Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Break with the Choctaw

Ferrum College Dean of Chapel Wes Astin is spending spring break with a group of Ferrum College Students, on a mission trip with the Choctaw Indians. Wes has been sending daily dispatches and photos as the team lives the Ferrum College Motto, "Not Self, But Others."

Day 1

We started out day out with breakfast together before hitting the road. We went to Sterling’s home for a day of painting. Sterling is one of the elders of the Choctaw tribe.

During our lunch break the group learned about what is happening in the Choctaw community with the Chief who is in his third year in this position. the Chief is not popular with the Choctaw people right now.

At the end of our day of painting we returned to the Mission Center where we prepared a meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and a Birthday Cake. We were blessed by having Howard, one of the members of John’s Memorial UMC, and members of his family with us to celebrate Howard's 25th Birthday. Following dinner all of the men (well with the exception of ONE of us) had a very intense and LONG game of basketball. The 25 year old, Howard, put a “hurting” on these young men!

All-in-all, it was a great day of mission and ministry!

Until the next post........

Day 2

Yesterday morning began with breakfast and morning devotions. Brad “Loops” Donahue, a psychology major, shared from I Thessalonians 5:17 (seek that which is good, rejoice always, and pray without ceasing.) The group shared how they experienced our new friend Howard on the basketball court the previous evening “seeking that which was good.” He is an awesome athlete and he was constantly making sure that everyone had their time with the ball even when he could have made every shot, every time! So often we want to show off our skills when our greatest skill is seen when we try to highlight others. Kind of sounds like the Ferrum motto in there somewhere, doesn’t it? “Not Self, But Others.”

We then returned to John’s Memorial UMC which is located on Tribal land where we spent a LONG day cleaning and painting. It was a very productive day as we completed painting every room and repaired the ceiling in the fellowship hall. Two of us will return this morning to finish a couple of small touch up points that needed to dry overnight.

We returned to the Mission site around 5 pm where several of the crew began grilling chicken, preparing veggies and potatoes for our dinner. Following dinner we left the site for the Tribal hospital where we visited one of the elders of the tribe and a member of one of the local United Methodist Churches.

David had a stroke a few weeks ago and lost use of his right side. He can’t speak but he is able to sing. So, we gathered around his bed (it was a crowded room with all of us and some members of his family) and we sang, we prayed for David, and we sang some more. This was a very meaningful evening.

After we said our good byes and good wishes to David, we returned to the site, where our friend from last year’s visit, Tisha, came and shared history of the Choctaw people and some updates on the tribal chief. Needless to say, many are hoping for a change in that role in the next election.

We ended our day with scripture and prayers and then we gathered in our small room where all 10 of us live and sleep and sat around and talked, and talked, and talked, until this old preacher decided it was time to hit the bed.

Day 3

Well, yesterday was another very productive day. We began with morning devotions and breakfast. This day we stayed at the mission site and did some much needed painting and cleaning.

Andrew and I returned to John’s Memorial UMC to finish up a small painting and spackling job that we were not able to complete the previous day. The rest of the crew stayed at the site and built a new door into the sanctuary of the church there, painted, picked up trash and repaired the trash receptacles that Rocky the Raccoon had destroyed in order to have his nightly feasts.

We took a couple of hours in the afternoon to return to the “Mother Mound” - the site the Choctaw people memorialize the start of all creation that gave this tribe life. From there we visited the site remembering the Freedom Summer Murders, when three voting rights activist came to Mississippi to investigate the burning of Mount Zion Church and were murdered. This was a very educational and moving experience for the team. It reminded us of the great price that many pay in living out the “Not Self, But Others” motto of Ferrum.

Upon our return to the Mission Site we continued some final painting and the Church & Community Worker, Steve, asked the group to paint one of the entrances with a mural of some sort depicting the group including the names of those here. So, as we continue in this covenant relation with this mission we hope to add to the names as the years come and go.

As we begin today we will finalize some painting, have breakfast with some of the folks at the site, load up and begin our journey back home.

What a Spring Break experience! We came to serve and, as always, our lives were changed forever!

Thank you Ferrum College for allowing me to be a part of such meaningful experiences.

Thank you to the many who gave financially so that these student’s could minister and be ministered to in such a meaningful way!


Wes Astin


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