By Rev. Sheila Miranda
Next week, 61 youth and youth leaders from around the Greater Northwest (GNW) Area will come together for a S.L.A.M. Trip on the Yakama reservation in south-central Washington. Your prayers are invited as these youth groups travel, learn, serve, worship, and make new friends.
You may ask, “What is a S.L.A.M. Trip”? The acronym stands for “Students Learning About Mission.” These youth trips are hosted by Mending Wings, the nation’s most prominent native faith-based non-profit organization. S.L.A.M. Trips offer church youth groups from around the country the opportunity to learn from indigenous leaders about native history and culture.
Service projects on the reservation are also part of S.L.A.M. Trips, but it is much more than your typical mission/service trip. S.L.A.M. Trips teach about the importance of reciprocal ministry – people serving and being served, giving and receiving – rather than the older, often harmful, one-sided paternalistic way of doing missions.
The trip will include visits to the Yakama Cultural Museum and Fort Simcoe Historical State Park. The museum will allow participants to learn about the history of the region’s indigenous people before colonization. It will also address the devastating effect that treaties, reservations, and boarding schools had, and continue to have, on native people. A visit to Fort Simcoe, which served as a boarding school for 60 years, will cause our group to grapple with the Methodist connection to the school through Rev. James H. Wilbur (known as “Father Wilbur”), who was both an Indian Agent and Methodist Episcopal minister. In our effort as United Methodists to eliminate racism, we must first learn about and acknowledge the harm our church caused to move forward in a better way.
This GNW youth trip brings diverse United Methodist youth groups from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington together in a unique way. So often, our churches are siloed, and our young people have no idea that other groups are trying to make a difference in the world. Our GNW S.L.A.M. Trip is the perfect opportunity for youth groups from across the four-state area to get to know one another and collaborate in meaningful learning and ministry.
Rev. Sheila Miranda serves as Associate of Connectional Ministries in the Inland and Seven Rivers Districts of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church. She is the lead organizer of the GNW SLAM Trip along with Drew Hogan, who serves as Director of Family Ministries at Portland First UMC.