Spirit Journey grows

Proud participants in the 2017 Ludington Gus Macker Tournament. Spirit Journey builds relationships, skills and confidence in Native American youth of Michigan. ~Facebook photo

Spirit Journey anticipates an awesome 5th year of ministry with Native American youth.

BRENDA HENDLEY
Development Director Spirit Journey

This year marks the fifth year of Spirit Journey, a ministry that touches the lives of Native American young people in Michigan. Located in Northport, Spirit Journey is the fruit of a vision of a young man named Brandon Ahmicasaube Smith.

Spirit Journey leaders share this report on the 2017 activities and goals for 2018.

Brandon took those who expressed interest playing in the Gus Macker 3 to basketball tournaments in Sault Ste. Marie, Ludington and Belding. The youth were provided uniforms, socks and shoes. Brandon set up camp with the kids and some parents/guardians and provided meals and transportation. Some family members drove to the games and supported them. The team won some games and came home with trophies. One of the teepees was set up with the Spirit Journey banner. Those kids were so proud to be a part of Spirit Journey.

In 2017 Spirit Journey grew by 20 campers for a total of 70 youth attending the mid-August event in Northport, Michigan. ~Facebook photo

We’re pleased to report that we had 70 kids at camp in 2017. The Spirit Journey Board had decided to open Spirit Journey Camp to include all Native youth in Michigan. We received 20 new campers through that invitation. That increased our budget by $4,500. We bought more tents and cots and porta-johns to house the additional youth.

What we’ve seen over the last couple of years has been phenomenal. We’re not only impacting the kids’ lives, but the parents are stepping up and assisting more and more. The Tribal Chief, Sam McClellan attended the Friday night Talent Show at the close of camp. Brandon asked him to say a few words at the conclusion. He was overcome with emotion as he expressed that he’d never seen anything like the Spirit Journey experience. To see the Native kids have the freedom and comfort level to perform was miraculous. The ministry respects Traditional Spirituality as it weaves in what God and Christ have done in our lives.

Perhaps the best measure of the success of Spirit Journey is these Thank You cards and journey entries that the young people have written. (Grammar and spelling unchanged.)

“Thanks for bringing me here [Pictured Rocks) it’s fun. I like coming with you it makes me think a lot and your funny. I’m thankful for Spirit Journey because it helped me change because I thought of how I acted last year. It gives me something to do in the summer. You got me shoes and shorts and other things it helped for Gus Macker I didn’t have there. We do something different everyday and it’s fun. I like that we are camping to. I don’t get to camp a lot at home. I wish the Spirit Journey would last longer that would be fun. The Gus Macker is fun and I can’t wait for the next one…..”

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~“Thank you for letting me participate and letting be a part of Spirit Journey. I am honestly thankful for everything you have done for us. I know that I have ticked you off so many times more than I should have. But its only cause I feel so comfortable being around you and the other campers. Honestly your practically my family cause you are my hero. Every day I learn something new about Spirit Journey and something new about myself. Spirit Journey will be the biggest change in my life. You have taught me so much about life and what it takes to become a man and a person who gots to except what happens in life. Everything that I have done with Spirit Journey showed me that my life will always always need improvement and I don’t know how to say thank you Brandon.”

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~Hi, my name is William and I have been with Spirit Journey sense day 1. And let me tell you that these past years really have changed my life in a good way. And have made so many new friends that will last forever. Without Spirit Journey I would probably be home doing nothing and learning nothing. One of my greatest memories with Spirit Journey was building the camp. When Brandon first took us their all I saw was a building and a kitchen. So I thought where was this going to go. But Brandon was the one that helped open my eyes and we built something that I never thought could be possible. And with that, I just want to say thank you for supporting us kids and Spirit Journey.”

 (Side note: William is being raised by his grandmother. He was failing in school three years ago. Last summer, his grandma came up to me and said that he tested so well in Science, that he’s now in AP Science his Freshman year in high school. I could tell that she was thrilled. We were, too.)

Let those words speak to you. Hear them again….helped me change … you are practically my family … many new friends … I learn something new about myself … we built something I never thought could be possible. 

Brandon Smith’s life was changed as a young boy going to camp. Now he makes a transformational camping experience possible for others. ~Facebook photo

Spirit Journey has provided positive and life changing experiences.This year marks the 5th Anniversary of Spirit Journey. Spirit Journey is for any Native American youth in Michigan 8-14 years of age. We hope to add a fourth weekend of Gus Macker tournaments and Cedar Point. Our financial goal for 2018 is $65,000. We currently have $2,500 in the checking account and $11,000 that Birmingham UMC has committed to us for this coming year. That leaves about $47,500 to raise before August. God has always provided in the past and we pray we’ll be able to reach that goal.

Keep up with news about the August 2018 Spirit Journey Camp. Follow Spirit Journey on Facebook.

(Editor’s note: Spirit Journey is a Six Lanes Project/Lane 6 West Michigan Conference Advance Special. Questions about the ministry may be directed to Brenda Hendley at Brendahendley72@gmail.com.)

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