When I was 7 years old, we started attending a small church on the Lummi Nation reservation in Whatcom County. We drove 55 minutes each Saturday morning to attend the church that was recently built on my mom’s reservation.
My parents, Brian and Nina Cladoosby, were both committed to breaking cycles of generational trauma to ensure my sister and I had a healthier childhood where Christ was at the center of our family.
You see, as a child, my dad’s grandfather was forced into a religious boarding school in the 1920s in Oregon. He finally ran away and joined the Navy when he was 20 years old. When he settled back onto the Tulalip reservation he brought alcohol addiction and various abuse to his home that he learned in the boarding school. The devastation of forced boarding schools on indigenous peoples are still felt today.
My parents found a home in that small church on the Lummi Nation. A place to belong. A faith to call their own. My parent's decision changed the trajectory of our lives. It changed our family tree. I am so thankful for Lummi Church Company — the influence it had on my life has been profound.
We had a potluck every Sabbath, spent all day together as a family, had vespers and dinner together, campouts, Christmas parties, homecomings, VBS and much more. You know what’s really cool? For the first time in more than 100 years, my kids are growing up in a home without drugs and abuse. God can and will turn tables and change family trees. He creates and recreates again and again.
Forty is a common number in the Bible and when I see it, I often think of the concepts of repentance, preparation and transformation. This is what Lummi Company did for my family and for my own life. I am thankful.
Psalm 107 tell us, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron."
In 1983, Vivian Plaster, Adventist Lummi Nation elder, had a dream. She wanted a church for her Lummi people on the Lummi Nation reservation — where Native people would feel comfortable attending. After decades of religious trauma inflicted on her people, she wanted a safe place for them to know the real love of Jesus.
Plaster studied the Bible with Joe Hanson, an Alaskan Conference leader, and learned the Bible in a way she hadn’t understood it before. She fell in love with the everlasting gospel message of Jesus. So, Plaster donated one acre of her family property on the Lummi Nation reservation to build a church.
With the help of Bill Kramer and Maranatha construction, groundbreaking began. Investment offering paid for all the materials for this build. Auburn Adventist Academy students came to do landscaping outside the church for a mission trip. With everyone working together, the church was built in one week.
The dedication of Lummi Company was on Nov. 12, 1983. Washington Conference donated all the chairs and hymnals. The first baptism was my uncle, Leroy Deardorff by Pastor Doug Johnson*. The Lummi Company had a simple mission: love. There was no condemnation and everyone was encouraged to come.
There's a quote from Paul Roberts, Lummi head elder, that sums up the church's growth: “God takes the worst of us and changes us.”
* Editorial note: The original version of this story indicated "the late" Doug Johnson. Pastor Johnson is alive and well in Upper Columbia Conference territory and continues to research Adventist history. He fondly remembers his time in Ferndale and Lummi.