Image Credit: Dick Duerksen

Connecting With Warm Springs

“Take Highway 26 over the pass, south of Mt. Hood (Wy’East). About 90 miles from Portland, you’ll see the Warm Springs Casino. Turn right and follow the sign to the woman who has turned her pickup into Indian Fry Bread Café. Turn right at the fry bread and follow the blacktop 'til you see two old guys in lawn chairs. Wave back, and park behind the red building.”

Finding a place to park, Dick and Brenda Duerksen walked through a patch of prairie grass to a green lawn where they found two large white teepees and a dozen pop-up canvas shelters shading pizza, tacos, smoothies and bubble machines.

Between the teepees, five gifted musicians coaxed a traditional Warm Springs song from a deep-throated drum. “The sound,” as one listener said, “felt like the melody an unborn baby would hear in the beating of mother’s heart.”

Volunteers from churches on both sides of the mountains, each wearing a gray “Serve” T-shirt, were everywhere. They helped with bubble machines, distributing backpacks, teddy bears and connecting kids with shoes each had ordered several weeks ago. Joyful surprise was the emotion of the day.

“At first it was just a bunch of Native children who needed shoes,” said Doug McGinnis, event dreamer. "But when several pastors caught the dream, and our young adult team and Big Lake Youth Camp joined in, I knew it would happen. We were going to give 400 pairs of new shoes to kids on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of!"

It all started about eight months ago when Seth Cantu, Native pastor serving the Madras church; Greg Phillips, Pleasant Valley Church pastor; and the PVC outreach group heard about a unique ministry. Samaritan’s Feet, a worldwide ministry, helps provide shoes for kids. “Four-hundred pairs?” asked the folks from Samaritan’s Feet. “Sure! We’ll cover 80% of the cost.”

Candice Jimenez, a PVC member, and tribal citizen who was raised on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, signed on and immediately began connecting with tribal elders in planning a picnic day to go along with the shoe giveaway.

In addition to the shoes, pizza, smoothies and other foods, there was a drawing for a load of special prizes. The kids received basketballs from the Portland Trail Blazers, special backpacks, extra shoes and T-shirts, but the biggest smiles came from the 26 kids who won a free week at Big Lake Youth Camp.

“Look at that!” cried one of the kids. “There’s a rainbow above the teepees!” Looking up, everyone smiled and watched in awe as the Creator slowly flew "a pillar of fire" above the Warm Springs Reservation, blessing everyone below.

Featured in: July/August 2022