“Take Highway 26 over the pass south of Mt. Hood (Wy’East). The temperatures are low enough that there may be snow. Pack your tire chains. About 90 miles from Portland, you’ll see the Warm Springs Casino. Slow for the gamblers and turn right. Follow the sign to the woman who has turned her pickup into an Indian Fry Bread Café. Turn right at the fry bread and follow the blacktop till you see two old guys in lawn chairs. Return their wave and park behind the red building.”
Everything was where it belonged, including the two guys in lawn chairs, that beautiful May afternoon. Finding a place to park, Dick & Brenda Duerksen, poured a bowl of water for Sheba, the canine, and walked through a patch of prairie grass to a thick green lawn where they were surrounded by two large white teepees, and a dozen pop-up canvas shelters shading pizza, tacos, bubble machines, and the coolest smoothie machine in the West.
Benjamin Lundquist was supervising portrait photography beside the teepees. “Sure, you can go into the teepees, but stand near the doorway so the camera can see your eyes.”
Between the teepees, five gifted musicians coaxed a traditional Warm Springs song from a deep-throated drum. “The sound,” as one listener said, “felt like the melody an unborn baby would hear in the beating of Mother’s heart.”
Volunteers from churches in Madras, Happy Valley, and Redmond, each wearing a grey “Serve.” t-shirt, were everywhere, helping children with the bubble machines, distributing scores of backpacks and teddy bears, and sitting in “center court” connecting kids with the gift shoes each had ordered several weeks ago. Joyful surprise was the emotion of the day.
“Really?” “These shoes are for me?” “I didn’t believe you!” “Black with the yellow stripe! Just what I wanted!”
“At first it was just a bunch of native children who needed shoes,” says event dreamer Doug McGinnis, “but when several pastors caught the dream, and our young adult team and Big Lake Youth Camp joined up, then I knew it would happen. We were going to give 400 pairs of new shoes to kids on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. It’s about the most exciting thing I’ve ever been part of!”
It all started about eight months ago when native pastor Seth Cantu of the Madras church, Pleasant Valley Church (PVC) pastor, Greg Phillips, and the PVC outreach group heard about Samaritan’s Feet, a worldwide ministry that helps provide shoes for kids. “Four Hundred Pairs?” asked the folks from Samaritan’s Feet. “That’s great! We’ll cover 80% of the cost.”
Candice Jimenez, a PVC member and tribal citizen who was raised on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, signed on and immediately began connecting with tribal elders and planning a picnic day to go along with the shoe giveaway.
In addition to the shoes, pizza, smoothies, and other food, there was a drawing for load of special prizes. The kids received basketballs from the Portland Trail Blazers, special backpacks, extra shoes, and t-shirts. But the biggest smiles came from the 26 kids whose special prize was a free week at Big Lake Youth Camp!
“We didn’t realize how big this event was going to get,” says Pastor Cantu. “When God moves, we move. Today is the beginning of a lifelong ministry with our new friends in Warm Springs.”
“Look at that!” cried one of the kids. “There’s a rainbow above the teepees!” Looking up, everyone smiled and watched in awe as Creator slowly flew a pillar of fire above the Warm Springs Reservation, blessing everyone below.