|The Old Mission Church and Cemetery. I helped lay that stone path when I was just a few years old.|
Though the building functions mostly as a historical site, during the summers, churches from the community come together to worship once weekly, early Sunday morning. In my childhood, I looked forward to getting up early and making the drive with my father to Old Mission. We parked at the edge of the cemetery and walked up the stone path that my family helped lay. My father and I always arrived early, often beating Jean, the keeper of the building, to the door. We would spend a few moments sitting on the benches outside the building, enjoying the morning sunrise as the mist rose over the grave stones.
|Sorry, pictures of pictures are never great quality, but this is a photo of me and Eagle Bear. I'm holding a doll that P-M made for me.|
The Sunday I most looked forward to each summer was the Sunday closest to the 4th of July. It was on that Sunday that my dear "grandpa" was invited to speak.
Eagle-Bear is a proud Wyandot Indian and a United Methodist lay speaker in the East Ohio Conference.
In both of our younger years, I would wait patiently next to my father to watch "Black-Horse" (his motorcycle) crest the hill and drive the winding path to the church. I knew we would catch up, asking how his wife, Precious-Moments, was. He would then turn his attention to me. To meet my youth, he always had a small gift. A peacock feather, a small raccoon pin, a small stitched doll handmade by P-M, and other trinkets are still reminders of those days. The most lasting gift came, however, after we walked into Old Mission.
Eagle-Bear always put me to work. Whether handing out bulletins, passing out hymnals, or passing the plate, I knew that I was important to Eagle-Bear in the work of bringing the Gospel. I never felt patronized for being a child or for being a girl, but instead felt a respected member of the community of faith.
When it came time to choose my confirmation sponsor in the fall of 1997, I knew no other choice than Eagle-Bear. He was not only a grandfather to me (having not had much relationship with my biological grandfathers), but also a faith giant. I recalled the passion with which he would sign the Lord's Prayer. I remember how he would preach himself exhausted. I remember how he met each hug and handshake with grace and peace. He represented his people and his God. He radiated love.
On the day of my confirmation, Eagle-Bear gave me the greatest gift. He presented me with a Wyandot name. "Little Hummingbird." Hummingbirds are creatures of color and energy, agility and grace, bearing witness to their creator. Though the name seemed "Little," it felt like a lot to live into.
|The Hummingbird necklace that I often wear.|
From then on Eagle-Bears visits did not contain physical gifts, but contained messages and encouragements. Even throughout college I valued the few words that Eagle-Bear and I exchanged. Though at times his health wavered, his spirit and passion never did. Though there are many mentors I can thank for nurturing my call into ministry, Eagle-Bear was the first. I remember the joy on his face as I told him one July morning that I was entering the process toward ordained ministry. He clasped my face in his hands and said, "You're a beautiful woman of God. You always have been. This is what you're meant for."
Yes, friend, this is what I was meant for. I will be ordained as an Elder in Full Connection in the West Ohio Annual Conference on June 11, 2013. As I reflect on the many people who nurtured my call, Eagle-Bear stands out. Thanks, Grandpa, for seeing something in me before I saw it in myself.
|Eagle Bear, 2006|