North Dakota 2010


Dates:  July 9 – 20, 2010
Ministry Partner: Tipi Wakan Ministries, Boots and Jackie Marsh
Ministry Focus:  Basketball Camp, Care Ministry, Service projects at Tipi Wakan

Grace has built a partnership with Boots and Jackie Marsh, missionaries on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  This ministry will take a multi-pronged approach to outreach at Tipi Wakan.  An evangelistic Basketball Camp will reach the youth of the community, and a Care ministry will be offered to families and individuals focusing on grief counseling and support for freedom from addictions. 

Updated Sunday, July 18
With the North Dakota team's safe arrival home tonight, Grace's ministry on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation south of Bismarck draws to a close.  Thank you for supporting our missionaries in a complicated and challenging ministry, and for your continued prayers for Boots and Jackie Marsh and their team.

Be sure to mark the date of our Summer Missions Celebration, Sunday September 19 at 6:00pm in the Worship Center, where you will have the opportunity to hear more reports from the North Dakota team and the rest of Grace's summer mission teams.

Updated Friday, July 16
Charlie writes:

I have been on a few missions trips to several different places around the world but I am telling you that this trip to North Dakota has been the most physically, emotionally and spiritually taxing of any of the trips that I have been on.  I really have appreciated your prayers and continue to covet them.

Many of you might well be aware that we experienced a hail storm during our stay here.  Before I describe the details of this, let me point out that it occurred during what I believe was a low point in our team’s morale.  The basketball component of our team had just finished our second day with the children and the spiritual care component of the team had just finished their second ‘all-day’ session with some of the ladies from the town of Cannon Ball.  To put it shortly, we were tired.

Then at about 12:30am, we were awakened by the sound that you might associate with bowling balls being dropped on the roof.  Greg and I chanced to look out of the window and saw a lot of white stuff which we immediately identified as hail.  Well, I had always heard of the famous Midwestern hailstorms, so I put on some slippers and made my way down to the entrance of the building.  Just outside our door were golf ball sized fragments of ice strewn about. I then overheard a police officer on her radio talking about all of the patrol cars damaged in this incident.  She said that all of their windshields were smashed out and all of the mirrors on the cars were gone. I did not stay around to listen to much more as I went back to the room.

After this there was a lightening show the likes of which I have never seen. The flashing was in such fast succession that it gave the appearance of an old movie screen.  This kept going for the next half hour.

The next morning, we all were first hand witnesses to the damage of the night before.  All of the cars in the parking lot had suffered major bodily damage.  Windshields and side windows were shattered and broken through. Nine inch diameter dents were found in the metal surfaces.  Holes were punctured in roofs.  It was amazing. Then we heard the news.  We had just survived the largest hailstorm in North Dakota state history with six to eight inch diameter stones surpassing the previous record of three inch stones set a long time ago.

Please continue your prayers.  I will let you know more as time permits.

Updated Friday, July 16
Phone call from our host Pastor Boots

The team is doing well, having another fruitful ministry trip.  But Boots asks for prayer for his wife Jackie, who returned from a brief trip to Virginia with pneumonia, making her unable to spend any time with the team.  Please pray for healing and strength for Jackie, and for Boots as he takes on hosting responsibilities by himself.

Updated Tuesday, July 13
Charlie writes:
I have to admit, we were warned that this ministry would be a hard one.  The spiritual oppression and the suspicion here are so thick that you could almost feel them.  Still, there is not a question in my mind that we, on the North Dakota team, are exactly where God wants us to be.  

These people hold grudges tenaciously.  In their thinking, it is the white people that are the reason that their lives are so miserable.  In their thinking, the missionaries here, Boots and Jackie as well as our mission team are here only for the purpose of getting something for ourselves.   It is interesting to be amongst a people that do not like you.  It reminds me of what God did for us in sending us His Son.  He loved us so much that he sent his Son to establish a relationship with us.  What did we do?  We despised Him and killed Him.  

It is truly a blessing to be able to serve God with all that we have got here in Cannon Ball.  We need your prayers to break through the suspicion around us and allow the love of God to shine!

Updated Tuesday, July 13
Charlie writes:
We were in high anticipation for the start of the basketball camp yesterday.  Just the night before, while we were checking into the hotel at the casino seven miles south of town, a couple of little kids came up to Greg and asked if he was doing the Basketball camp.  Of course Greg said yes and invited them to come.  He then inquired as to their room number (the family was spending the night at the casino), and told them that he would call their parents.   Greg, did call the parents and asked them on behalf of the children if we could take them from the casino to the camp tomorrow morning and bring them back in the afternoon.  They said, “Okay, that would be fine.”  We had not even met them and they were okay with sending their kids with us!  

We spent several hours trying to conduct a basketball camp.  Every drill that Greg taught them soon broke down into a kind of basketball mayhem but he and Katelyn and Jonathan kept at it, revising the ‘game plan’ on a minute by minute basis.  Through it all, connections were made, even though they were very slight connections.  All three basketball team members, Greg, Katelyn and Jonathan, are to be commended for the energy and love that they poured on to these kids.  I sat on the sideline and spent a lot of time praying for them.  

I fervently ask your prayers for our team.  This is an exhausting and unrewarding ministry.  I am counting on you for this.  We are the North Dakota team together…the nine of us here, all of you in California and God. With a team like this, we can’t fail.

Updated Monday, July 12
Greg Ashlock, the coach of the outreach basketball clinic to children and teens on the reservation, had to travel separately from the rest of the team (thus his absence from the team picture above, taken at the 4:00am team departure).  Greg arrived safe and sound, ready to start a good week of outreach.

Wendy McHaddad is working with the Care Ministry side of the team, reaching out mainly to women, and she posted this comment on her Facebook page tonight:
"Today was a day of table conversations over card making and snack sharing. Meals were eaten together, tables pushed together so more could join in, and hearts were put out for others to hold. Invitations for a return were extended and promises were given to do so.  A good rest for all is warranted."

The week in Cannon Ball is off to a good start.  Keep praying!

Updated Sunday, July 11
Charlie writes:
Spirits were high as we stepped off of the plane and met our hosts who had come to pick us up.  Boots Marsh is no stranger to Grace Baptist and he was there with all of his charming Texas style.  We were also very pleased to see 'Minnie' (Melanie) Gaston, who was just finishing up a longer term of ministry at Tipi Wakan, the ministry that we are destined to serve at during the following week.

Today was the team's first contact with the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. We drove for about an hour south of Bismarck to the town of Cannon Ball where the Tipi Wakan ministry takes place.  There we all had lunch and sat for a while as Pastor Boots told us about what we might expect during our time there.  Then he produced a list of some of the things that we might work on as side projects as we acclimated ourselves to the situation. 

Kathleen took to watering trees and working in the garden.  Janiece got busy with her duties in the kitchen.  Wendy, Kaitlyn and Chris focused their efforts on clearing a room that was formerly used as Minnie's bedroom.  Jonathan and I worked on starting a generator that Boots was unable to start.  (Actually, Jonathan did the work.  I just kind of administrated it.)

After all of this, we took a tour of the town of Cannonball.  Actually the word 'tour' is a bit strong when you are viewing this little town.  It is really nothing more than a small community center surrounded by a few streets and houses.  Our main purpose for all of this was to invite kids to the basketball camp that we are putting on all of the following week.  At this Kaitlyn and Jonathan were outstanding.  I wish you could have seen the zeal that these two team members employed as they were engaging all of the children that they were meeting.  It was just as if they were doing exactly what God had intended for them to do.

As we were heading back, we had the opportunity to help a man push start his pickup truck after it failed to start with jumper cables.  Jonathan, Kaitlyn, Elizabeth (a long term missionary from Virginia) and I lined up and pushed our guts out but in the end we did get it started and everyone cheered!

Tomorrow is Sunday and we will plan on engaging the people even more as we attend church with them.  Pray for us especially since our ministry consists of showing up, identifying opportunities and then just jumping in. I will report back in a day or two.  Thank you for your desire to keep in touch.

Updated Saturday, July 9
Call from the team
After an early-morning send-off and a flight through Salt Lake City, our North Dakota team has arrived safe and sound in Bismarck.  They were met by Missionary Boots Marsh and GBC summer missionary Melanie Gaston.  Thanks for your prayers as they settle in and begin their ministry tomorrow.