Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hills and Valleys (A Miraculous Tale of the Interests of God)

God is interested in you.  He is interested in me.  I notice this the most in the little things He does: little miracles that remind me that he is paying attention.  We often pray that God would display these little "miracles" in the lives of the urban Native American kids we work with.  Growing up in a broken environment, they need to know he is near them, and that he cares for them.  God answers those prayers often, and here is one example.

Karie (We've changed her name) has often struggled with making friends both in her community and at Kid's Club.  She has a strong personality, and exhibits behavior indicative of trauma.  She often pushes people away, but we love her, and in the last few years she has shown a real interest in the Lord.  She even prayed to receive the Lord during camp!  While she has her struggles, we were so blessed to find out her favorite song was one we sang at camp two years ago called "Hills and Valleys."

A few weeks ago was Karie's birthday.  It happened to occur the same night as Kid's Club, so we all sang "Happy Birthday," of course.  On the way home, she asked Dan, who was driving the bus, if she could listen to her favorite song, "Hills and Valleys, for her birthday.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a way to play the song on the bus.  He told her no, he was sorry, and that there was no way to play the song on the bus.  As the kids sat down, Dan started the bus and suddenly the beginning of the song "Hills and Valleys," began playing on the RADIO.  Perfect timing!  It was such a cool opportunity to reinforce the truth the God cared about Karie, and was interested in her life.  He was paying attention to her and wanted to specially bless her on her birthday!  It is something she will never forget.

God is interested in you too, and I pray that as you read this, you will encounter those little miracles in your own life.  The one who spoke only a few words and created the universe knows what is happening in your world, and better yet, HE CARES.  May our eyes be open daily to the blessings of the Lord.

Friday, November 2, 2018


I hate naming things.  I feel an enormous pressure to come up with exactly the right wording that most accurately describes the thing I am attempting to name.  I try to keep it short, creative, thought provoking, and attention grabbing.  In case you can't tell, I'm not to good at writing "short" things.  I like words too much.

Well, long story short (kinda), we needed to name our Akina program on Tuesday nights. We really wanted to highlight the literacy aspect of the program, because the night is all about literacy.  We teach actual reading strategies, but then we also teach life skills (life "literacy" if you will) and Biblical literacy.  However, it seemed like other churches had already taken the creative one word names.  (Seriously, think about it.)

We decided, after careful evaluation, that a single English word couldn't actually define the night.  So we started looking at Ojibwe.  (I mean, 'Akina' works!)  We stumbled across the word "Minogi."  In Ojibwe, the word means (he or she) "grows up."  "Minogi" is one word packed full of meaning.  It was a word that clearly defined the heart behind what we do on Tuesday nights.  We want to see kids grow.  We want to see them grow in faith and knowledge of the Bible, and we want to see them grow educationally, emotionally, and socially!  So the name "Minogi" stuck!

I love teaching literacy on Tuesday nights so far this year.  We have had double the number of students coming from last year, which is pretty awesome!  Kids have chosen to read "The Action Bible," plus we will be starting a unit on the Tale of Despereaux. We always use our reading time to connect back to the Bible.  We are especially excited to continue teaching the new, updated Answers in Genesis curriculum too.  Keep praying for the kids as we teach them essential skills to "grow up" both in Christ, and in life!
Teaching AIG on Minogi nights!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

It's time for AWESOME!

God is so good, and faithful!  I just can't say that enough it seems.  From miraculously funding our Kid's Club dinner program, to providing extra help when we need it, the Lord continually shows his care for the Native kids in Minneapolis.  He is the obvious protector and defender of his little ones in need.

The other remarkable thing is that the kids are beginning to know this too.  We pray for the presence of the Lord to be evident all throughout our Kid's programs, and that they might know Jesus and have a real relationship with him.  One that is honest, and based firmly in the Bible.  As we began Kid's Club, the kids were excited to be there.  They were excited to listen and learn.  Many of them expressed how safe they felt at Akina, and that they were thankful to hear about Jesus.  Yay!  Keep these kiddos in your prayers!  The Lord of Heaven's Armies is fighting for them!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fun in Farmington!

Could you imagine having someone in your family shot very near your apartment, and then being forced to walk past that location every day, due to the fact that you had nowhere else to live?  That is what one beautiful little girl and young man deal have had to deal with this past year.  We have had the privilege of working with them in Kid's Club.  Their older brother was shot several months ago, not to far away from their apartment.  He did not survive.  Yet in Christ, there is always hope.

We were so blessed to be invited to Christian Life church in Farmington near the end of August.  They invited some of our Kid's Club kids for a day of food, and fun.  The little girl I mentioned earlier was one of the kiddos who got to go.  The kids were able to play on their beautiful playground, eat some delicious tacos, and decorate cookies.  They could play with chalk, bubbles, and face paint.  It was an amazing time for the kids to be kids, in a safe environment, away from the city.  The other amazing blessing was it was all done in the name of Jesus! It was a moment to breathe and heal, for that little one, and others like her.   Now when the kids look back on their life, they can remember fun and love they were given on behalf of the Lord!

We give a huge "THANK YOU" to the ladies in Farmington who made this event possible.  The kids loved it!  Thanks for helping to create a moment of connection-where hurting kids can connect with the Lord through the kindness of others!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Creating Relationships Though Creativity (AKA: The Outdoor Art Camp)

What does painting canvases, sculpting, and a giant paint filled balloon launcher all have in common?  If you guessed an outdoor art camp, you are correct! (and you probably read the title of this blog...)

As many of you know, Akina Kid's Club takes a break during the summer. We are always looking for fun ways to maintain the relationships we've build with the kids in Little Earth, and their families throughout the summer.  This year, we were approached by Pastor Bobby with Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester to partner with a team of middle-schoolers from their church and create a summer missions trip for them.

We were so glad they came!  It was a really great time.  During the morning hours, the group helped with maintenance around the Akina building, inventorying books for the literacy program, and building a composter for our community garden!  Then, in the afternoon, we met in Cedar Field, right in Little Earth.  The group brought some fabulous art supplies and projects, set up a tent, and made themselves available to build relationships with kids!

At first, only one or two kids trickled in.  A local police officer stopped by to thank us for showing up.  He said it was keeping some of the more dangerous people away from the park, allowing the kids to feel safe to play.  (That right there was a testimony to the Spirit of God!)  Slowly, more and more kids began to come!  Soon around 50 kids were playing with clay, painting, and even playing games of kickball in the park.  It was great to re-connect with the kids we knew from Kid's Club, and see new faces too.  We were able to talk to parents about Akina's programs and invite them to come check us out in October.

Over the next several days, we saw many of the same faces stop by. The number of kids coming grew too!  The team from Autumn Ridge was amazing, and because of their hard work and love for the kids, we had an amazing Akina camp within the following weeks where kids grew in the Lord.  We are so thankful for our partnering churches and families.  We could not to this much needed work without you!

Friday, September 7, 2018

When Camp Changed My Life: A Personal Glimpse into the Heart of an Unlikely Missionary

Working with at-risk youth wasn't what I originally thought I would do with my life. Even after I became a teacher, the challenging kids kind of scared me.  I am an introvert who likes order, peace, and control.  Trying to help a traumatized child regulate after a major behavioral breakdown was something I was unfamiliar with, and a skill I am still perfecting.  It throws all my ideas of order, peace, and control out the window (sometimes literally).

But I do know what it is like to hurt.  There is emotional pain so strong it takes your breath away, and makes your brain turn off.  I've been in that place.  And, I have been in the place of quiet healing, when Jesus took that pain away.  Sometimes whispers of that pain come back to haunt me, but the breath of God always sweeps in to silence them.  I remember being so amazed by God's love that I was heart broken at the idea of others trying to struggle through this type of pain without Him. So, I prayed the Lord would take me to the most broken of people to share his hope.  I didn't understand what an overwhelming but wonderful job that would be.  In fact, I still have trouble wrapping my mind around it, because it often requires so much of me with so seemingly little return...and yet...

Enter in this year's Akina Camp.  Dan and I have been working with families and kids in Little Earth for over 12 years.  We began as a small missions church, and over the past few years, have felt God calling us to focus on the next generation of kids, building on the relationships we have built with the Kids Programs we run.  This includes mentorship, discipleship, literacy, and connecting the kids to local churches.  It has been tough, because the community we work with is very broken.  There were at least three shootings this past year, and now a huge homeless camp is growing right outside the community. 

 Camp is an amazing week in August where we bring the kids to a beautiful retreat center in Wisconsin where they can get away from all that stress and just be kids, with the added bonus of connecting with Jesus.  I was feeling nervous, because camp requires a lot of energy, patience, and prayer.  More and more kids have been wanting to come each year, and it was my heart's desire to see kids meet with Jesus.  But, truth be told, I was dreading some of the student's behaviors that might pop up.  Sometimes I even wrestled with the fact that we might not be making a difference in the lives of these hurting kids, because at times, their situation seemed hopeless.

I noticed a difference in the kids this year, though, almost immediately.  When it was time for Bible lessons some of the kids, who had been so hard behind their walls years before, had already began opening up.  By the time the kids sang "Reckless Love," in worship, God was there to meet us.  Throughout the week, stories came out from these lovely children.  Stories of abuse, of finding parents passed out on the floor because drugs, stories of pain. Kids who were silent due to trauma began to whisper things to their counselors.  Boys who were the most difficult ones to work with started talking about their futures with hope. As these stories came out, Jesus was there to meet them  with his healing love.  It was something that years before I thought I'd never see.  I'm so glad God proved me wrong.

I know that everything still won't be perfect for these kids.  But I do know that some amazing relationships were strengthened, and now we have more of an opportunity than ever to reach these kids for Christ, and help them overcome generational poverty!  Only GOD can do this.  Not us, not for a single moment have I ever been equipped to help these kids.  But God is.  I think I am finding that if we are willing to step out in love and wisdom, even if that is in places that make us uncomfortable, God will work the change in the most impossible situations.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jacob's Epiphany

"Why does he have to leave the 99?" Jake asked me in the van.  That particular phrase is in a popular worship song right now that we played the last night of Kid's Club.  I reminded him of the parable of the lost sheep, and how the shepherd left his 99 sheep to go in search of his lost 1. 

Jakey thought for a moment and said, "So if I get lost, Jesus will come find me."  Exactly!  (Although I hope he doesn't go and get lost on purpose just to experiment with it...)

The fact the Jesus is willing to go in search of just the 1 is especially encouraging to me on nights when the kids and families who come to Akina have a hard time.  It helps me to know we can't give up.  Jesus won't.  It helps me to remember that it is worth it, they are worth it, and I am worth it!  So are you!

We have lots of fun stuff in store for Akina kids and families this summer, including a fundraising/ celebratory dinner on Friday, June 1 at 7 pm.  We would love for you to come and here about the ministry.  RSVP to 989-708--0737!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Thankful for Grace Church for giving us the opportunity to bring boys from Akina to Arise with Guys. Loved the mesages from Case Keenum, Adam Thielen, and Tony Dungy downplaying fame and the lifting up Jesus speaks volume to kids who see fame as their only way out of poverty.

Studying what it means to being the body from Ephesians 4 on our literacy and discipleship night at Akina. Plus we got to do a fun Spring craft!

Monday, March 5, 2018

You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. John 15:16
Akina Reads!

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Spark

When I was little, I thought sparklers were one of the coolest things ever invented.  They sprinkled dazzling showers of light to the ground, and left a faded trail of glimmer when we spun them in circles.  When I got older, we figured out that if we shoved them in the ground, at the perfect angle, we could create a domino effect of light.  The lighter would ignite the first sparkler, and then each one would spark the next.  It was nifty.

Well, as usual my long winded flight into my childhood has a spiritual point.  We are seeing Native kids catch the spark of Jesus Christ and watching  it turn into a billowing wildfire.  Not just a "God sounds fun" spark, but a " I was speaking in tongues"/ "I want to be baptized" kind of spark.  It starts with one, but it is spreading!  The harvest is here, in our own backyard.  God is calling to kids in dreams, while they don't even know who he is.  I heard two stories this week alone about that, from the mouths of Native youth.  He alone is doing this work, and he is calling us to the fields! 

My prayer is that as each to spark is lit, it spreads and ignites two more with it.  My prayer is that this community would be the place for the next great awakening of our time.  I am pretty sure God is in the business of doing the impossible.  Let's pray to see it happen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Happenings at Akina

We have been beyond blessed to be working with Grace Church on Tuesday night for Akina Kid's Club.  As part of their loyalty rewards program, we are able to take kids who've come to Kid's Club for 12 nights to breakfast at their church, and to attend the service.  This past weekend we took the girls, and soon we will be taking the boys.  They always love it, and we love the chance to help them see the body of Christ at work!  Plus, it is a fantastic way to build relationships, which has proven essential in working with the community.

The 12 passenger van that was donated this past summer has been an essential part of being able to take more kids and families to church!  For example, we were able to bring 15 kiddos to the special SUPER Sunday service at Emmanuel in Spring Lake Park to see Tim Tebow.  The students really enjoyed that service too.  We are also able to use the van for our literacy program we hope to see grow in the upcoming months.  This is just another example of how God does it all-the providing, the ministry, the open doors.  We would be lost without Him!

Please continue to pray for us, the kids and the community!  All glory to Jesus.  We really, truly, depend on Him.  Only He can do the work!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


I was in serious need of encouragement last week as we are powering through what I affectionately refer to as the"dark days" of January.  It is cold, things seem drab, etc!  It was Kid's Club night and I was teaching about Mephibosheth being adopted into David's family.  I was running low on creativity, which is not a good thing if you want a room full of at risk youth to listen to you.  So I prayed.

As I prayed I was reminded again that God builds the house and establishes to works of our hands, when we follow his lead and walk according to what the Bible says.  I decided to rely on story telling, what I feel most comfortable with, to relay the message.

So I told the story, with my typical cheesy flair, and to be honest, I didn't feel too impressed with myself.  Then I noticed the kiddos were completely silent, hanging on every word.  Not me though.  Obviously this was God!  I shared about how God wanted them in his family, and even gave a group invitation to be a part of God's family.  The kids listened and responded.  Only God could do this.

So if you are feeling discouraged today, remember- God establishes the works of your hands!  If you feel completely inadequate for the job to which you are called, God will build your house when you work according to his will.  He is faithful!  Please continue to pray for us and the Akina kids as they become a part of the family of God!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Happy New Year!

Happy 2018!   It is so nice to know that we can celebrate new things, and the future to come as we trust in Jesus.  We just wanted to keep you updated on what things have been happening at Akina these past few months.  We had an amazing Christmas service at Kids Club.  A special group of jugglers came to share their skills and the gospel with the kids.  Students even received gifts from our amazing partners at Grace Church in Eden Prairie.  I think that this was one of the most amazing Christmas parties we have had, and we have only heard positive things from all the kids!

We were also blessed to be able to take the kids who are a part of our Thursday night literacy and discipleship group to Emmanuel's Christmas Eve service in Spring Lake Park.  The younger kids loved it, and the teenagers were touched by the service, going forward for prayer.  God is so good and loving to keep drawing kids from broken places into his arms! Many blessings to you this new year!