Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thoughts and Reflections on the 2009 Christmas Feast

Hey Everyone!

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for taking the time to keep up with us and pray for us! As you probably know we have a big Christmas feast in the longhouse in White Swan every year. People in the traditional Yakama religion (“Wash-at” or “longhouse” people) do not normally celebrate Christmas at the longhouse or in their own homes. Six and a half years ago, when the Granberrys moved to the Rez, we knew we wanted to make a “big deal” out of Christmas. The longhouse folks celebrate many good gifts that the Creator has given: water, the sun, salmon, deer, various wild roots, the huckleberry, choke cherry, wild celery, etc. For years now, we have been inviting them to join us in celebrating the greatest of all of God’s good gifts to us, Jesus!

Every year the community is responding more and more strongly. The first year (six months after our arrival on the rez) 22 people came. We were amazed at such a large crowd! The next year we expected 75 and 120 came. A couple of years ago we had 400-450. The community is embracing this celebration, but not just in numbers. The depth of attention, understanding, respect, and joy are increasing too!

We could not do any of it without you! Your prayers, service, and donations make all of this possible! May the Lord bless each of you ten times over!

This year the most exciting thing about the feast for me was the ability to move into the background as a leader because of the willingness of the people of Hope Fellowship (our baby church) to step forward, take ownership, and lead! Hope Fellowship folks of all ages were in the “limelight”! The non-Indian Sacred Road team was able to be behind the scenes, do a lot of the “grunt work”, and help make the folks from the community successful in hosting the event!

The ever-present danger of being a white guy/team planting a church on a reservation is the possibility that the people from the community will always think of the church as “Chris’ church” rather than a church “of the people, for the people”. In other words, the community itself has to take responsibility and ownership for the church or it will die if/when the Sacred Road team leaves.

At this years feast, I saw our folks step up, lead, and take ownership way more than ever before. That fact, among others, makes me think we are truly becoming a church! May it be so, Lord Jesus!

Chris Granberry

Merry Chrsitmas and greetings to our dear brothers and sisters in Christ from the Sacred Road Ministry team here on the Yakama Reservation. We have such good news to tell you all.

We had the “Seventh Annual Christmas Feast” as scheduled on Tuesday, December 15th. We had snow and ice, but the forecast was just going to get worse, so we went ahead; and over 300 people came. Due to your faithful prayers, there were no accidents on those dangerous roads!

We had a full dinner menu of wood grilled salmon (thanks to Rex Zack), turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, potato salad, fry bread, green beans, fruit salad, and a relish plate. To top it off, we had a variety of desserts sent from believers all over Washington State. We sat everyone down to a hot meal family style, cleaned up, and prepared for a Christmas service. After a reading from the Gospel of Luke, we sang Christmas songs while our Hope Fellowship (Tuesday night Bible Study) children walked around the longhouse floor dressed as Mary and Joseph, three wise men (who strutted around the room), three shepherds, and three angels (who were extremely cute, see photos below). After the songs, the room was quiet and Chris was able to bring a Christmas message for a longer period of time than ever before. The people gathered were quiet and attentive. The message of Christmas really brought joy to all who heard. Again, this is such an answer to your prayers!

Thank you to everyone who sent the gifts. We had plenty of gifts for everyone, and they were sent from all over the country! Everyone who came received at least one wrapped Christmas gift, but went home with leftover food, and goody bags also.

Our community has gotten used to the group effort of the Christmas feast. I was asked a few times, "Which churches helped out this year, Mary?", and "Who are your helpers this year and where are they from?".

Not only is White Swan not forgotten, the Body of Christ is sending the message with us that God came as a baby for all of us who believe. God sent Jesus for White Swan also! From the cities to the reservations, we can join together to proclaim this Good News!

Mary Granberry

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Preparations for Tuesday night’s Christmas Feast at the longhouse were in full swing when we asked the youth if they would help by decorating the longhouse and passing out gifts at the feast. We set aside our usual discipleship group time, Thursday evening, to meet at the longhouse and work on decorations. However, our plans were postponed by the news of multiple funerals being held at the longhouse that weekend.

So, when Monday rolled around, we tried again. We played Christmas music on the radio and set out pizza and cookies. And everyone dived in: making a paper chain garland long enough to go around the entire ceremonial room (approximately 400 feet!), cutting snowflakes out of coffee filters, and making paper poinsettias. By the time we were through there was a half inch of snow outside. It was the first snow of the season. We hung the garland and some lights in he ceremonial room while Dennis Howard (the caretaker of the longhouse) watched. He even got a couple of ladders out for us.

The youth did a great job and many of them helped out again the next day at the feast - handing out gifts, cleaning up, putting away tables and chairs. I think the kids were really excited to have a role in the ministry and I think the community was excited to see their teenagers helping out and serving others. It was a great night and there were a lot of smiling faces when everyone left.

“Emmanuel - God with us” is the lesson we have been trying to teach in our youth Bible study on Tuesday nights. Please join us in praying that these teenagers will know that God is with them in the struggles that they face.

Chuck Clevenger – Sacred Road Youth Director

This has been my third Christmas Feast since I moved to the reservation. With each year I have seen increasingly more involvement from our Bible Study group - especially with the teenagers. My particular job during the Feast is to oversee the gift giving which is the last event of the program. Hundreds of gifts are donated for the adults, youth, and children. Repeating what we did last year: men received tools, women: lotion sets, boys: Hot Wheels, and girls: Beanie Babies.

At least a dozen teenagers were prepared to help distribute the Christmas gifts to the 300 people that attended. Ann Marie, Morgan, David, and Marisol were with me “behind the scenes” moving quickly to make sure the teenagers never ran out of gifts to hand out and constantly replenishing the plastic tubs that carried out the gifts.

I was proud to see the youth in a position where they are adding to the joy of the community. And there was excitement and happiness in my youth helpers too as they wished children and adults “Merry Christmas” after each gift.

Veronica Vasquez

The Christmas feast is big in every sense of the word -lots of food, lots of gifts, lots of tables, lots of people, lots of help, and lots of opportunities to see Christ working. If you tried to catch it all you would miss most of it. My perspective of the feast came mostly from the kitchen. We arrived at the long house 4 hours before the event to start setting up and finish cooking food. Not long after we arrived people from Hope Fellowship Bible Study showed up to help make the feast a real joy and success. Two ladies , Deborah and Leah, showed up hours ahead of time to make enough fry bread to serve everyone who came. Another man, Rex Zack, also showed up hours ahead to cook enough salmon for everyone, outside on a giant wood burning grill in the snow and ice. At one point we had more people wanting to help then we could employ. When it came time for the food to be dished up and served onto every table we had about a dozen women from the community helping serve the food along with a few others from churches around Washington State.

Although most of the feast was surrounded by the word “big” there were lots of little moments with big significance that I enjoyed seeing. During the program the children did a little skit where they dressed up as Mary and Joseph, kings, shepherds, and angels and walked around the room while everyone was singing Christmas carols. I slipped out of the kitchen and into the back of the room just in-time to see several proud parents taking pictures on cell phones as their children walked by in costume. What a good memory parents and children will now have connected to Christmas. Another moment I enjoyed seeing was after all of the gifts had been distributed and the children had all received their Story Book Bibles I saw a 9 year old girl sitting on a bench trying to get her ten month old nephew to sit still so she could read him the creation story. I hope that Baby never remembers a time where there wasn’t a Christmas feast and that he will always connects it with God being his Father and Savior.

Heather German

I was excited to see the participation and ownership shown by the Hope Fellowship regulars throughout the whole process of planning, preparing, and the feast itself. It was also great to see the youth group get excited about decorating the Longhouse and to see their sense of accomplishment after we finished. For me, the Christmas Feast was a glimpse of what Hope Fellowship will look like in the future: a church with full community ownership and leadership.

Mike Shaw

The thing that stuck out to me during the feast was the overwhelming sense that "this is good". Here are some highlights:

-boys and girls dressed in homemade costumes for the Christmas skit

-parents' happy faces

-being reunited with kids we've played with for hours at kids club during the summer

-Jesus Storybook Bibles given to each child (a supporter from Georgia sent $2000 to purchase 200 children’s Bibles for Christmas!)

-hearing Native voices singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

-enjoying melt-in-your-mouth-salmon cooked right outside the longhouse by Rex Zack

-the longhouse ceremonial room decorated with lights and homemade decorations (paper chains, poinsettias, snowflakes) made by the youth group

-working with people from all over Washington who drove to the rez (in crazy winter weather) to help us

-celebrating the BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR with hundreds of people from all over the reservation...in a longhouse!

It was a blessing to be a part of such a celebration.

Emily Schmidt

It wasn’t until maybe the day before when I started to realized exactly how big and crazy (in a good way) this Christmas Feast was going to be. There were lots of thoughts and ideas and preparations and prayer that went into that night and at times I wondered about (and doubted) some of it. Watching the boys and girls line up to get their gifts and then receive them caused everything make sense to me. Seeing the response of the community and smiles on people’s face; seeing proud parents and laughing children; getting another glimpse of what a true church “is” went beyond making everything worth it. Though everything wasn’t perfect (how we had thought things would play out), there were no surprises for our King. I hope so much that this King that we serve and celebrate was made known to White Swan that night. This Gospel is hope, it’s the only hope and that’s exactly what Christmas is about; Angels coming through broken skies, a baby coming to a broken world to be our hope.

Gretchen Becker