Stephanie Powell and her family felt like God was calling them to go on their first family mission trip. Read more about their time in Montana below.
We said yes to His call and all six of us went to Montana to serve with Pastor Bruce Plummer and Montana Indian Ministries. When we arrived, we instantly fell in love with the people who live on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and the surrounding area. This year, our oldest daughter Sarah and I had the opportunity to return with our church and serve the beautiful people of Montana who touched us both so much the previous year.
Our mission team found out a few days before our trip that five young men on the reservation had committed suicide within the past month. We knew this would impact our plans of construction, basketball camps and backyard Bible clubs, but we did not know how. God had already been working and had placed two individuals on our team who had lived through the grief of suicide in their own families.
Once we arrived in Montana, our Monday went as planned; and then our week took a devastating turn. We awoke Tuesday to the terrible news that an 18-year-old girl had committed suicide overnight, and two other teen girls had attempted suicide. There are so many suicide attempts on the reservation that one that actually takes a life is now being called a completion. OUR plans started changing by the hour, but HIS plans started unfolding right before our eyes. We not only had opportunities to tell them about the love of Jesus, but we now had even more opportunities to show them the love of Jesus. One night, Pastor Bruce sent out three buses, and they returned to our camp full of teenagers who needed to be ministered to, hugged and just loved. I am typical “Type A” personality, so leading a large mission team where things were constantly changing was challenging. But watching our team be so flexible and quick to adapt to any situation was incredible. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Montana has the highest suicide rate in the country, and the Native American population tops the list. There is such a feeling of hopelessness that it is hard to explain if you have never seen the environment. These recent completions prompted the tribal government on the Fort Belknap Reservation to declare a state of emergency. The Indian Community Council believes that isolation, trauma and drug abuse are the main factors leading to the suicides. While these are definitely issues facing this community, I know what this community needs above all is the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 4:10 says, “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” That is the hope we all need!
The opportunity to share this journey with my daughter who turned 16 while we were there cannot be put into words. It is something that neither of us will ever forget. I was so proud to be a part of this team that the Lord perfectly assembled to be on the Fort Belknap Reservation “for such a time as this.” Please pray for Pastor Bruce and Montana Indian Ministries as they continue to minister to their community and share about the One who can bring ultimate hope!