Here we go…
Being out in Montana was a good thing for me overall, although I’m not sure I saw/thought that the entire time I was there. Really, I doubted my reason for being there a good 70% of the time. Halfway through the summer I spent the night crying out to God to tell me what the heck I was doing there, because I sure didn’t seem to make any sort of difference. I met some great people, but I watched most people try to fix some sort of hurt or depravity in their life with something destructive. Alcohol seemed to be the choice substance. I can’t tell you how many drunk stories I recall being told throughout the summer. I will say that I laughed very, very hard at a few of them because they were so outrageous, it was literally unbelievable, but.. there was evidence saying, “No, things this insane really do happen.” With that said, each story broke my heart. All I could hear was the underlying pain that people covered up and chose to pretend it didn’t exist. Loneliness was a big thing for a lot of people. It was draining to know and watch people do that to themselves and know that you can only “set a good example” and are completely powerless in helping their pain. Another reminder that we have to live on the strength of Christ and ONLY the strength of Christ.
Around the beginning to middle of July things started to tense up between members on the team. We were worn out and starting to notice each others’ flaws. The honeymoon phase had ended. :) I will say we were INCREDIBLY blessed to be together. We all got along really well and worked together fairly well. It’s just that..well, as I said; the honeymoon phase had ended. About this time was when I really started to question what in the world I was doing out there. I felt like I was failing, I felt like there was zero point in me being there because I just wasn’t “seeing” the fruit of the effort we were putting forth. I went out with no expectations but I was quickly frustrated when my “silent” expectations weren’t being met. I mean I was going out to Montana to CHANGE the world. Ha. Right. (Just kidding anyway.) Underneath I WAS hoping that maybe I would somehow show someone Christ out there, but it seemed like every time I turned around I was failing miserably.
The summer continued on and started wrapping up. About two or three weeks before I left, one of my Canadian friends came over and almost immediately we launched into this deep discussion about sex, porn, yadda yadda. Yeah, DEFINITELY hadn’t seen that one coming. The cool thing was neither of us get weird talking about anything like this (it was a female, so don’t think I was engaging in some sort of inappropriate conversation with the opposite sex), so we were really honest with each other. We had really different views on nearly everything, but for the first time in my life I had to take a stand for Christ. Cool moment in Hannah’s life? I think so. Allow me to explain. The conversation (oh, by the way it lasted 2-3 hours. Ridiculous! …ly awesome. :) ) was starting to come to a close and I realized, you know, this girl has to know some things. I said, “Look, like I’ve told you a hundred times I’m not trying to preach to you. I’m being real with you on where I stand, where I come from, what I believe and why I believe it. One day I will stand in front of Jesus Christ and God and they will ask me, ‘What did you do to tell her about me? What did you do to show her our love?’ and I have to be able to say I at least laid it down there in front of you. I can’t make your decisions for you and I’m not trying to, but I want you to know that there IS Someone very, very, very big and powerful out there that loves you with the fiercest love that will ever exist.” I’ll be real – I went on to tell her that there are consequences to choosing to walk away from the one who created us. I hate to say it, but it took 20 years for me to be able to say all of those words to someone. It’s not from a lack of people to tell it to, that’s for sure, but I think that particular conversation was a sort of renewal for me. When she left I walked in Amy’s room and said, “You know, I don’t care if that’s the only reason I was supposed to come out here this summer. That was supposed to happen, and I’m okay if that’s the only reason I came here.” It was a stepping stone for me. In a world that’s full of fuzzy, feel-good gospels, we as Christians have to be willing to, yes of course, lavish love on the broken, the lost, the needy, the poor, etc, but we also have the responsibility to tell them that there ARE consequences for the actions each one of us makes. It’s not that I haven’t told people about this before, but this was the first time I remember truly connecting both love and justice in a conversation face-to-face. It was a good night.
And then it got better. Well it kinda got worse before it got better.. but not for me.
There happened to be another girl (another Canadian no less! Maybe my mission field is Canada… Oh crap… lol. I got the wrong ‘C’.. not China.. CANADA! Ha!) that I, honestly, will most likely be friends with for the rest of my life. Talk about someone legitimate. I miss her like crazy. Anyway. She had some issues with a guy this summer that sounded scary-close to a situation from my own life. As I listened to her tell her story, my heart broke. She is a beautiful, vibrant, and an incredibly welcoming, accepting, and caring individual. Christianity needs more individuals like her. There was a night that most of West Glacier’s 20-something population was at a bar (yes, I was at a bar. Laws are a bit different in Montana. Although this time I will admit it wasn’t legal for me to be there, but the bartender knew I didn’t drink inside or outside the bar. Plus it was karaoke night. :) ). When I showed up, my friends from the summer were all pretty … uh … happy. :) They were DEFINITELY tipsy to say the least. We were all laughing and having a good time, and three of the team members decided they were going to head home & get to bed. I said I was sticking around to keep an eye on a few people & make sure they made it home all right. When I looked over at my friend and saw her throwing back more shots, I gave her the “You sure you’re okay?” look from across the room and she just turned away. Yup, she was hurting and it was obvious. After a few more shots I walked over to her and asked her if she thought it was time to go yet. We walked out back and she just broke down. “Hurt” is a nice word for it. This young woman was in serious, broken pain. She got some of it out of her system and we went home. I’m glad I made the goal to not talk so much this summer. I didn’t say a word on the way home. What good would words have done? She’s a smart girl anyway. I couldn’t have said anything that would have helped. She’s one of them that seems to always know the right answer. She’s very, very mature. I’m rarely impressed with people the way I was with her. She’s awesome. Anyway.. This was where it was a good idea to not have expectations this summer. I didn’t sow any seeds this summer, but I think I may have planted two. Good enough for me. Leaving everyone in West was pretty difficult. Leave West itself was difficult. I honestly left a piece of me there. It just felt like home, regardless of the struggles. I can’t wait to go back some day.
I will say that the village itself definitely has some negative energy over it. You can feel it. It’s a dark place. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? These people come to revel in drinking, one night stands, all that jazz, for three months. Obviously that’s not everyone, but it’s prominent. There’s a great power looming about thirty miles down the road though….
Cowboy Church. :) Just thinking about the place makes me smile. Never in all my life have I gone to a church other than Sterling and felt welcomed and at home. I wasn’t even two feet in the door (correction, I didn’t even HAVE my two feet in the door) and someone had already grabbed me and hugged me. If any of you ever wind up in the Flathead Valley area in Montana, I highly recommend at least visiting this church. I felt right at home when I walked in and saw guns hanging on the wall. :) To be honest, I was expecting some very close minded Republican views. Well, I guarantee you the vast majority of people there are conservative for sure (thankfully), but these people aren’t close minded. You wanna see people who want the lost to know Jesus? Go to Cowboy Church. You want a congregation that trusts 100% in the faithfulness and provision of God? Go to Cowboy Church. You want a church that not only believes in a God that will work miracles, healing, and lay prophecy on the hearts of people? Cowboy Church. Yeah, that last part I wasn’t so sure about and if you don’t know this about me, I’m INCREDIBLY skeptical of people who claim to heal and prophecy. If what you’re doing doesn’t line up 100% with what the Bible says, then I will not buy into it. I tested everything these people were about with Scripture, and it was legitimate. Quick story: The first time I heard a guy talk about his prophetic ministry I decided he and I were gonna have a lil’ chit-chat. :) I talked with a married couple that helped him start the ministry and flat out said, “Prove it.” In effort to save another four paragraphs, I’ll say this: they proved it.
Lesson learned this summer: God is really, really big.
Sounds simple, right? Well, not really when you come from a church where raising your hands in worship is practically foreign, let alone allow God to use people to work a miracle. Guess what my new pet peeve is..
The entire summer was a great experience overall, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until it was over. A lot of people have asked if I’ll go back. Next summer? No. Chances are pretty slim. Some day? Yes. With the ministry? Nah. Honestly, yeah I think it’s spectacular that they provide worship services, but that is such a small piece of what the ministry truly is. Relational ministry is a much larger portion, and you need more time to be involved with that. It’s hard to when you’re busy planning services. West Glacier reminded me a lot of home. Out of the national parks, it’s on of the smaller ones. You have to seek out Glacier to get there; it’s not just a park you drive through on your way to some other destination. It’s a lesser-visited park, but man oh man.. I’ll guarantee it’s the most beautiful. Kind of like Fountain County.. a very small place, not often visited, but when you find the places that are hidden from the rest of the world.. wow. There’s some serious beauty. I hesitate to call my house in FoCo “home” anymore. Yes, it’s where I stay on breaks, and my family is there, but honestly I feel like I’m in a vagabond stage. IWU might be a little closer to being “home” for me, but I’m still not completely comfortable referring to it as such right now. I was just telling Kyle last night that I feel like I never really “fit” anywhere here. Sure I have a ton of friends, but nothing ever really seems to stick, y’know? Yeah, I’ve developed some close friendships, but the closest ones, the ones that I asked to have accountability with, more or less fell off the face of the planet. It’s funny; any attempt I’ve made at accountability has failed. No one’s willing to get in my face for any amount of time. Do I think this is wrong? Yeah. But there’s only so much you can do when you ask for help and help doesn’t really happen. Part of life? I guess. That’s what was the biggest challenge about this summer; I was somewhere new with no one I knew around me, therefore accountability just didn’t happen. This summer made me realize how difficult ministry is when you’re alone. Granted, there were other people on the team, but as far as being close enough with anyone, that just didn’t happen. I’ll chalk it up to a lesson learned.
Seeing as how this has been typed over the course of roughly a week, so I’ve most likely forgotten half of what I originally intended to share. Whatever. :) Basically, just know that the summer was NOT what I expected, but still great, and also a huge kick in the face from Jesus. :)
Pray on friends.