April 1, 2016, and this ain’t no joke!
Missions’ conference is behind us again for another year. I don’t know that anything earth shaking occurred, but I think the Lord was blessed.
Missions’ conference is behind us again for another year. I don’t know that anything earth shaking occurred, but I think the Lord was blessed.
We’re gearing up for the annual IBC mission’s conferenceto begin tomorrow. I’m excited to hear Daron Butler, long- time friend from Broken Arrow days. Daron is unique among all the Native people I have known in thathe is the mission’s pastor for a large urban church in Wooster, Ohio. Here is an excerpt from his bio:
After graduating from the reservation Christian boarding school in 1983, I left NM for IN. I graduated from Grace College in Winona Lake, IN with a B.A. in Psychology in 1987, an M.Div. from Grace Seminary in 1991, and an ThM in Old Testament in 1992. I praise God for the Christian education that I received. The education I received prepared me for the future that God orchestrated.
I am a full blood Diné [Navajo]. I married an Anglo girl from Smithville, OH. Melissa and I have four children who live with us in Wooster, OH. I serve as the Next Steps Pastor at Grace Church. I get to help people take their next step to serve people in the neighborhood and to the nations. I praise God for allowing me the opportunity to bring Him glory by ministering in his local church to impact the world by influencing His global church to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
You probably wouldn’t vote for Ben (not his real name) as “most likely to succeed.” He sits slouched over most of the time, eyes downcast, his clothes disheveled and poorly fitting. He is overweight and has a hard time getting his homework done on time, if at all. He seems disorganized, depressed, downtrodden, and undisciplined. When he speaks his voice is barely audible, but if you can understand him, he reveals concealed humor and untapped intelligence.
What an adventure I have been on since the last letter! The recital, for which we prepare all semester, was held on December 8. The students did quite well. Classes ended December 11. We enjoyed shortened office hours December 14-18 but were plenty busy with wrapping up the semester, working on more accreditation assignments, and attending our annual staff Christmas party.
On the outside they look pretty much like all other American 20-something-year-olds. But every now and then I need a reminder that, inside, some of these IBC students come from a different world.
He sat in my office to report on his ministry progress. He preaches at a local Native church on weekends. I probably brought up the subject of Native religion, since I’m doing a paper on Peyote for my on-line class at Columbia International University. This started his telling me about his background. I had no idea.
He’s an older student and struggles with hearing the beat in Western music. The second week of guitar lessons I asked if he had much exposure to Navajo traditional music. The tell-tale signs were all there. “Yes,” he replied. His father still sings cultural songs while he works, and hums chants around the house.Also, this student attended some traditional “sings” (ceremonies) during his growing up years. Traditional music was his “heart” music.
Everyone is scurrying around, preparing for the Kampout. Well, almost everyone. All students and staff involved in Spiritual Formation are preparing for this weekend’s camping trip to Camp Verde, AZ. This is primarily an opportunity for Spiritual Formation groups to get to know each other better, be exposed to some new ideas, get away from the formal classroom and into God’s original classroom, and just have fun. Would you pray with me that all the staff will be well prepared spiritually and that God would use them effectively in the lives of the students? Thanks!
We are keenly aware that one year ago, as we began the school year, a new student decided to end her life. But this is a new year with all new in-coming freshmen. Our hope is in the Lord. We were praying for 15 new students but the Lord saw fit to send 9 full time plus several new part-timers. As far as I know, this it the first time we have had a minority of Navajo incoming students. Nez Pierce, Yakima, Hopi, Creek, Zuni, Modoc, and Klamath are all represented in our incoming freshmen student body. They range in age from 19 to 65, so even though our numbers are relatively small again, they are quite a diverse group in terms of cultural background and age.
I was hiking out behind my house when I tripped. Down I fell, smashing my phone and bruising and messing up my legs. Those rocks! They are nearly invisible against the tan soil and loose gravel. As I continued on my way, grateful to have no broken bones, I began thinking how the rocks were either stumbling blocks or something solid to place your foot on to keep from slipping. Ah yes. Kind of like having absolute Truth to rest in when the culture around us is slipping and sliding on the gravel of relativism. The Rock of God’s unchanging Truth either causes people to stumble or gives solid footing in the midst of chaos. We must not lose heart when everything around us is determined by the latest polls and the everchanging opinions of men. May God grant us grace to stand firm on His Word!
|This year, for the third year, we featured the IBC students’ creative works before commencement ceremonies. I had the privilege of sharing some closing remarks at the end of the Student Ministry Showcase event. Here they are in edited form:|
Thank you so much for responding to my urgent prayer request for the Pine Ridge Reservation and the group from IBC who joined the On Eagle’s Wings Team there this past weekend. What an encouragement to know I can count on you all to rally behind us when we are in need!
Thank you so much for your prayers and continued support. I’ve put together some photos of the missions conference and Creative Ministry Class that just finished up last week. Currently the students and three staff members are in Hemet California ministering on and around the Soboba Indian Reservation.
Spring is here, maybe. So many of you have had amazing winters with severe cold and deep snows, but we’ve had another mild winter with only two significant snow storms so far. As I write this it is snowing—ah, raining, snowing? We’ve had about 6” or so as far as I can tell, and lots of rain, too.
The students this semester continue to amaze and encourage me. All the music students are still faithfully practicing. One is taking off on the bass guitar and another on classical guitar.
The conference in Orlando, Florida that I attended last week was excellent. I was challenged by Gordon McDonald, blessed by Fernando Ortega, and informed by several sessions on issues related to writing a self-study report for accreditation. I was privileged to attend.
He is an adjunct professor, meaning he doesn’t work full time at IBC, but he takes a real interest in the students while he’s on campus. Each day he works out with several of the guys. A few days ago he shared with them that he had just received a call from his wife informing him that her mother had passed away. Compassionately, the men rallied around him and prayed for him!
The Hebrew meaning of the word we translate as “Sabbath” means to cease, desist, bring to an end, to rest. There is indeed a time for everything under heaven, and I have had the privilege of a Sabbath, thanks to my sister and her family. After closing out the semester and spending a couple of days in meetings related to accreditation, I took off for Dallas. For six days in a row I didn’t do anything related to the school! I slept like a log, ate like a bird (double my weight daily!), walked while memorizing Scripture, and hung out with the Luna family with a passion! We had the privilege of attending Handel’s Messiah performed with period instruments. We went to two movies (“Unbroken” was definitely worth the time and money), played games, and attended church where Seth (my nephew) was playing organ. I had opportunity to play several duets with Seth on the piano and we all sang together.
I can’t get away from it. I am reminded of the brevity of life everywhere. The suicide that took place on campus on September 12 was only one reminder, one that has forever changed us as a school and me as a person. A recent sermon from my pastor on Psalm 90, unexpected deaths of several acquaintances, readings in a book on pain, all continue to bring our mortality to the forefront. As a result, I am even more passionate about using every moment to prepare for eternity. I am also increasingly concerned for the continuing shift in our society away from awareness of spiritual things and an over-emphasis on self-indulgence.
Seeing students working hard, determined to make the most of their time at IBC, is a great encouragement! Conversely, when I know students are frittering away their time on empty activities my heart aches. Do they remember the people around them may not be there tomorrow? Have they grasped that life is short and the battle not only real but constant? Have I?
Our first snow is working at turning the landscape white as I write this. Fall has been warm and beautiful with just enough moisture to keep the dust down.
Things have gone along rather smoothly at IBC since I last wrote, though we still sorrow as a result of the tragedy at the beginning of the semester. Many students are struggling to keep up their grades, or rather, not struggling but letting their grades suffer as they do minimal or no work. But, you can see from the photos that they enjoyed Spirit Week and many participated with creativity and enthusiasm.
When Monieka chose to take her life, I’m certain she had no thought of how it would impact those around her. She was young and short-sighted, living in the moment. What disturbed me most was the absolute finality of her decision and the total helplessness of anyone to reverse it. As I wept with the students and staff that Friday morning, it seemed as though nothing else mattered. There was no, “it’s going to be alright,” because it never would be. Monieka would never sing that song we had been working on for the recital. She would never participate in Basic Work Habits class again. She would not fulfill her promise to serve with another student at the local women’s shelter on Wednesday evenings.
I was angry. At first my anger was directed at Monieka because she had played the fool. She had become a pawn in Satan’s service. She had left a staff member and her room mate with an indelible visual image that would plague them every time they closed their eyes for weeks to come, if not longer.
Imagine! I had time to work on my class material before class started and still kept the “normal” 8-5 office hours this past week!
I am enjoying having a lot of new staff around. We are finally able to spread out some of the work load a little better. I think I have a good start on the Basic Work Habits class that began today. Yes, I did mean today. We did it again. Started classes on Labor Day.
Quiet times of reflection and prayer. . . review and memorization of Ephesians . . driving . . . opportunity to meet with supporters I haven’t seen for 3 years . . . drinking coffee to stay awake (yes, me. Coffee). . . driving . . .different beds every night . . . traffic, traffic, traffic—people passing in the break-down lane . . .near side-swipes . . . driving, . . . beautiful scenery . . . singing . . .rolling hills, brilliant green leaves and manicured lawns . . . bright sunny days and brief downpours of rain . . . driving . . . good times with family members . . . dietary challenges while traveling and staying in people’s homes . . . meeting my great nephew for the first time . . . sharing the IBC update in homes and churches . . .driving . . .
Spring is here. The wind has been whipping through the pines. Already the ground is powdery dry. May God have mercy and send moisture before the heat descends!
This will be a short update since I plan to see as many of you as possible within the next month or so, but I wanted to give you a brief glimpse into what is happening here. We are about to embark on what may be one of the busiest weeks of the school year, culminating in commencement on Saturday afternoon. The music recital is on Tuesday, followed by an end-of-the-year BBQ that evening. Thursday evening is our 55th anniversary dinner and testimony time especially for the alumni. Friday we’ll have the Bachelor’s luncheon for the one student who is graduating with his four-year degree and in the evening we will have our first ever Student Ministry Showcase at which students will have opportunity to display their gifts and abilities through music, art work, creative writing, and drama. Saturday lunch time we will have a luncheon for all the graduates, including the one-year certificates and associate’s degrees. At 2 p.m. is commencement. We would appreciate your prayers that God would be glorified through all these events.
It was the last chapel service before the Ministry Immersion Trip (MIT). One by one students stood and shared openly about their struggles, failures, and desire to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. One recurring theme was their feelings of being unworthy to be at IBC. Several apologized for sin they had committed and publicly repented. Most shed some tears and a few wept openly. What a privilege to see God at work in our midst!
I think I was in Sprout’s, the new grocery store in town. I barely recognized him since he’d shaved his head. John oversees a ministry to Native college students in town, a ministry IBC students love to attend, and several have worked closely with him in internships. The ministry is based at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and strives to disciple Native students who are believers, as well and to attract Native seekers. Some IBC students have been involved in this ministry in one way or another every semester for years.
“You’re really getting some quality students these days!” John said with a smile.
“Indeed,” I responded. “I hear all three of the new ones this semester were at One Tribe this week.”
What a month this has been! Thank God, the move is now recent history and I am now in my new location. There was only one day in the process where I felt despairing, which is a lot better than the last mobile home move. I am amazed at God’s timing and grace toward me! Here is a brief run down:
“You should do my car too,” I joked with the students washing the school vehicles.
“Bring it over,” responded one student. “You serve us all year. We ought to at least wash your car once a year!”
And they did! They even vacuumed inside! Now how often does that happen?