Washington/Neah Bay

Ask the right questions, then stop talking

“I work with a lot of broken people,” Rick McCafferty (Inupiaq) explained. “They have, what we call, wounds of the heart put there by previous abuse and addiction. I’ve found that, more than anything, they want a chance to tell their story. So, it’s important to ask the right questions and then stop talking and just listen.”

During a recent visit to Haskell Indian Nations University, Rick utilized this simple process and the result changed a family.

In the wake of a suicide on campus, Rick and Bob Prue (Rosebud Sioux) were focusing on helping the students through their grief and confusion. But it was after one of those sessions that Rick happened upon a woman hanging out at the LIGHT House. She was a regular, attending Bible studies and working with the students, but not a student herself. She and Rick began talk about life – simple, small talk.

“She’s a single mom with a young child, and on the outside, she really seems to have it all together,” Rick said. “But when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you notice things. You see patterns in lifestyles, and I could tell there was something she wasn’t saying.”

So, Rick did what Rick does: he asked questions, he listened, and he let the Holy Spirit work in their conversation.

In a matter of minutes, the woman opened up and shared that she was having trouble with her boyfriend, and her son had recently told her that he was afraid of the man.

Rick explained: “She said it in passing, that her son was afraid, and continued with her story, but I stopped her and told her to repeat what she had just said.”

The woman repeated the comment that her son was scared, paused, and began crying. She, herself, had grown up with abusive men in her life, and now she was putting her son – the one person she wanted most in the world to protect – in danger.

“I don’t know what you just did,” she remarked to Rick, “but wow! Thank you for helping me realize how bad this situation is for me and my son! And… how can I learn to do that?”

It turns out, this woman is a therapist! Rick told her about LIM’s Sacred Ground program and how the LIGHT House would be interested in having her help when she felt settled and ready. Then, he put her in contact with Bob’s wife, Deon, to make sure she had support in the days and weeks ahead.

God’s timing is always perfect! This woman didn’t show up to get help for herself; she came to help the students. But God put the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

“Things are really falling into place at Haskell,” Rick told us. “There are amazing people coming out of the college and the community who have a heart for Native peoples, and are seeing the amazing work Bob, Deon, and Bill Paris are doing to guide the next generation of Native leaders to Christ, and they want to be a part of it. But the even more amazing thing is that this is happening at all of our locations!”

In Neah Bay, Washington, Vicar Ben Maxson had 140 people at his Easter service. (FYI: There are only 850 people in Neah Bay!) And even more showed up the following Sunday. Have you ever seen a church fuller the Sunday after Easter? The Holy Spirit is at work among the Makah people.

In Phoenix, Kevin Maulson (Lac du Flambeau) and Rick baptized 14 adults in one day in the Saguaro Lake, and his most recent Sunday Bible study had 50 people! All these men and women were homeless and are finding their way, with Kevin’s help and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Kevin and Rick also finished Phoenix’s first Sacred Grounds workshop with nine participants. Don’t forget – Kevin has only been in Phoenix 8 months! God is guiding the Phoenix ministry!

Moving further north, Nathan and Sarah Milan, and their four children, are RV-ing their way to Fairbanks to start our new chapter at the Mission Training Center. Along the way, they’ve unexpectedly met numerous people with connections to ministry in Alaska. God is paving their way to bring His grace to Alaska Natives.

And in Kotzebue, Alaska, Rick’s hometown, people are hungry for healing and for Jesus. At a recent Southcentral Beauty for Ashes training (the basis of our Sacred Ground), more than 25 Kotzebue Natives participated in the ALET training to become Beauty for Ashes leaders themselves and bring the program back to their home.

“That is the biggest turnout we have ever had from any one region,” Rick exclaimed. “I get emotional when I think about how far my home has come from when I was a child growing up there. There’s hope again!”

Through his tears, Rick explained, “I have been praying for Kotzebue for 15 years. I love my people, but I also prayed, ‘God use me to help people, but just don’t send me back to Kotzebue.’” He chuckled and continued, “God knows what he’s doing and his timing is perfect, and if we are obedient and faithful, His Will will be done. He sent me back to Kotzebue when I was ready, and when He was ready, so I could see the miraculous work He is doing with my people. I am daily overwhelmed with thankfulness and awe for what He is doing for Native peoples and that he allows me to help!”

God is moving, lives are being changed in our country, and Lutheran Indian Ministries is blessed to be a leader in the field of Native ministry. We can’t wait to see what else God is going to do and we are ready to work alongside Him! Thanks for coming with us on this journey!

See a Need, Fill a Need

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!"

Small Projects Reach the Hearts and Souls of Native People

Small Projects Reach the Hearts and Souls of Native People

When Tom and Cathy plowed up a thorny back yard so that a tribal elder could grow vegetables; tribal leaders built a community garden so that others could enjoy the benefits of fresh vegetables for their families.

When they gathered a group of volunteers to fill in potholes around elders’ homes; the tribal council began to better maintain their roads.

After they helped to plan drumming circles and dance groups; tribal groups started to teach the youth about their lost culture.