Tuesday, August 11, 2009


If you read my previous posting you read about the casinos in Deadwood, South Dakota. But that was just one place with lots of casinos in a tourist setting. Casinos are everywhere in Montana and South Dakota. They are not like the big resort casinos in Oklahoma which are scattered across the state, on Indian lands. Those casinos have motels and restaurants attached to them. These casinos are small, some look very attractive, some are attached to convenience stores and are small and bland-looking. In the shopping malls, there are casinos. Today, in Billings, Montana, we were driving to Walmart and on a four-way stop, with four corners, casinos were on two opposite corners. They are everywhere, in strip malls and on all major streets. They may have a sign saying that you must be 18 years old to play. I have complained a lot about the Oklahoma casinos, but they are nothing compared to the casinos in these two states. I don't think they are all owned by the Indian tribes (although that may be so), but Frank and I are stunned by the pervasiness of the casino culture here in these two states. Most people seem to accept them, but Christians should be very concerned about how their states are raising money. I can't say what effect the casinos have, because we haven't really talked much about them with people here, but it would be interesting to know the effect they have on youth and on family life.


After Ridge Campmeeting finished we had a week with not a lot to do. We had thought we would go to the Black Hills and just be tourists for most of the week. One of our new friends at camp then told us that our free week was the time of the annual Biker's Rally at Sturgis, South Dakota. Over half a million bikers from all over the States and a few from other places converge on the Black Hills for a week of carousing and showing off their bikes, mostly Harleys. Motel rooms were at a premium, and we just couldn't afford that. As we pondered what to do instead, our friend, Chad, informed us that he had talked to his folks and we were welcome to come and stay in their home in Rapid City. The Lord is really good to us by working out situations almost before we are aware of them! So we drove to Rapid City on Monday and stayed in the home of Roger and Rebecca (Becky) Bingaman for the whole week. Most of the time we were out sight-seeing and enjoying nice weather.

But first I must talk about the bikers. It was incredible to see so many motorcycles on the road and parked by the hundreds at the different places we visited. Who would have ever thought that bikers would enjoy sight-seeing too! We finally decided that we had never seen so many tatooes in our lives, along with heads covered with bandanas, and lots of leather jackets and pants. In fact, when one salesperson asked me if I was in Rapid City with the bikers, I just looked at her and replied, "Do I have any tatooes?", at which she and I laughed together. Some of the motorcycles were fantastic, and some looked very uncomfortable to ride.

Our first day out we went to Mt. Rushmore and had a wonderful day for it. The sun was shining but the temperatures were mild and pleasant. I'm rather proud of the next picture. The sky was very blue and George and the boys looked wonderful.

Another day we went to Custer State Park to see the wildlife, and had some wonderful shoots of the buffalo herds. The following guy got up close and personal, so I quickly rolled up my window!

The final day of sight-seeing we went to Deadwood, the home of Calamity Jane and sometime home of "Wild Bill" Hickok, and their burial place. Deadwood was awful. It has become a mini-Las Vegas where all the old western buildings have been turned into casinos. The crowds of bikers were terrible. We went inside one casino----the bottom floor had a model train exhibit and Frank wanted to see it----and I thought it was shabby and uninviting. The slot machines were noisy and the people were like automatons--nothing got their attention but the machines. One casino had an interesting motorcycle on display outside. It was really cool with the pictures of old-time Westerners on it. We ate lunch in a restaurant that had a restored Victorian interior and even there the slot machines were working and people were trying their luck. For us the best thing about Deadwood was the cemetary. It really showed the history of the town, complete with the graves of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. And it was quiet, no roar of engines.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


The sign says it all! The tiny village of Ridge is surrounded by ranches with herds of Black Angus cattle, fields of hay, and some antelope and deer. The ranches don't look much like the ones in western movies. The houses are ordinary, sometimes double-wide manufactured homes, with barns and sheds that are basically just like those on farms. From the main highway 20 miles along a dusty road to the turnoff at Ridge, it is another three miles through ranch land to the camp. Frank was joking along the way that it was more of a cowpath than a road, but it was actually better than that, although when it rains it becomes a gooey mess.

When you expect the worst, it is always pleasant to find that things are much better than you expected! True, the cabins were rough and rugged, there were lots of daddy-longlegs, and the tabernacle had a sawdust floor and really uncomfortable benches. But the people were friendly, the food was excellent, and the outdoor setting for the camp was gorgeous. Lots of pine trees and hills with beautiful wildflowers in abundance. The worst part------the cold weather! In an unusual year the temperatures were really, really cold in the early morning and just a little warmer in the afternoons. One morning it was 44 degrees, but most mornings were between 48 and 55 degrees. In a warm building that's bearable. But in an unheated cabin with open spaces between the floor boards, it is really hard to get out of those blankets in the morning and undress to get dressed! We had a cheerful yellow nine-patch quilt on our bed as well as two good blankets, but for two nights we still needed to put on more clothes when we hunkered down for the night. Actually, we were reminded of our India days when we went to visit Laura and Evan at boarding school. Several days were cloudy and rainy just like Ooty, the town where the school is located, as well as being very cool. One night the thunder actually rolled across the hills. I had always heard that phrase, but now I really understand what it means. The lightning show was spectacular, and the rain came down on the tin roof of our cabin. It was just like Ooty. Of course, to complete the comparison to India, the electricity went off in the night and didn't come back on till mid-morning the next day.

This is the tabernacle on a sunny morning. The sides can be put down to keep out the wind and the rain. The preaching was good, old-fashioned holiness preaching, but the evangelist had a sweet spirit and a great sense of humor. His name is E. R. Trouten, he was a Wesleyan pastor for a long time and later taught at God's Bible School in Cincinnati and Hobe Sound Bible School in Florida. There were a good number of teens at the camp, and he continually urged them to think about their spiritual life and what God required of them. But he did it in a sweet way, not condemning them.

We shared every day, twice a day. Each service had a "missionary moment" and Frank and I took turns talking about our personal calls to missions, some outstanding moments from our work in India and our short time in Ukraine, along with our hopes for the future. It was a little daunting at first to think that we had to speak sixteen times, not including Missionary Day when we were responsible for two full services. But it's amazing how the Lord helped us think of interesting and challenging things to share each day. On Missionary Day Frank preached on the Great Commission in the morning service and in the evening we gave our Ukraine presentation. The offerings were good, and people would continue to press money and checks into our hands throughout the week. They love the Lord and they want the whole world to know how wonderful God is. One young man, about 12 years old, came to our cabin just before bedtime one night and gave us three dollars. He had missed the offering on Missionary Day and he wanted to be sure that he participated in world evangelism. His name is William, but everyone calls him Wills. God has something special for Wills----he has a tender heart and a loving attitude.

In spite of the cold weather everyone had a good time at camp. The teens were fun and friendly, the cooks were fantastic, and the other adults were committed to hearing God's Word and obeying His commands. I'll just put in a few pictures of different people below so you can see their lovely smiles. We were ready to move on at the end of camp, but we will remember this as one of the most interesting experiences we have ever had on Homeland Ministry Assignment.


It's been two weeks since I wrote, so I must catch up on things. I'll go back to Spokane where we stayed with some long-time supporters whom we had never met before. Praise the Lord for wonderful people who feel that God is leading them to pray for and financially support missionaries, even though they don't know them personally. Roger and Janice Long are people like that. They opened their home to us for two nights in Spokane and encouraged us with their own active ministry of small groups in their home. It was great to finally meet them and hear their stories of how the Lord has lead them into helping people think about their faith and what they believe.
Next we headed east on I-90 through the skinny part of Idaho in the northern part of the state. We stopped at an old Jesuit mission to the Coeur d'Alene Indians and saw the old church which the Indians help build. It was really neat. I was particularly impressed by the official seal of the tribe----it is the only Indian seal I have seen which includes a Christian cross.