Category Archives: Small town

Our Two Churches

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Churches aren’t perfect… especially in the eyes of its church body. I know I have played critic too many times, sadly letting goofy hairstyles and jokes prick my skin to the point where I can’t listen to the truth being shared. Even an “honorable complaint” like “not enough scripture” puts me at risk of pride and judgement of others. But most of all, it acts as a barrier to receiving God’s word, like chains crossed over my heart.

Home, as we now call it, entails a wide range of discomforts that does not exclude our churches. I say churches, plural, because we haven’t quite landed on one. In fact, we’ve landed on two: both in Browning, the heart of Blackfeet Nation, 15 miles away.

The first is a Methodist church run by a very likable young couple we’ve befriended. With a small, intimate congregation, they meet in a cozy, yet enchantingly beautiful sanctuary lined in cedar and stunning stained glass. It’s a bit more liturgical than we’re accustomed to (think response readings and ceremonial candle lighting), but the congregation is sweet and caring, hosting monthly potlucks for the community to enjoy. We see a range of folks join us for the meal. Some smell of alcohol; others smell of humility and good humor. They teach us Blackfeet terms and phrases and sincerely thank us when they leave.

The other church is sure something. This one has a large congregation of mostly Natives. Everyone is kind and welcoming, and upon meeting us, often ask if we are teachers or nurses, the two jobs that routinely bring white folks into town. [We never figured out how to explain why we came, and most find it strange that we didn’t come for work.]

At the onset, we struggled to feel comfortable there in our own skin, painfully white compared to our neighbors. Plus, the church was quite charismatic! While it was unfamiliar and new (not to mention, awkward at times), it was truly beautiful to witness the collective crying and clapping as everyone praised the Lord so fully with heart and soul.

If you’ve never seen someone weep openly in need of our Lord or sing with their arms stretched so high and straight that their elbows bend inward, you should at least visit other churches. I’m not saying it has to be this way, but it certainly feels right in the deepest part of your soul that knows you simply cannot fathom the incredible love of Jesus… or just how to respond.

For how beautiful I see it now, the discomfort of it all kept us away in the beginning. That’s what comfort does to us. It spoils us. Closes our minds. Robs us of experiencing something extraordinary.

I’m not sure what it took to open our eyes or give us courage to continue to show up, looking so different in our white skin and guarded mannerisms. But seven months into our fated move here, we are planting roots and experiencing great victories. Not because we finally figured it all out, but because we finally surrendered our former comforts for the challenges that God has invited us to shoulder. How lucky we are to have two churches! How blessed we are to have two congregations and pastors; two worship styles and sermons. How fortunate we are to grow in our levels of acceptance of other cultures.

So for now, we will soak in the challenges and let the Lord guide us each week. Shoot, we’re just happy we can make the drive these days! In winter, that 15-mile journey is not for the faint of heart.

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Living on Manna

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Life in East Glacier has sure taken hold of my heart. It is just so simple here. So beautiful. So restful.

We went down to one car just days after getting here and hardly drive more than once a day between the two of us. The real problem, we’ve realized, is not having four-wheel-drive. This is a town of big rigs and Subarus. Our homely little Maxima certainly stands out (not to mention, our PT Cruiser, now in “storage mode”)… but during this week’s snow storm, we discovered just how insufficient Gem really was – not just in the snow, but for clearance. Our two solutions: buying yet another car or simply sticking close to home.

We both prefer the second option. A lot of the town folk here work in nearby Browning, in the schools or hospital. The drive is just 13 miles. But it is a horrific 13 miles in the wind and snow. Sometimes the road is closed or so overblown with snow that you can’t tell where you are, save the vibration of the road strips when you cross the line. Worst of all: Very unpredictable. I don’t know how people keep jobs around these parts.

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That leaves us to the local job scene, which is fairly nonexistent. And yet, we’ve become pros at gathering random work. Or rather, God has made it clear that He has us in His hands. Never in my life have I been more aware of God providing for my daily bread. Like manna, jobs come in by the day and rarely in advance.

For Pete, it means a lot of back-breaking work like chopping wood, painting, falling trees, and the occasional break to drive Miss Daisy to the West Side. For me, it means babysitting, cleaning houses, and working with a nonprofit here on a limited basis. We’re still rooting for substitute teaching jobs at the East Glacier Park schoolhouse. And I just might try my hand at freelancing again. Pete thinks I should use this time to write a book. Funny!

Besides working, I’ve found a few friends here that love to “walk,” which is really “hike” in my book. My first “walk” with Kelly was a six-miler through the woods. Now I’m addicted and walk almost daily, even with two feet of snow! It’s just what the doctor ordered, I tell you. So serene.

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Also exciting, Pete and I finally got out backpacking, which was a real treat. Sandwiched between weeks of awful weather, we scored a nice little 2-day period of sunny bliss, nearly alone on the trail and with our destination lake empty. We even saw a moose! It was magical.

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We are enjoying this little slice of heaven, but it isn’t without difficulty. Pete and I are learning how to share a tiny space, day in, day out – something we never really did when we both had demanding jobs, regular schedules, and early shifts that kept our “together time” pedestal-precious. We’re discovering new things about ourselves and learning to grow for the sake of the other. The added stress of job-finding doesn’t help. But we’re navigating these waters with hope and love.

We found a little Christian community here, with Bible Study on Saturday nights. It is great, and even includes a potluck dinner. We’re so grateful for all of the ways God has shown us that He loves us. We couldn’t ask for more!

Thank you so much for your prayers, friends! I’ll just end now with a parting shot of resident Sinopah Mountain, center, which I summitted one day, long ago. I’ll have to do that again next summer, when I’ve earned back my hiking legs. Come visit friends, and climb it with me! xo

Sinopah Mountain, center

The Four-Digit Phone Number

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Oh, small towns. They are so cute, so behind the times that it’s charming.

I recall the last time I lived here in East Glacier, it was difficult to find regular internet anywhere in town. My dreams of being a work-from-home freelance writer were stifled at the thought that my reputation for meeting deadlines would suffer a huge blow. And if you can’t meet your deadlines, you’re plum out of a job.

Thankfully, that has changed. Now internet is strong and vital, and I can stay connected to the outside world with ease. I Skype, blog, and keep up with world news. My iPhone even works here. But the things that get my giggling are still aplenty, especially in relation to the local land-line scene:

  • StottRotaryPhoneOffTheHookIIOne area code: In Portland, there are too many area codes to count; in Montana: one. Yes, one. For the whole, entire state. And it’s a large state, mind you.
  • Home phones: Even more impressive is the fact that most people in East Glacier have home phones, due to a history of questionable cell service. The kinks are likely out of that system (to my knowledge), but it’s just so precious that it makes me want to get a home phone, too! Maybe I could get an old, rotary style one.
  • The 4-Digit Phone Number: With a local land-line here comes the same 3-digit prefix (226) supplied to each and every home phone number. (There’s so few home residences they won’t have to change this system for years.) The result: the 4-digit phone number. With the same six numbers (406-226) clearly known by all, it is customary to hear someone give out their number in four, little digits. It kills me. Hilarious, I tell you.

Oh I love it here…