Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fully Loaded...

Every season brings it's challenges, and this year is shaping up to be no exception. A brutally cold winter has kept me indoors and away from snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dogsledding, and even the addition of a "fat-bike" (designed for winter riding) did not generate enough activity to keep my weight down and my stamina up. Like last year, one of our ministry partners will be taking the summer off, leaving me to wonder where we are going and what we are doing this year? Without a doubt, there are needs to be met, places and people who need the touch of Creator in their lives, and if He can use us in that, as the blog title says, we are "proceeding on..."



Often, I do not understand the reaction that the things that we do evokes from other Christians. For instance, the response to my introduction of "Birth of the Chosen One" at Lower Brule in December was very negative from some of the missionary pastors worked with, and their reaction was very hurtful, and very un-Christ-like towards some of our partners in ministering on the reservations. I have believed very strongly since my time in Petrozavodsk (1996-97) and Pastor Ellen's trip to Belarus two years before, that we cannot bring the Gospel to indigenous people if we infuse it with our Western culture. Missionaries are not God's gift to the people they are serving, they are servants. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many..." (Mark 10:45) For five centuries, we European-Americans have attempted to strip away the Indian's culture, language and pride, their regalia and music and replace it with something that "looks more like us". We believe that the First Nations Version will be an important and powerful tool in ministering to and discipling Native American and First Nations people, and for that reason we will continue to support Terry Wildman and his work, and use his next publication, “When the Great Spirit Walked Among Us” combining the four Gospels into one narrative, in our missions work.


And so, we are proceeding on. In preparation for this year's trips (yes, multiple) today I am taking the Volcanic mountain bike down off the skyhooks today and getting it tuned up for the season. The Bianchi, "Discovery" goes into the shop next week for it's annual physical and a new rear rack. We will be back on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in June for the fund-raising and prayer "Ride Across the Rez". We are also seriously considering invitations to minister through a church construction project on the Standing Rock Reservation and a teaching/discipling mission to the Cree First Nation Reserve in Canada with Global Ministries and Relief, the "action arm" of the missiology program I am involved in. And at least one of those trips will be self-supporting, "fully loaded" carrying all we need on board our bikes. As we found out in Russia in 1997 and on the Yankton Rez in 2012, being on a bike makes you much more open and approachable.


This is adventure. The adventure of missionary exploration. There is a voice that calls to us, that we cannot ignore, calling us to fulfill the great commission. Do you hear it? Will you pray for us, support us...ride with us? Our adventure can be your adventure too.

We are proceeding on...
Two-Wheeled Explorer 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Return to Lower Brule


 On July 22, 2011, in the face of 25 MPH winds and temperatures over 100 degrees, combined with my slow recovery from a traumatic brain injury the previous March, I was forced to end our planned 55-mile "Ride Across the Rez" on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation after only 9 (mostly downhill for the video camera) miles. I have not been back since then, but have felt a longing, a calling to return there. Creator is working on the Lower Brule and I believe we are to play a part in that. When Pastor Kc Kopaska of Native American Ministries asked if I was interested in helping with a Christmas outreach called "A Birthday Party for Jesus", I started praying about it. Then, our friend Terry Wildman of RainSong First Nations Music and Storytelling, announced that the first story from the First Nations Version of the Sacred Scriptures, a project we are supporting, would be a book aimed at children, called "Birth of the Chosen One", and it would be published in time for Christmas. That was all the confirmation I needed. I would return to Lower Brule for Christmas.


 I have two big boxes of clothing, mostly from the men's Gateway Group at our Northgate Church, and so far, two Christmas shoeboxes for children, and am looking for more. Pastor Kc is bringing more shoeboxes, and Christmas stockings filled with presents for Native kids of all ages. I am praying that God will fill up my Subaru with good gifts for the children on the Lower Brule Rez. We can use toys, games, candy and other fun things kids like. Place them in shoeboxes or Christmas stockings that are sorted by age and gender for kids from toddler to age 18. We can also use warm coats and other winter clothing in children's sizes. We would also love to have more copies of "Birth of the Chosen One" for the families of Lower Brule. This is a wonderful re-telling of the Nativity story, in a way that Native American people will find easy to relate to. The illustrations, also by an Indian artist, are simply beautiful. As says on the title page, "Listen to the Christmas story again for the first time." It will open the eyes of your heart. They can be purchased on Amazon, or directly from RainSong at First Nations Version: Birth of the Chosen One.


Next summer, my prayer is to come back to Lower Brule again, and finished the ride that nearly finished me in 2011. I will be blessed if you feel led to ride with me.

Proceeding on...
The Two-Wheeled Explorer

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Technology and the Adventure of Missionary Exploration


 
I like gizmos as much as anyone (except maybe my son-in-law), but it is rare I find one that is a "must have". Take GPS units, for example; I have an older Delorme PN-20 GPS on my MTB, and a Garmin Edge 205 on Discovery, my Bianchi Volpe. Last week though, Garmin revealed something new in their Edge GPS line; It is called the Garmin Edge Touring, and it is made specifically for riders like me. In the words of Will Smith at the controls of the alien spaceship in “Independence Day”, "I gotta get me one of these!" (http://youtu.be/MA9V1M2ikqs) But my techno-bent doesn’t end there. I also carry a cell phone, actually a "smartphone", and for those areas where it's not smart enough to find a cell signal, I carry a SPOT Tracker satellite notification system, mostly in case I get in trouble out of cell range, abut also so you folks back home can keep track of my progress on the adventure of missionary exploration. I am active on Facebook and Twitter, I occasionally write this blog, but the truth be told, I have always liked cycling because it is supposed to be simple. All this clutter de-simplifies things. I have a standing joke that some day some great Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) is going to knock all these gizmos off the grid, and probably knock the grid off as well, and the Amish are going to rule the world.

 In all honesty, I got into cycling through mountain biking, and remain to this day, more of a mountain biker than a "roadie". I like riding both my bikes, but I really enjoy riding the MTB, usually alone, which has gotten me into trouble a couple times, including last Friday. (That is also why I carry the SPOT. If I get in serious trouble, at the push of a button, I can call 911 from anywhere on the face of the planet.) But while the Volpe can take me far distances, the Volcanic (my newer mountain bike) can take me to the quiet places. As Terry Wildman of RainSong puts it in "Great Spirit Guide", the First Nations Version of the 23rd Psalm, "He gives me rest in fields of tender grass, and guides me near peaceful streams that refresh and strengthen me." If I  am seeking those peaceful streams, do I really need a cell phone, an all-telling GPS, a Kindle or I-Pad? (Yes, my wife does require I carry the SPOT when I am solo, regardless.) I have spent many peaceful hours in backcountry campsites on the shores of Trout Lake on the Chippewa, and Emerson Lake on the Chequamegon National Forests, or Cary Lake and Ensign Pond in the Adirondacks before I moved to Minnesota and got into cycling , reading the Journals of Lewis and Clark, tales of bear attacks, Dr. Larry Christenson's Ride the River, Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales or the Bible, all real books printed on real paper. This false dependence we have created on the things of technology, it really takes something away from the adventure. I miss that.  
Proceeding on...
Two-Wheeled Explorer

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Why Do I Ride?


It started as a way to ride part of the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail in South Dakota, after taking part in the 2009 "Day in the Park" outreach on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, but it grew into much more. Today, I am willing to battle with discouragement, fear and the weather, because I feel there is a greater calling, not on me, but on this ride that I do. I ride for hope. I ride for justice. I ride for Jesus.

Many years ago, across the ocean, in a nation that I grew up believing was "the enemy", I got on a mountain bike. along with my adopted daughter, an amazing 73-year-old lady from our church, a resident missionary and his son, and seven people I barely knew, only two of whom spoke English, and we set off across northwestern Russia, going from remote, rural village to village, telling people about Jesus. The expedition was called BIKERussia, and you can find the entire story elsewhere on this blog, or on our website, but as I have said many times before, it was the greatest adventure of my life.

I always wanted to go back to Russia, and actually came close twice, but the doors never re-opened, and eventually it became obvious that was no longer my calling. (Although I would still welcome the opportunity to go back, even as a tourist...on bike.) In early 2009, a new door opened. A new path emerged when I was invited to assist with an Assemblies of God outreach in Wagner, South Dakota, on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation, which is crossed by the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail. The Corps of Discovery has been a special interest of mine for many years, that gained tremendous momentum through the bicentennial celebration of the expedition from 2003 to 2006, and the establishment of a historical bike route by the Adventure Cycling Association, which I had joined after BIKERussia in 1997.

Something happened that first year, as I rode across the plains with a howling headwind and near 90-degree heat; I was captivated. Just as I had "morphed" into Karelia as I rode through the Russian boreal forest twelve years earlier, the Sioux people that I met, and the things that I observed started to do a work on my heart and my spirit. God again opened the "eyes of my heart" to the world, the needs, and the beauty around me.

I have always liked the quote from Eric Liddell, the Christian missionary, Olympic champion and the hero of the movie, "Chariots of Fire", who said of his running in his most famous quote, “I believe God made me for a purpose... when I run I feel his pleasure.” It's true. When I ride for the Lord, when I ride across the reservation, I do feel His pleasure. It has never not been hot, and almost as often, windy, but in Meriwether Lewis' words, I "proceed on", because that is what I am called to do. But Liddell also said this; “We are all missionaries. Wherever we go we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ.” Even after four hundred years of trying to convert Native Americans to Christianity, often by force and by cultural indoctrination, still only 3 to 5% of all Indians follow "the Jesus Way." I am determined not to be one of those who "repel them from Christ". The Native Americans have seen too much of that. I pray that in one small corner of the First Nations of this land, God will give me the wisdom to bring Native people nearer to Christ.


Why do I ride? I ride for love. I ride to bring hope and encourage justice. I ride for reconciliation between the people and the church. I ride as a witness for the Lord. I  ride because I can, and because as I ride, I pray. From one end of the reservation to the other, those things I ride for, I pray for.

Pray for the ride. Pray for funds to be raised. Pray about riding with me. October, 4-6, 2013.

Lila pilamaya - Thank you very much!
The Two-Wheeled Explorer

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Gumby Principle in Action: Always be flexible!


I apologize for not keeping you up to date on our trip this year, but changes have happened so fast and frequently that I barely have time to keep up with them myself. This year, I will have the opportunity to minister to Native Americans, and to once again “Ride Across the Rez” on my bike, “Discovery”. We have done these rides since 2009 to raise awareness and funds for reservation ministries that impact the physical and spiritual well-being of Native Americans. The trip this year will be raising funds for the ongoing ministry of St. Brendan's First Nations Missions and the following specific projects: 

-We are supporting the development of the “First Nations Version” translation of the New Testament (and, ultimately the entire Bible) into Native American context, by Terry Wildman of RainSong First Nations Music and Storytelling. This is an exciting endeavor that will paraphrase the Sacred Scriptures in a way that is easier for Indian peoples across the US and Canada to relate to. 

-Today we are shipping the bicycle parts that we have been stockpiling out to the Pine Ridge Reservation in western South Dakota, where Pastor Terry Michels has been rebuilding bikes for reservation children for over a decade. Pastor Terry will let me know of any additional support, parts or tools they may need for the bike ministry.

I would ask you to prayerfully consider once again how you can support us in “Reaching Out to the Nations Within”. There are three ways to take part in this outreach: 

1.) Pray. We covet and need your prayer support. Riding 100 miles, self-supported (carrying our own food and camping gear) on a year when bike training has been so delayed by weather conditions is a challenge in itself. Also your prayers are needed for the funds we raise to be used with the greatest effect for God’s glory. 

2.) Give. Your tax-deductable donation will help the missions I have described above reach their goals in ministering to Native American and First Nations peoples with the love of Jesus Christ. You can give online at www.twowheeledexplorer.org. 

3.) Go. Ride With Us. I know some of you can ride from Hinckley to Carlton and back in a day. I cannot. But if you would like to make all or part of the ride with the Two-Wheeled Explorer, we would love to have you along. The ride is now planned for October 3rd, 4th and if needed, 5th, on the Yankton and Lower Brule Sioux Reservations. A rider application and fund-raising guide can be found at http://www.twowheeledexplorer.org/news.htm  

We would welcome any opportunities to come to your church or group and tell you how we are "Reaching out to the Nations within."

May God bless you as you consider how you can respond to this request.

Lila Pilamaya! (Lakota for "Thank you very much!")
Two-Wheeled Explorer

Sunday, May 26, 2013

There Are No Indian Reservations in Heaven, by J. Lee Grady


Guest Blog: God’s heart is broken over the spiritual condition of the Native American community. Do you care?
nativeamericanI spent part of this week preaching at my friend Quentin Beard’s church in Sioux Falls, S.D. On Sunday—which happened to be Pentecost—I reminded the congregation that if we really want the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we must have more than just emotionally charged worship, speaking in tongues or miracles of healing. Those things are wonderful, but if we want full-blown Pentecost we must also tear down racial and ethnic barriers.
Later that morning, a tall Native American brother named Joe Marrowbone came to the altar for prayer. He is from the Lakota Sioux tribe, and he wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Within a few moments, he was praying in tongues with his hands raised in the air. He told me later that He feels God will send him to share the gospel on some of the Indian reservations near Sioux Falls.
Joe was especially blessed when I addressed the issue of racism among whites and Native people in his home state. I told the church that when we get to heaven, there will not be a white section, a Hispanic section, a black section or a Native section. “We are all one big family. There are no Indian reservations in heaven," I said.
Seeing Joe filled with the Spirit was a highlight of my trip. But when I left Sioux Falls, I was burdened about the condition of the Native people in our nation. We have so much unfinished business when it comes to healing the breach that exists between us and our American Indian brothers. Consider these facts:
  • Native Americans have the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States. The poverty rate is 25 percent. Native people living in Indian country have incomes that are less than half of the general U.S. population.
  • Only 36 percent of males in high-poverty Native American communities have full-time, year-round employment.
  • Nearly 10 percent of all Native families are homeless. The rate of Native homes without electricity is 10 times the national average, and 20 percent of Native households lack running water. The infant mortality rate among Native people is about 300 percent higher than the national average.
  • The poorest county in the United States is the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where the unemployment rate is at a mind-boggling 80 percent. Life expectancy on this reservation is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, except for Haiti.
  • Rates of violent victimization for both males and females are higher among American Indians than for any other race.
  • From 1999 to 2004, American Indian males in the 15- to 24-year-old age group had the highest suicide rate compared to males of any other racial group.
  • Native American men have been found to be dying at the fastest rate of all people in the United States.
What do those figures say to you? I believe it is an absolute travesty that those of us in the Christian community have not fully acknowledged our forefathers’ role in perpetrating genocide on our Native brothers. And it is pathetic that we have largely ignored this languishing mission field in our own backyard while we spend millions on our tech-savvy megachurches in white suburbs. God forgive us.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter declared from the book of Joel that one sign of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring would be the empowerment of the poorest of the poor. He said, “Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18, NASB).
Surely Native Americans were on God’s heart when those words were recorded. Yet many of us completely missed the point of Pentecost. We made it about us. We chased after the anointing, the chills, the hype and the charismatic circus—forgetting that the reason we are anointed by the Spirit is to minister to those who need Christ’s healing.
I am praying that the Spirit-filled community will renounce its self-absorbed immaturity and begin to fulfill our true Pentecostal mission. Pray for a spiritual awakening among Native people, both on and off the reservation. Explore ways that you can build bridges of reconciliation. And ask God how you and your church should respond to the needs of Native people.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of Fearless Daughters of the Bible and other books.
 
     My Comments: Lee states, "We have largely ignored this languishing mission field in our own backyard". I have been saying this to whomever would listen, for the past 5 years. We became involved with Native American/First Nations missions after the doors closed to us in NW Russia, and have never regretted it. The fields are ripe for the harvest, but the workers are few. As Lee pointed out, we spend millions elsewhere, while domestic missions fall below the radar of most church missions programs. There are a number of missions groups working among the Indigenous peoples of the US, Canada and Mexico, such as Lutheran Indian Ministries, Native American Ministries of the Assemblies of God and Wiconi International, and many others. Please seek them out online. We are preparing for summer short-term outreaches right now, so it is a good time to get involved.

J. Lee Grady is one of Pastor Ellen’s mentors, and an instructor at the Master’s Institute School of Ministry.

Proceeding on,
Two-Wheeled Explorer
 

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Daring adventures and great exploits

Christian missions leader and author Seth Barnes posted a quote on Twitter a few months ago that I really like, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I also have seen a similar quote from Helen Keller, saying “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.” Although I have done many adventurous things in my life, as a firefighter, paramedic, mountaineer and park ranger, the greatest adventures of all have taken place in my travels as a missionary, first to northwestern Russia, and then, for the past four summers on the Sioux Indian reservations in South Dakota. 

This year, again, I will have the opportunity to minister to Native Americans, and to once again “Ride FOR the Rez” on my bicycle, “Discovery”. We have done these rides since 2009 to raise funds and awareness for reservation ministries that impact the physical and spiritual well-being of Native Americans. This year the ride will take place on Minnesota’s Willard Munger-Hinckley Fire State Trail, traveling 120 miles over 3 days from Hinckley to Carlton MN, and return, raising funds for development of a vision screening program on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, with our partners, Native American Ministries and All-Nations Family Worship Center. 

We will also be supporting the development of the “First Nations Version” translation of the New Testament (and, ultimately the entire Bible) into Native American context, by Terry Wildman of RainSong First Nations Music and Storytelling. This is an exciting endeavor that will paraphrase the Sacred Scriptures in a way that is easier for Indian peoples across the US and Canada to relate to.
 
Thank you in advance for your prayers and support!
 
We are proceeding on...
The Two-Wheeled Explorer