheran Church has doubled since our last visit, and children and teens were everywhere! It was so wonderful to see the young people seeking Jesus and really fun to be a part of this growing family!"
The church activities draw people. In a community of almost 1,000 people, the St. Paul's team interacted with 51 children through Vacation Bible School, 40 teens during the regularly scheduled Tuesday Teen Night, and a handful of adults who were simply interested in what was going on. In one week, the team met 10% of the community! That's a percentage most churches dream about!
"It really is a testament to the work Ben and Natalie Maxson are doing in Neah Bay," another volunteer added. "They are constantly seeking out new ways to provide for their community. They are living, working, and raising a family there, so they are completely immersed in the day-to-day lives of the people they strive to serve, and that included our mission team!"
The Mission Trip That Almost Wasn't
When the driving force behind the mission team died unexpectedly earlier this year, the mission trip found itself in jeopardy. But at the insistence of his wife, and the blessing of the pastor, the plans continued.
"We were hesitant to travel without Ken," a volunteer said. "But it turned out to be our most memorable trip because of him."
One evening during their stay, Ben held a celebration of life at the church to remember this man who had so deeply loved the Makah people of Neah Bay.
On a slow day, Ben took the man's wife, Dina, out on his charter fishing boat. Once again, in true Ben fashion, finding a need and meeting it.
"It was the first time I had seen Dina smile since Ken's death," stated a friend. "This trip, and the love and hospitality from Ben and Natalie, was good for all of us as we heal, but especially for Dina."
See a Need, Fill a Need
Ben and Natalie focus their mission work on the motto: "Generosity is Meant to Be Shared" and are always looking for ways to do more. Whether it's entertaining and catering to 40 teens every Tuesday night, handing out school supplies, or decorating car trunks for the yearly Trunk or Treat, they are constantly sharing the love and grace of Jesus to the community. (Back-to-School Celebration and Trunk-or-Treat events coming soon!)
Now, thanks to a grant from the Washington-Alaska LWML, they are expanding into music.
"Music has always been a passion of mine," explained Ben. "And I've been looking for ways to incorporate that into our ministry. Our local school doesn't have a music program, so it feels like a no-brainer to fill that need through Lutheran Indian Ministries."
The recently awarded grant will allow Ben to purchase a wide variety of musical instruments including guitars, drums, and keyboard which will be used in worship as well as music lessons during the week. Also, though he is still figuring out the details and logistics of it, he hopes to create an instrument and sheet music lending library that would be accessible to the whole community.
Never a Dull Moment
As if that weren't enough, Ben and Natalie have been working closely with Tom (Ioway) and Cathy (Cherokee) Benzler on transitioning the Hope House Ministry to Neah Bay.
In the decade that Tom and Cathy worked for LIM, before their retirements in December and July respectively, they created and grew a Biblical, needs-based ministry. While some of the pieces may look different, the Maxsons are looking forward to continuing their legacy.
On top of all that, Ben starts his seminary training in the SMP (Specific Ministry Pastor) program through the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
Needless to say, Ben and Natalie are staying busy and God has been blessing their work.
"This is a really exciting time for Makah Lutheran," Ben said. "There are a lot of fun community events, a lot of hard work, and a lot of Jesus!"