CONAM members share highlights of friendship journey

Members of the Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) believe in taking road trips to visit Native friends—whether to the former Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pa., (now the U.S. Army War College), or to St. John UMC in Bridgeton, New Jersey, or to Cherokee, North Carolina, or to another favorite destination: the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish (BUMP), headquartered in Browning, Montana.

CONAM welcomed friends at another favorite venue, Innabah Camp & Retreat Center in Spring City, Nov. 3, for their traditional fall worship and fellowship gathering—just in time for the start of Native American Heritage Month. Their Sunday soiree began with worship that included special music and a Thanksgiving litany adapted from the Haudenosaunee (literally “people who build a house”), also known as the six-nation Iroquois Confederacy.

Then two members enthralled guests with a PowerPoint show and tell about their visit to a dear CONAM friend, the Rev. Calvin Hill and his multifaceted ministry at the Blackfeet UM Parish in Montana. Hill and his wife Sheri visited Eastern PA’s CONAM and supportive churches over four years ago to share their vision for ministry and to seek assistance.

The fruit of that visit is a cherished friendship that has included several trips there, participation in their annual Christmas Shoe Box Mission, the sending of funds to help BUMP respond to a winter weather emergency, and a CONAM scholarship to help one of Hill’s assistants pursue the Licensed Local Pastor Course of Study.

In their presentation Sherry Wack and Bob Hinderliter told guests about their August four-day, three time-zone trek by car through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota to finally arrive at BUMP August 21.

Rev. Calvin Hill

Their host, the Rev Calvin Hill, a Navajo born in Arizona but raised in East Los Angeles, is the lead pastor of BUMP’s several churches and a man on a mission. That mission—with help from various sources—includes raising cattle, growing alfalfa hay to help local ranchers feed their livestock, providing food and firewood to homebound families during harsh winters, feeding large indoor fellowship gatherings, and building needed facilities, including a greenhouse to raise plants year-round.

Hill and his helpers also provide weeklong veterinary clinics in two locations, where neighbors can bring their animals for diagnosis, treatment and vaccination. And they provide equestrian training to teach horse riding, grooming and other skills.

Hill works hard to teach church members servant discipleship and “to build up the body of Christ.” BUMP now has 30 lay servants and two licensed local pastors. In fact, Rayola Running Crane, who received CONAM’s scholarship, and Gail Hoyt are the first Blackfeet licensed local pastors. Both are assigned to churches, relieving Hill of having to make the 148-mile drive there each Sunday.

Wack and Hinderliter attended BUMP’s lively annual camp meeting during their visit. The festive event drew guests from near and far (including Calgary, Canada) for worship and fellowship over meals from Thursday evening to Sunday morning. Highlights included a potluck dinner, preaching, testimonies, hymn-singing and a musical jam session joined by Hinderliter on bass guitar.

In addition, Wack’s travelogue included photos of fascinating sights on their journey there and back, including Little Big Horn, Glacier National Park, the Crazy Horse memorial mountain sculpture, the popular Devil’s Tower and the towering sculpture of a Native woman titled the Dignity Statue.

“It was a great trip,” said Wack. “We saw a lot, became reacquainted with old friends and made some new ones. It was definitely an inspiration for me.”

Note: All information and photos in this story about Rev. Calvin Hill and BUMP’s ministry were provided by Sherry Wack in her PowerPoint script.