In 1918, Missionary Edgar Guenther established Open Bible Lutheran Church of Whiteriver, Ariz., one of 9 current WELS churches on the Apache reservation. In the past on Rev. Guenther's birthday, we set aside time to rally the "troops"; or rather, the members! That was years and years and pastors and pastors ago. We all loved (and needed) that day. The members started asking present Apache Pastor, Kirk Massey, if they could have Rally Day again.
“We sure can. We should rally the members back to church.” said Pastor Massey. However, with a congregation of over 1,000 members, Pastor Massey had his hands full. Many members had stopped coming to church for one reason or the other, and Pastor Massey was making sure to follow up. Many came to church, but also needed their pastor daily. He needed some help and suggested to the ladies, "If you can find some people to organize a big Rally Day - we can have it, but I won’t be able to devote much ministry time to organizing it.”
Brenda Lee wanted to have Rally Day, but she needed help. After asking around, she found help in her Christian sisters at Open Bible Lutheran Church.
“The goal of Rally Day was to bring back straying and lost members into the church. To welcome them with awesome worship, joy-filled fellowship, games, and delicious food.” exclaims Brenda Lee. “And that is what happened - all to God’s glory!”
With a budget of $500, the ladies organized egg and balloon tosses, music, miniature horse rides, lots of games for kids, cream pie throwing at our pastors and teachers (that was a big hit), and a fry-bread making contest for the ladies. Pastor Massey built the fry bread fire, he and the church men were the judges, and the ladies went to work making the traditional fry bread. The fry bread winner received homemade banana bread! In the end, everyone won as they enjoyed traditional fry bread and beans, a potluck of side dishes, and fried chicken brought in from the local grocery store.
Now that Rally day has ended, the ladies can’t stop talking about what else they can do to aid in fellowship and encouragement:
• Could our other Lutheran reservation churches hold more joint events?
• Could we host more fellowship days where we could offer support and encouragement to visitors?
• Is there a way we can gather to offer support for the recovery group attendees from the local neighborhoods and encourage more people to go into recovery from alcohol, drugs, anger and harmful habits?
• The men said they’d like to teach the women to play horseshoes... can we make an event out of that?
“There are some awesome Christian fellowship opportunity there.” says Brenda Lee, whose head is spinning with all the possibilities.
Her question to other reservation churches and to YOU reading this is:
What can you be a part of organizing at your church that will offer support and encouragement to members who have strayed and to brand new visitors? How can you help strengthen those who are regulars by giving them an opportunity to serve?”
That’s a great question for all of us.
Brenda Lee is a member at Open Bible Lutheran Church in Whiteriver, Ariz.
Written by: Debbie Dietrich, Native American Mission Communication Coordinator
The Apache World Mission field celebrates 125 years of God's blessings in 2018. For more information on anniversary celebration plans or to learn how your church can host an Apache Mission Festival Sunday, contact Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see more photos from the Apache Mission, visit the WELS Mission Flickr page.