by Jessica Atwell
Umatilla, Wash., November 20, 2012 - A number of people I know want to work for Christ but feel they need to go on an adventurous trip to an exotic land in order to do mission work. God has recently opened my eyes to an unreached culture in our own backyard. Without a passport or an expensive plane ticket, Christ desires your help in winning lost souls living right here on American soil.
Two of Northwest Mission Institute’s students this session, Mitch and Raquel Hayes, are Native Americans who have a burden for the people living on the Umatilla Reservation located just outside of Pendleton, Oregon. Mitch and Raquel bring a required understanding of this culture to the table that most could never possess. They explained to us how prevalent drug and alcohol abuse are on the reservations. Another little known, shocking reality is the overwhelming rate of teenage suicide across the Tribal Nations. The stories they share from personal experience are hard to believe at times–or maybe it’s that I don’t want to believe such tragedies are true.
The Hayes are working out of what used to be a thriving Seventh-day Adventist primary school. Trying to revive community interest, a group of members from the Blue Mountain Valley church host a program every Sabbath afternoon called ‘A Walk Through the Book.’ At times there are more than 20 children who attend the program to sings songs, learn more about Jesus, make a craft, and enjoy the healthy snacks. Occasionally, a full church service is held in addition to the weekly program. Handing out personal invitations to just such an event was my first door knocking experience on the Umatilla Reservation.
Before class one Friday morning, following my time on the reservation, we were reviewing our week with an exercise called ‘High-Low.’ It’s a pretty simple activity where each person shares one high point and one low point recently experienced. My ‘high’ and ‘low’ were actually both related to the time I had just spent in the “projects” of the Umatilla Reservation. Knocking on doors there validated everything Mitch and Raquel had told me. Seeing it for myself brought to life the details of what they described. Without a doubt, it is the darkest place I’ve ever been. Nearly every door that opened released the smell of different drugs. The spiritual oppression was the worst I’ve ever witnessed, and it brought to mind the stories my foreign missionary friends have told about how spiritually confused large numbers of people are in distant lands. The situations these children live in touches my heart like nothing else. But as I mentioned, this day of door knocking at the reservation, was the low of my week and the high. How so? Even with witnessing the devastating evidence of deep, spiritual oppression, I felt Christ’s presence with me like I never have before! If Christ were here today, I’m convinced the Umatilla Reservation is a place He would be laboring for souls to win to His kingdom. Those in captivity, lost in darkness, He came to set free! As His hands and feet, we need to go where the captives are so He might reach them through us.
What an opportunity Mitch and Raquel have, in cooperation with Blue Mountain Valley church and the Mission church building, to be hands and feet for Jesus. What a bright light in a truly dark area