Tag Archives: Family

Girded Language

November 5, 2012

I never gave homosexuality much thought until 1982.  Until then, like many folk, I allowed others to define homosexuality.  Best I remember it was always through derisive language.  Such language seemed more the norm than not, in those days.  Then 1982 came along and the language become so disdainful it called for new and deliberate thinking.

The intolerable language came from a surprising and not so surprising group folk: Christian pastors.  “AIDS is God’s wrath on homosexuals,” became the Christian mantra.  It’s not that all Christian pastors held this viewpoint, but rather the lack of a public Christian voice speaking the opposite led much of society to believe this rhetoric as Christian.

The 1980’s naiveté is mostly gone now and thinking is more just; AIDS is a human rather than Gay epidemic; biblical criticism endorses Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Inter-sex, Questioning/Queer (GLBTIQ) folk as naturally and wonderfully created; And what is right for straight folk is right for GLBTIQ folk.  The naiveté is mostly gone, but not entirely.

In Washington State, Referendum 74 (R74) is on the ballot, (Approving Referendum 74 means the State and the law would approve the marriage of all people, including GLBTIQ folk.) and with it a bit of 1982 is back.  Language, spoken by those against R74, is not the in your face ’82 language of “God’s wrath,” but, to be sure, it is just as painful for it separates family, neighbor, and community.  It is possible to say “I don’t have a horse in this race” and stand to the side, but if next week comes along and we, as a whole, as a society, continue to hold people apart, separated and segregated from the rights and joys we (straight folk) ourselves enjoy, then we are the cause of their hurt.

Hard language, “we are the cause.”  Yet, we are one people whether we like it or not.  If those of us who wholly and fully accept our GLBTIQ sisters and brothers as created, if those of us who have married our GLBTIQ sisters and brothers outside of State and legal approval, do not speak, do not act, and do not convince our straight brothers and sisters that we are called to radical and open equality, then we, ourselves, have also missed the mark.  Only when we hold ourselves—in my case a Christian Pastor—accountable, do we begin accepting the reality that when another hurts, so do we.  Such accountability breaks through the illusion that we are alone and on our own, and that our faith is individual rather than communal.  Instead, such accountability brings us into awareness that salvation is ours rather than mine and it is possible now rather than tomorrow.

A hundred years from now—ten more decades—we are all hanging out with our ancestors.  Our actions of today will tell a story we can no longer speak.  It may be another story of segregation, but imagine if it is a story of a people who gathered their wits, girded their loins, and entered into the fray because this was the time to bring forth a radical equality serving to better the lives of their community’s children and their children’s children.

Peace of Sky and Mountian

September 21, 2012

Belinda and I drove to Seattle the other day.  Leaving before sun break meant moving the irrigation line under a dark morning sky.  The early morning sky still had the better part of a full moon residing just a bit to the east.  Standing in the middle of the hay field, I took a moment and turned in circles while looking above—the sky took the opportunity to tell a story of perspective.  To the west, stars gave everything, brightly contrasting specks of light against the deep black background of wonderment.  However, to the east, it was as if the stars agreed to donate light to one without fire and heat.  The moon brightly took center stage, its dancing light masking the dark background sky.  Knowing home and self, eastern stars settled the light sky and gave supporting presence to a bold moon.  One sky gifting two unique and wonderful stories.

The moon gave way to the sun as we crested the Cascade Range a few hours later.  Claiming magical powers the sun did not so much give light but beckoned blended light—yellows, reds, oranges—from the Cascades eastern slope escarpment.  Cresting the pass and western slope speaks a language foreign to its eastern sister.  Diffused light summons mist and pockets of fog lie in the hollows.  A landscape of shadier stories lays in the western slopes drainages.  One range tells two unique and wonderful stories.

Before long, the smell of mountain timber falls way to that of water as we pass Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington.  As we arrive at the SeaTac departure terminal and open the car door the heavy smell of Puget Sound and car exhaust met us.  Wishing for a bit more Sound than exhaust, we quickly unload luggage.  Belinda and Katherine enter the terminal to check baggage and obtain boarding passes, while I head off to find a parking space.

An hour later as Belinda and I hold hands and watch Katherine walk through security, we hope for a secure journey and life in Ireland.

The experience of sending Katherine overseas is one similar to that of past generations in my family, with one particular difference.  Every time a young adult has gone overseas, since my family arrived to the American continent somewhere in the early to mid 1700’s, it has been to go to war.  Every time, government, society, and business has framed these violent actions as action of peace, freedom, and equality.  Thanks to the end of the draft in 1973 and happenstance birth dates placing young men between wars, meant the last young adult to go overseas to enhance world peace by way of war was my daddy in WWII.  The fifty missions he flew out of Torretta, Italy, made an impression.  What it was, I cannot really say because war was never a topic of conversation.  I can say the impression daddy made on me was to do everything possible to avoid war for war was not only a horror of experience, but also a shame upon humanity to require death to acquire peace.

Remembering what it felt like watching Katherine pass through security I can’t help but imagine that standing at the bus stop, the train station, or the airport gate and watching ones child go overseas to war as a gut-wrenching moment.  Though I have never lived such the moment, I have had far too many conversations over the last ten years with parents who have.  Moreover, there have been too many conversations during children’s tour of duty where parental fear was a constant in their eyes.  Too many and too often have parents lived such pain for the sake of peace.  And this reality is the very particular difference between those parents and Belinda and I.

Unlike our neighbor parents who have stood at the same airport at the same security gate watching their child head off to war, we watched Katherine board a plane to begin International Peace studies at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.  When her plane left American soil and headed across a water that brought my folk here so many years ago, Katherine became our family’s first American young adult to return to Europe to consider peace from a non-violent perspective.

For generations American folk have sung the African-American spiritual Down By The Riverside where the words Ain’t going to study war no more are sung again and again and again and again.  Even longer, folk have read and repeated the words of Isaiah 2:4, they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  I would like to think no other young adult from my family, or any other for that matter, would ever engage in peaceful violence again, but know peace for peace sake.  I would like to think it is possible for peace, unlike the morning sky or the mountain range, may become a one sided story where violence for peace sake withers, blows away, and all that remains is peace for the sake of neighbor, for the sake of parents, for the sake of children.  I would like to think, I would like to dream, I would like to hope, I pray…

© David B. Bell 2012

Life Begins After Fire: An Opportunity to Help

August 23, 2012

As we watch fires around the country yanking folks lives apart and taking out family homes, it is good to take a moment and remember prayers are needed now and physical help is needed in the months and years ahead.

In February 2011 a windstorm and fire destroyed homes in White Swan.  Families became homeless.  It has taken time, but money for rebuilding the home of a single father and daughter has been raised and construction is under way.

Fires remind us we have an extended family, members who we never knew before, a family who is made up of both fire victims and volunteers.  If you are interested in helping rebuild a home for a father and daughter, join us Labor Day weekend.  We expect to put up siding, roofing, and maybe get some painting done.  It will probably winter over in that state, so there will be opportunities to help again during 2013 spring break and 2013 summer if you like!  Get in touch if this opportunity interests you, your family, and/or your friends!

A Handsaw Winter Sky

January 14, 2012
JustLiving Farm

I can’t get over winter days when I watch the sun rise, Mount Pahto shimmers to the west as if showing off a new coat bought at the last snowfall sale, full moon blessing mountain above its northern shoulder, and winter blue sky unfolding.  Such days awaken cold and frozen, but as the day yawns and picks itself up, the thermometer moves above freezing and the day is perfect to get done a few of those chores best left to ungloved hands.

Last spring I didn’t quite get the haystack bulkhead done before we started loading hay against it.  Over the holidays, we sold the last bit of the haystack in the uncompleted area.  So, for the first time in six months I could finally get back to it!

The nice aspect to this chore is the haystack is a long way from electricity.  Well, not so nice when the bulk of the work was going on, but great for this season.  For such distance means a handsaw.  Sure, I could get the generator out or I could go buy one of those fancy cordless circular saws, but sometimes it is just nice to grab a saw by the handle and enjoy the feel of steel against wood.

Perhaps what I like best about sawing wood on a sunny blue-sky day is remembrance and reflection.  I can’t help but think that daddy and his daddy before him each picked up a handsaw, much like the one I am using—hand saws haven’t changed much in a lot of generations, and sawed wood.  Daddy was a carpenter in addition to everything else.  He crafted the wood toolbox that now sits in the shed out back.  This toolbox didn’t sit in the shop, but traveled from one jobsite to the next.  What amazed me, growing up, was the toolbox had a tray that slid out from the back holding five handsaws, each for a specific job.  As I got some age on me, what then amazed me was the realization some of those saws had been sharpened so many times their blade width got smaller as it moved away from the handle toward the tip.

Any longer, the art of sharpening a handsaw is a lost art.  I remember driving to town with daddy to drop off dull saws or pick up sharpened saws.  The building was across the road from the train depot and restaurant—there wasn’t a whole lot more to town than that.  You had to walk up a set of wooden stairs to a loading platform and then go into the saw shop through a wooden door that slid off to the right.  Daddy was a quiet man, best I remember, but I remember having a lot of time looking around the saw shop while he and the man who sharpened saws talked.  We would walk out of the shop with sharpened handsaws and saw blades for the old 77 Skill saw.  Today there aren’t many folks who sharpen blades of any kind.  Few people use handsaws and most circular blades are carbide tipped; when the owner is done with a blade they toss it away and head to town to buy another—our throwaway societal structure doesn’t do much to support the saw blade sharpening industry.

I don’t often take daddy’s handsaws out and use them.  I choose to use my own and leave his alone, I guess because they are more of a tool to pull youthful memories to the present rather than to saw wood.  And that seems to work well for me, because when I take my own handsaws down off the wall and head out to saw wood where there isn’t electricity, I feel a little more tied to those men who went before me, and a little more tied to the relationship they had with the land, the mountain, the wind, and family.

© David B. Bell 2012

Home: Land of Paleo-Indians, Charles Goodnight, Quanah Parker, and Dairy Queen

November 30, 2011
Yakama Mission

Native American Heritage Month

Claude, Texas is home.  Well, maybe better said, there is a piece of farmland about twenty miles south of Claude that has been home to my folk for a few generations.  No one lives on the farm any longer.  After uncle Howard died, no family member figured it possible to raise a family on this windswept dry-land farm in the Texas panhandle.  Once there was a section of land in the Palo Duro.  It may have made modern-day farming feasible, but that was too far from the main farm and was let go years ago.    The farm, like many family farms and ranches exists more in memory today than actuality.  It was where children and animals and plants were raised.  It was where children and animals and plants died.  The kids in the family attended school about five miles from the farm until they reached high school, then they were driven into Claude.  That was the case until a number of decades ago when school consolidation took place and the district found it was cheaper to have school bus routes than teachers and school buildings spread across the countryside—then, from day one through graduation, schooling took place in Claude.  Claude has the distinction of being the county seat of Armstrong County, once home of the JA Ranch whom Charles Goodnight was co-owner, and where a few of Paul Newman’s movies, The Sundowners and Hud, were filmed.

Like every other landscape in America an ancient people resided in the area before my folks.  Paleo-Indians were the landscape’s first created people (Some folk—mostly White folk from my observation—say no American Tribal People are originally from the American landscape, but rather they traveled to these lands from Siberia and other non-American lands.  Seems few American Indian spiritual leaders agree, but then their arguments require a consideration that our public school textbooks have flawed information (at least a bit) and the interpretation of science is flowing rather than absolute.  Isn’t it interesting people discount the ancient voice of the landscape in which they reside because it does not fit their western education, but then turns around and buys into a chosen people story arising in a landscape on which most of their ancestors never resided?  Well, well, that is a conversation for another day.).  The flat, canyoned, windswept landscape raised up the Apache people and culture who understood and lived with the land for thousands of years.  Then Comanche moved south into the landscape in the late 1600’s warring with Apaches and forcing most out of the Paleo land by the early 1700’s.  The1874 Red River War between the U.S. Army and the Comanche forced the relocation of the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho to reservations in Indian Territory.  Two battles, Adobe Wells led by Comanche chief Quanah Parker and Palo Duro, define the Red River War.  Adobe Wells reflected the reality the Comanche were “out gunned.”  Palo Duro revealed food supplies and horses were limited for the Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne, as opposed to the U.S. Army’s continuous supply line.  The Red River War ended in June of 1875 when Quanah Parker surrendered at Fort Sill (Oklahoma).  With the landscape’s ancient people moved to reservations and Indian Territory, White farmers and ranchers settled the Texas panhandle (The word settled is problematic in that it implies the land and its ancient people were somehow immature, imperfect, or unfinished…again, a story for another day).

What I remember most about Claude, as a child, is the Dairy Queen.  More times than not, when we were in Claude, we would stop at the Dairy Queen and have something to eat.  Mamma told stories of the men playing checkers in front of the county courthouse, the women at the assessor’s office, and piano lessons at the jail.  The Dairy Queen mattered enough to me that as an adult and parent, whenever we visited the farm we stopped in Claude, sat in the same Dairy Queen of my youth and told our girls the same stories (the best I could remember).

Today the landscape is the same and different from ancient times.  Embedded in the land are ancient peoples stories…yet lingering in the top soil are new ones.  Like the ancient, new stories talk of days of hurt and happiness.  Like the ancient, these speak of hope and joy, love and peace, and family.  There is a difference though between the ancient and new.  The ancient stories—the ancient people—know what and who they are in light of the new.  They have watched and felt new footsteps and new names upon the landscape.  Unlike the ancient, the new have yet to know what and who they are in light of the ancient.  Wholeness comes with conversing with old, old campfires, wind that caressed ancient faces, and feet tough as leather.

Today is the last day of Native American Heritage Month for 2011.  I hope you had many a chance this month to hear stories, sing songs, and walk the path of the ancients in your landscape.  If not, well, there is tomorrow, for the stories and the songs are not confined to a month or a time, but rather reside in the ground beneath your feet and the wind of your breath.

© David B. Bell 2011

BARBARA’S LAND—MAY, 1974

Driving across your people’s homeland
I pull into Claude, Texas
2 o’clock in the afternoon
Hottern the hinges of hell
as they say here.

Dry panhandle wind
sifts through the red land
Buffalo clouds in the distance
herd up in the afternoon heat.

A chocolate milkshake at the tastee-freeze:
—Are there Comanche people here anymore?
—Huh?  Naw, Naw.
The taste-freeze lady’s eyes
describe a suspicion
as if to say:
Another one of them damned
Indian trouble-makers.

The wind shifts the heat
around in circles and
dust-devils dance along the interstate.

The historical marker
on the outskirts of town
said something about Comanches
in the year 1874
Adobe Wells    Quanah Parker    Palo Duro

Well, Barbara,
I celebrate the Comanche centennial
with the milkshake
(a piss-pore substitute)
and think of those days
of buffalo,
of winter camps, blood, plains,
horses, wind, raids, scalps, and hardships.

This land is your bones.
You are stronger than concrete.
You are stronger than steel.

Geary Hobson

Balancing Circles

November 21, 2011

Native American Heritage Month

Balance does not always mean same.  Grandma stepped up the ladder time and again picking fruit.  Prepared on the porch and cooked in the kitchen it ended up in mason jars—shelf after shelf stacked with tomorrow’s pies and cobblers.  A walk through the hen house each morning led to the egg selling Saturday trip to Amarillo.  Equaling the scale was not about pushing cows or milking cows, that was granddaddy’s work.  Sometimes, though, they would pick peaches and milk cows together.  Balance does not always mean same.

© David B. Bell 2011

Two Circles

there are two circles
the men make a circle in the center
around the large fire
behind them the women make a circle
in the cold shadows

the men speak much wisdom
they make all the laws
they make all the decisions
then they look behind them to the women

if the women shake their heads
the men must begin again.

Norman H. Russell

Junior Livestock Auction Tomorrow

May 3, 2011

White Swan FFA and 4-H youth have been at the Junior Livestock show since Saturday.  Preparing stalls, weighing animals, and during the last two days showing their animals for quality of meat and showmanship.  With the auction arena setup for tomorrow’s auction, all that is left is an early rising so youth can wash and groom their animals for one final turn in the arena.

We will be there with them as the auction gets off the ground.  If we are lucky, we will walk away with enough pork to feed all the volunteers and visitors who will visit the Mission this summer!

© David B. Bell 2011

Border Conference Engages Youth and Young Adults on Immigration Issues

March 10, 2011

The following is write-up on a Border Conference Katherine attended in February.  Please take a look at what occurred and the power it had on some of the participants.  While the event did not deal with the historical and ongoing problems of the U.S. border concerning American Tribes, who are most often lost in border considerations, the issues and events that were dealt with do have a direct impact on the people of White Swan, Washington!  The article is written by Wanda Bryant Wills of Communication Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

 

The reality of border crossings took on a new meaning for Rev. Sammy Robles when he touched a portion of the heavy metal wall that separates Mexico and the United States.

“The memories are still fresh in my mind,” recalled Robles, 31, pastor of Arise Christian Church in Orlando, Fla. “”There was a sense of intimidation and the recognition in that human-made wall.  It seems that there was power and judgment connected to it.  If only it could speak.”

Robles was among 12 young adults and youth who joined with about 60 other participants from  the Disciples and United  Church of Christ to gain new insights into immigration issues and border ministries at a unique four- day conference.  Held Feb. 10-13, the conference, “Turning Walls into Tables,” took place at Iglesia Cristiana Casa De Oracion in San Diego, Calif.  A one-day trip across the border into Tijuana, Mexico on Friday, Feb. 11 provided the opportunity to see first-hand the barriers that now divide the two countries.  It is estimated that about 670 miles of fences, walls and spikes currently exist along the border.

The Tijuana trip also included stops at a number of ministries that help those who have been deported from the United States back to Mexico.  The ministries provide food, health care and other basic needs.

“For the Church of Jesus Christ, understanding the so-called issue of immigration does not need to be complicated,” said David Vargas, president of the Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries, whose office was one of the sponsors of the event.  “For us, Disciples, it must be even simpler.  If we are truly a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, welcoming and honoring the foreigner and the stranger shall be at the core of our witness.  “

“In our case, that exercise must begin by recognizing, acknowledging, welcoming and honoring the many “undocumented” children of God who are full members of our Disciples community of faith – many serving as deacons, elders and pastoral leaders, including a significant number of young adults – and who are part of the body of Christ and welcome to the Lord’s table as God has welcomed the rest of us,” added Vargas.

Katherine Bell, 21, from White Swan, Wash. is thankful to be among those who participated in the trip.  For Bell, the experience added a new dimension to her understanding of immigration.  Bell has spent many years at Yakama Christian Mission, a ministry of Disciples located in the Yakama Nation in central Washington State.  About 55 percent of those living at Yakama are Native-American.  Another 45 percent are Hispanic.

“The Hispanics we see are mostly from central Mexico,” said Bell.  “They have worked their way up the California coast harvesting crops, and now have come to Oregon and Washington.  Since I returned from the border conference trip I have talked to other young people about how big this issue is and about how sometimes we don’t want to think about immigrants in our area, particularly if they are undocumented.”

“We are grateful that so many young people were able to be with us on the trip,” said Rev. Jennifer Riggs, director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries within Disciples Home Missions, whose office was also a conference sponsor.  “Immigration is an important issue for the future of our country and our church.  We wanted to involve young people who will be the future leaders of a church that will be very different than it is today, because of immigration.”

A number of speakers at the conference addressed the complex issues that tie together the United States and Mexico, such as geography and immigration.  Those speakers included Dr. Daisy Machado, dean of academic affairs and professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary in New York City; Jen Smyers, associate director for Immigration and Refugee Policy with Church World Service and Dr. Carlos Correa Bernier, Director of Centro Romero in San Ysidro, Calif.  Bernier led the trip into Tijuana.

Participants also were reminded that the United States benefits economically in many ways through its relationship with Mexico, not only through cheap labor, but also through the implementation of provisions such as NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tijuana residents in the Chilpancingo community spoke to participants about ways the NAFTA agreement has led to a host of problems in their area, including more air pollution from trucks hauling cargo to low wages paid in the maquiladoras, foreign-owned factories where workers make an average wage of $56 a week.

Several workshops at the conference further explained the complexity of border issues, looking at such topics as economic justice, race, and hospitality.  Three speakers from Mexico, Rev. Josue Martinez, Rev. Manual Tovar and Miguel Villa Panduro also shared their thoughts about the impact of immigration on their churches, families and community.

Youth and young adults led worship throughout the conference.

“The entire event left a huge impact on me,” said Sydney Merrill, 17, of Indianapolis, Ind., a member of Speedway Christian Church.  “Living and growing up in the Midwest, I was very unaware and blind to the issues involving the border…Now that the conference has ended, I feel that I can do the most by sharing the word of what I learned during the conference.  I have even written a report for one of my classes at school to help spread the word about the poverty, nonprofit organizations, deportation, and poor environmental conditions all revolving around the border.”

One outcome of the conference was a statement calling the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, to among other things, be more welcoming of all migrants by learning more about the borderlands; provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants and speak out against economic practices that disrespect human life.  To read a full review of the conference that includes the statement go to:  http://globalministries.org/news/lac/statement-of-the-participants.html

The conference was jointly sponsored by the Disciples/UCC Global Ministries, Disciples Home Missions, the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries and Disciples Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries.

By Wanda Bryant Wills, Communication Ministries
Found on “Disciples News Service”
of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Recovering From Fire has a Salty Taste

February 18, 2011

As Fifty mile-per-hour wind pushed a firestorm through the small town of White Swan, Washington last Saturday, Derel, Belinda, and I sat in the home of a member of the church while Jill sat with a family a few miles away who most likely was losing their home at that moment.  Looking out the southern window limbs blew out of trees like straw and out of the northern window fire raged on.  Conversation was about the moment, silence was about tomorrow.

Nearly a year ago we began having conversations of making the relationship between Log Church (Disciple of Christ) and Wilbur Memorial (Methodist) more formal.  Little did we know when we first sat down discussing the different gifts each denomination and each pastor-social worker brought to the table, just how beneficial that would be in a time of disaster.  Disasters have a tendency of bringing people closer together.  However, when folks are already in the middle of that wonderful, rich, muddy relationship of being family, what can be done in the middle of sadness is some wonderful stuff.

Seldom in such a disaster does a small Church bring three pastors and a social worker to the table.  Since last Saturday, the Wilbur/Log partnership has had either a pastor or social worker sitting at the table as each phase of community health and care unfolded.  This has meant the level of individual pastoral care being offered is beyond what any us could have imagined a year ago.  The community is receiving a quality of immediate care that is only obtainable by having two denominations working together rather than apart.  The possibilities of intermediate and long-term denominational care are vast because Church folks are living out their work as family rather than neighbor.

Today is the seventh day since the wind slid down off the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range and funneled fire from one home to the next.  Seven days since the everyday world of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, elders and children was laid to ash.  It is trite at this moment to metaphorically speak to the mythical Phoenix rising out of the ash, for the taste around the idea of it will all work out is stale.  Instead, imagining a faithful people, local and global, rising together, working together to reach down and gather a handful of ash and mud and mold it into the body and breathe the breath of life into it; well, now that has a salty taste where the artistic creativeness of an inspired people who gather at the table and partake in the fullness of life given.

Seven days later and the family has started to gather.  The United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Disciple Week of Compassion has gathered and begun giving and helping us make a difference in the lives of our sisters and brothers.  Direct help in caring for the immediate wellbeing of youth and children has begun.  Organizing for intermediate and long-term rebuilding help is in process.  However, even working together, these stalwarts of Disciples and Methodists can only help so much.  The rest is up to all of us.

There are at least two ways you might help in White Swan’s intermediate and long-term recovery.  First is financially.  The ministry efforts of theWilbur/Log partnership are being strained.  Assistance is needed to help pay to have pastors present in the community—for gas to make visitations, or to simply take a youth to the Cougar Den for lunch and conversation about their life in trying times.  If you choose to give, please send a check to either the Log Church or Wilbur

Memorial and designate it for “White Swan Fire—Long-term Recovery Effort.”

 

A Presence in Wilbur Fellowship Hall

Second is physical.  If you are a member of a community who wants to make a hands on difference, consider organizing a worktrip to White Swan.  Beginning with Spring Break until the end of autumn help is needed.  The work you do will matter.  It might be directly working on a blown off roof or it might be at the homeless shelter in Wapato or it might be in a children’s program or it might be helping on a farm; regardless what form the work might take, it is tied to the health and wellbeing of the White Swan community.  Not only will you make a difference in local lives but yours will change as well, for in the course of these worktrips Jill, Derel, Belinda, and David will walk with you and discuss the unique framework of Church and society on the reservation and we promise you will go home with an experience that will inform your life conversations.  If you choose to bring a group of people for a worktrip this spring, summer, or fall, please visit our SAGE, Learning and Serving Trips webpage: www.yakamamission.org/sage.html, and call us for more information.

Structural stuff like addresses and phone numbers are below.  To close though is to say, we know your prayers have been with the White Swan community during these last seven days.  We have felt them and they have made a difference throughout the community.  In the middle of conversation with a young woman the other day, she said, “I don’t know what it is, but I know I am not alone…It’s something like, you know, something like having many hands supporting you and not letting you fall down.”  Your prayers matter, please continue!

Wilbur Memorial Methodist Church:  PO Box 40, White Swan, WA 98952
Derel Olson: (509) 874-2736

Log Church (Disciples of Christ): PO Box 547, White Swan, WA 98952
David Bell: (509) 969-2093
Jill Delaney: (509) 874-2824
Belinda Bell: (509) 969 4575

© David B. Bell 2011

In A Town Named White Swan, Listening To A Cat Is Only Right After A Fire


February 14, 2011

She walked along with us, though on the other side of the road.  Empty and charred describes our side of the road; house with a tree and fence describes her side.  When we stopped, she stopped as well.  Looked at us.  And mewed.

She’s a medium sized cat with a white rear end that changes half way down her back to black shoulders and head with white whiskers; though you had to look beyond the soot and smoke.  This afternoon, she was mostly gray.  She sat down, with front legs straight as cats do, tilted her head, and watched us.  Though there was a roughness to her mew, there was something majestic to her posture.  Her pose spoke much to the feeling and the energy around us.

Hours before fire and police opened the town of White Swan.  The scene was much like those we have all watched at one time or another on television.  Where houses once stood, were now foundations, ash, and melted home belongings.  Recognizing the landscape was now difficult.  Landmarks were gone.  Where homes, garages, trees and shrubs, once stood, you now saw open land.  If it were not for people in the midst of it all you would never know people lived here, yesterday.

People wandered up and down roads, from one block to the next.  Partly to see what had happened—what was left and what was not—partly to see their friends.  Not uncommon was for a neighbor’s eyes to meet those of another neighbor and cry as they ran to one another and hugged.  Not uncommon was to see a person walk past, soot and ash covering them from work, with streaks on their cheeks.  Not uncommon were people working, cleaning up what they could, stopping their work for conversation, being fully themselves, yet stoic at this moment.

Folks kept arriving through the afternoon.  Many, many more people walked the roads than who lived in this neighborhood.  For the hurt within White Swan spread beyond any imaginary borders that dignitaries, county planners, or politicians draw.  Family is larger than a geographic boundary.

Health and wellbeing are hard to recognize in the midst of disaster.  Neither looks the same as they might have yesterday.  Yet in the midst of charred life, where folk hug, cry, and work together, the fullness of wellbeing is palpable.  And health?  Well, maybe health comes from crossing the street and petting the cat.

© David B. Bell 2011