Isaac’s Baptism

Isaac’s Baptism from chuck clevenger on Vimeo.

Dear Isaac,

Last night, October 20, 2009, you were baptized. The baptism was conducted by Uncle Chris at the Toppenish Creek Longhouse in White Swan, Washington on The Yakama Indian Reservation. You were five months old so I doubt you will remember much about the night, so I thought I might tell you a little about it.

The service began at 6:30 with a wonderful meal that Aunt Mary, Miss Heather and Miss Emily worked for over two days to prepare. There was chicken, ham, potatoes, green beans, corn and the best pies anyone has ever tasted. There were around 70 people there. Your Pappaw and Mimi came all the way from Tennessee to be there for it too. There were lots of children and teenagers. Miss Veronica and Mr. Mike drove brought most of them in the Sacred Road Van and were busy all night helping the children to behave.

Many of the children came up to see you and say hello while you sat next to your Mimi. One of the teenagers in our youth group, Kassandra, stayed around you the whole night. She was so happy. Another teenager, Felicia, went home and came back so that she could get a necklace to give you.

After the meal, everyone moved into the ceremonial room and Miss Gretchen, Miss Emily and Uncle Chris led everyone in worship. We sang three songs: “ I Will Sing and Love and Worship,” “How Deep the Father’s Love” and “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Your mommy and I picked those songs to remind us and everyone present how much God loves us.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

Every time I look at you now, I will think of that verse. How much God must love us to give His only son. As my only son, I don’t think you will ever know how much I love you.

After the singing, Uncle Chris told everyone in the longhouse what baptism was. He talked about it being a seal, like on an envelope that only Jesus can open. Your sister really liked that – she asked mommy lots of questions about it. When he finished, he called all of us up to the front.

I held you and Asha stood in front of your mommy. Uncle Chris told everyone about how your name “Isaac” means “he laughs” and Asha’s name means “hope”. Then he asked us three questions about how you needed Jesus as a saviour, how we would teach you about Jesus as you grow up and how we would pray with you and for you. Then he asked everyone present if they would help us raise you according to the way Jesus wants. Many people said they would, which made me very happy.

He took you in his arms and sprinkled water over your head and baptized you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You were the first baby he has ever baptized and he was really happy. He handed you back to me – you were so good, you never cried or got upset. We finished by singing “Amazing Grace.”

After the baptism ceremony we gave gifts to everyone who came as a way of saying thank you to them for welcoming our family into their community. Mister Jack helped me out a lot with doing the giveaway so that we could try to do it the right way in the longhouse. He said he had never seen a baptism before and that wild horses wouldn’t have kept him from coming. Toby, Billy, Felicia and Ann Marie all helped to pass out the gifts.

We have lived on the reservation now for eight months now and everyone at Hope Fellowship has been very kind and generous to us. They are our friends and family.

They will be your church.

I love you.


Working with teams and interns

One of the real treats of the summer was working with the summer interns and the visiting teams from churches. Participating with a summer team was the experience that God used to call Neena and I to the Reservation, so it was interesting to see the teams from the staff side of the fence.

It is amazing to see how many people come from Mississippi, California, Washington, Kanas City, etc. and love on our friends in White Swan. We had five team weeks this summer with an average of 45 people per team. Each week, we did two new roofs and painted two houses – sometimes the same house would get a new paint job and roof. We also did some light carpentry and chopped firewood – I got to help build a wheelchair ramp. Then in the afternoon, we did Kids Club at two housing projects – Totus Park and Adams View Park.

Chris has said that we are fighting a war with the enemy but our weapons are paint brushes and jump ropes. If you can imagine an army of love armed with roof shingles and bubble wands, that is exactly what ot looked like.

We had seven interns and Uncle Dave working with all summer as well. Uncle Dave is a builder that has driven up from Florida for the last couple of summers to coordinate all of the work projects. It was a true blessing getting to know Uncle Dave and watch him mentor the male interns. His presence on the work sites was a blessing to everyone there.

The interns: Mark Shaw, Luke Irwin, Joshua Tsavtewa, Scot Burnett, Sadie Corbet, Janel Corbet and Rebekah Griffin were all amazing as well. They worked so hard in the hot summer but managed to be a lot of fun to be with as well. Mark, in particular, was a great help to me in the youth meetings with the guys. But each one brought a particular gift to the team and I am thankful to God for each of them. It was hard saying goodbye when they all returned home.

Camp High Rock

Camp High Rock was a great success!!! Thanks to many of you for donating extra funds to cover camp expenses. We ended up getting more help than we needed so that we have some funds to put toward next year’s camp.

Camp was great for me as I had never really done the church camp experience. It was amazing to see so many of the kids we work with on the Reservation get away from the chaos in their lives and be able to have fun, feel safe and hear about Jesus throughout the day. In the chapel talks, cabin devotions, singalong songs, and interactions with their counselors – these children were experiencing the love of Christ in virtually everything they did. It was wonderful to see how so many of them responded so well to just having some stability in their daily routine especially three good meals and enough sleep at night.

Part of my responsibility at camp was to watch and see how we might run a youth camp next year for the older kids. I had the privilege of leading teen devotions every night around the campfire for some teens who had come to help serve meals and help out in general. It was a wonderful time and I wonder if all small groups wouldn’t be better with toasted marshmallows.

Toppenish Pow Wow

I was blessed to be able to attend a pow wow in the Toppenish long house last Saturday evening. It was a really interesting time and I had never been to the long house in Toppenish – turns out it is basically next door to the casino. I was there for about four hours and gave Stephen and a couple of his friends a ride home when it was over. I got to eat some fry bread which was awesome and just sort of take in the culture.

I was going to try to come up with something culturally or spritually relevant to say, but I am too tired and I don’t think I understand Pow Wows enough to really say much about them other than they are really exciting and beautiful. I will say that this is only an aspect of the culture here, so when you watch the videos, you might imagine what it would be like if someone decided our whole culture looked like an episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Fancy Dance at Pow Wow from chuck clevenger on Vimeo.

Stacy dances Traditional at Topppenish Pow Wow from chuck clevenger on Vimeo.

This second video is our friend Stacy, who is a member of the Hope Fellowship Group.

Three weeks in

Well, we’ve been living on the Reservation for almost three weeks now. It sounds crazy when I think about the fact that I am living on an Indian Reservation. God has been so good to us throughout our transition. It was so much harder saying good bye to our friends and family than I imagined it would be, but getting to the Reservation and seeing the Granberrys and Veronica was a wonderful balm to that sadness.

This past Tuesday, were able to go to our first Hope Fellowship meeting at the Long House since arriving. The previous two weeks had been cancelled due to illness and weather. Neena and I met with Chris’s group of teens and adults while Asha stayed with Mary and did the children’s lesson. At some point in the future, Neena and I will work with Veronica to break up the youth into their own small groups. Until then, we are observing the dynamics of the group and trying to get in sync with its rhythm.

The lesson Chris was teaching was about casting your burdens on Jesus because he loves you. As folks shared the burdens in their lives it was easy to get depressed about the struggles many of our friends here face. But as we read scripture together, we began to see the hope that only God’s love as expressed through Jesus’ death and resurrection offers.

We closed in prayer and I was struck how many of our fellowship prayed for their friends and family members who were carrying burdens. It was good to be with old friends – many of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and yet they still remembered me.

Its starting to feel more and more like home.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.

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Been a long time between posts. I’m sorry, but things have been really accelerating since we attended SPLICE in September – more on that at another time. One of the things we learned at SPLICE was the importance of saying gooodbye. Yesterday demonstrated the value of that lesson.

Macedonia Baptist Church in Cleveland, TN is where I leaned the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16. It’s the church my parents were married in. Its also been the site of our family Thanksgving dinner for almost as long as I can remember. So yesterday, there we were – mom’s side of the family – enjoying turkey, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and the myriad desserts that are the staple if any Wooten family gathering.

Uncle Pewter was first – he came over and asked to pray with Dad and I. Dot and Don left shortly after and gave us big hugs. Then Holly left – that was when the tears started. Holly was in the delivery room with Neena and I when Asha was born. I think Jason slipped out without a goodbye. Then Mark who went with me when I bought Neena’s engagement ring in Greece. Then Mike and Darlene and the boys. Jeff, James and Nash left – James with my the remainder of my comics. Finally Uncle jack and Aunt Jo said goodbye and I hugged Lyle before getting in the VW. I could write blogs for years and years about how special and loving each of these folks are and how they are all 100% behind us and just scratch the surface.

It was a hard, but good time of saying goodbyes. And it would be easy to sort of just wallow in the sadness of it. But our loving God is too gracious for that, too wondrous, too amazing.

We pulled out of the parking lot and saw the back side of the guest parking sign.


Goodbye Macedonia.

Thank You, God, for Macedonia Baptist Church. Please continue to pour out your blessings upon your people there as they seek you and serve you. Amen.

This just in

Michael Stalvey sent me the following pics via his cel phone. Chris is now officially the Right Reverend Granberry and the service was held in the Long House. You can see Wendell speaking in one of the photos ( I would have loved to hear that) and in the other photo is Chris sitting with some special guests. Eddie Koh, who went through MTW REV week with us is on the far left.

Thank You for your prayers. According to Michael, The service was wonderful. Oh how I wish I could have been there. I sent Chris an email Saturday and, without sharing all of it, I included this Proverb I found at the end of verse 10 in chapter 27.

“better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”

Michael called me from Totus to see if the pictures had come through and I got to speak to Darion who is again living in Totus – that was really cool. We met Darion on our first trip in 2002, I think she was 8 or 9. In 2004, she sent back one of her stuffed animals as a gift for Asha. Please pray for her.

Pray for Hope Fellowship and their new pastor, Chris Granberry and his family.

Praise God for His faithfulness, for His grace and for the work He is doing on The Yakama Indian Reservation.


The Gospel according to Han Solo

I had a bit of a discouraging encounter yesterday. At first, anyway. I won’t give any of the particulars because I am sure the last thing this person meant to do was discourage me. Someone who has known us for a very long time was asking about our plans.

“Oh you plan to stay out there for a very long time, then?”

“Yep, we’re in for the long haul.”

“But don’t both of you have all of your family here?”

“Yep, neither of us have been more than half an hour away from family.”

“Maybe you should reconsider.”

Ouch. For an hour or so I was in a bit of a funk. Then I remembered one of my favorite promises from scripture at the end of Ephesians chapter 3:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I love this verse. It reminds me of the following interchange from Star Wars:

Luke: She’s rich.
Han Solo: [interested] Rich?
Luke:Rich, powerful. Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be…
Han Solo: What?
Luke:Well, more wealth than you can imagine!
Han Solo: I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.

Like Han, I can imagine quite a bit. I can imagine raising all of our support. I can imagine a church in White Swan. I can imagine some of our young friends doing well in school, growing in the church and leading others to the gospel of Grace.

Paul says that Christ is able to do more than all that – immeasurably more. Can we pack up and move the other side of the country away from everything that is familiar to us? Probably not, but I can imagine it.

And He can do it.

Who’s idea was this, anyway?

True Story.

Last week, I was putting our four-year-old Asha to bed and after we finished praying for our friends in the desert (Its a lot easier to explain a desert than an Indian Reservation – think about it), Asha shared with me.

“I think I had an idea that was not very good.” She said, sheepishly. “What was that?” I asked – figuring it had to do something with the prayer we just finished.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to move to the desert.” She replied. “We will miss our friends.”

“Yeah,” I said sympathizing, but wait a minute, “moving was your idea?” I asked.

“I think so.”

“No sweetie, that was mommy and mi…,” I stopped. It wasn’t my idea. It wasn’t Neena’s idea. It was our heavenly Father’s idea and I had a wonderful opportunity to explain that to my daughter – to tell her that God is active and sovereign in the life of our family. I don’t think she gets all of it, but she knows it wasn’t her idea, or ours.

“Besides, we’ll meet friends we don’t even know yet. We’ll always love our friends here and we’ll be with Ann Marie, Beth, Morgan, Davey and Starbuck too. Remember?”

“Will they be my friends?”

“They already are.” and she went to sleep.

All of this is God’s plan and it is sometimes as hard for me as it is for Asha to understand.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

– Ephesians 2:8-10

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for loving people on the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Even More Rustlings

I confess, I didn’t remember this story at all. When I asked Chris to take a look at our new blog, he responded with a reference from the following passage from 1 Chronicles 14:13-17.

Once more the Philistines raided the valley; so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

How cool is that? I tell you what, that Chris Granberry is going to make a fine pastor.

So here we wait, listening for the sound of marching in the trees so that we can move out into battle.