In a puppet show….

Where does God show up? In a puppet show!

I spent some time this summer in Cookson Hills, Oklahoma at the Cookson Hills Center with the youth group from my church. As a group, we taped and mudded drywall, painted, worked with jewelry, fixed siding on a house, sanded concrete floors, moved a couple from their home of 14 years, picked up sticks, cooked ate and sang together. It was a good week, challenging and life-giving. Here is a bit of what I discovered:

The Puppet Show

My team and I worked on a parsonage, thirty minutes from Cookson hills Center, Stilwell Mission United Methodist Church in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. The whole time we were there two women, Sherri and Jenny, from the church, ready to help with our every need. They were very kind and a joy to be around AND enthusiastic about what their youth were doing in the church. They invited us to the church on Thursday for lunch and a surprise.

After eating they invited us into the sanctuary, where the BEST surprise was waiting for us. For the next half-an-hour we laughed and giggled and sang through the coolest puppet show!  I don’t know if I have ever seen our youth group laugh so much. They were genuinely enjoying the presentation, including Christian song in both English and Cherokee.  The puppets came to life in the hands of the Stilwell youth. They were entertainers that brought their all to the stage. I experienced the love and enthusiasm of this group, the kids, their parents, and their church. In an area that can be devoid of hope….hope filled the air when these kids performed and in the community that supports this puppet ministry.

puppet show 2013-06-27 12.27.26

If I listen close enough some of the Colorado youth may still be singing their song…”I just want to be a sheep.

As I asked about the youth group and their puppet ministry, I found out that they had performed for their annual conference…everyone loved them of course! I also found out, that when they performed for us…this ministry was still less than a month old!! Wow! These kids were shy and not naturally performers…but with their puppets…they were enthusiastic and discovering that they….yes even they…have a voice. Now this is ministry.

I asked Jenny and Sherri about the puppet show and the life that I saw in their church….But that’s for another day.

 

 

 

 

Where God shows up….

#cooksonhills #mission #fumc-cs via tiffkei

 

I spent last week in Cookson Hills, Oklahoma at the Cookson Hills Center with the youth group from my church. As a group, we taped and mudded drywall, painted, worked with jewelry, fixed siding on a house, sanded concrete floors, moved a couple from their home of 14 years, picked up sticks, cooked ate and sang together. It was a good week, challenging and life-giving. Here is a bit of what I discovered:

 

Cookson Hills and the surrounding area is an area debilitated by poverty. The community bears the wounds and scars of Native American genocide. The end of the Trail of Tears is close to Cookson Hills and the descendents of the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee, Chickasaw, and Seminole, continue to inhabit the area. In 1948, Methodist Women started a health clinic at Cookson Hills; they were the nearest medical help for more than 18 miles. They gave prenatal care, stitched people up, and offered vaccinations….whatever they could do to help. As medical help became more widely available in the area, the center moved to more of a social program that worked with low-income people of the tri-county area.

 

Some startling facts about this area:

 

  • 2nd to last in education in the state of Oklahoma
  • 7th in the nation for methamphetamine use
  • 1st in the nation for hunger
  • 2nd in the state for crime
  • Vian (close to Cookson Hills) is 1st in the state for rape

 

 

 

Today the center has twenty people on staff, eight vehicles, and multiple buildings on multiple acres. They run a thrift store, day care, food pantry, senior center, seed program, Christmas store, new baby help, school supply program, farmers market, and they are home to multiple cottage industries. In addition to the wide variety of programs they have on site, they go out into the community working on homes, churches, and giving wherever the community has need.

 

This is an active, vital ministry of the United Methodist Church and the General Board of Global Ministries. The week away was an amazing experience, with many, many moments of God showing up in amazing ways. I want to continue to blog about moments from last week but I wanted to start with the most profound. We spent our time on campus and off, spread out over 40 miles, and everywhere we went the people told stories of God showing up. Mari Whitaker, Missionary to Cookson Hills for over 27 years, tells the story of the day care furniture in her book, My Sister the Father. They felt God leading them to start a day care center but ran into problems with funding for items like furniture. So Mari prayed. As an answer to prayer, a friend that already had a daycare agreed to take on the new one also. One day a woman came to Cookson and offered to volunteer; her job was writing grants for daycare centers. Then one day people from Pennsylvania showed up at her door ready to help the center. Come to find out, their community made day care furniture. They gave the center everything they needed.

Day after day, these are the stories we heard. People went to God in prayer and God showed up in the form of people offering water, Gatorade, daycare furniture, food, friendship, community. God answers prayers and this community told us about it…it was in the fabric of who they are. It is inspiring.