Hope Fellowship is a church plant of the Presbyterian Church in America. We are a "mission church" of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery. For nine years, we met every Tuesday night for a meal with our people, praise and worship together, and to participate in Bible Study. As of Eater Sunday, 2012, we began having Sunday worship services. On a "regular" night we usually have 55-65 elementary aged children, 25-35 teenagers, and 20-25 adults. Altogether, there are approximately 140 regular attenders and we have new visitors virtually every week.
We want to be a church that is characterized by a deep love for the Lord; strong, dynamic faith; commitment to His Word; an active, vibrant love for our neighbors; a desire to serve our neighbors for the glory of Christ and His Kingdom; a commitment to share His Truth and His Love in both Word and Deed regularly and consistently.
Hope Fellowship began about two years earlier than we thought it would! The Granberry family moved from Birmingham, AL to the Yakama Reservation in June 2003 with a desire to "love our first neighbors well" and start a church in the remote town of White Swan. We had been told and believed that it would take a long time to get to know people, build relationships, and get to a point where we could begin an adult Bible Study. We believed that the Bible Study group, once established, would develop into the core group of the future church. We hoped that if things went really well we could begin adult Bible Study by 2005 or 2006, but the "experts" said that was very optimistic or maybe even "wishful thinking". Actually, many said it would never happen at all. We wondered if they might be right, but clung to Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus promises "I will build my church" and I Thessalonians 5:24 which says, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it."
You can imagine our surprise when, one week after our arrival, an Indian lady from the community approached us and asked, "When are you going to start church?" We had not even unpacked yet! We tried to explain that it would probably be a while before folks got to know us and were interested in coming. She said she thought we should start as soon as possible. We told her we'd think and pray about it. One week later she was back and asked again, "When are you going to start church?" We took another stab at explaining to her that it was too early and that no one would come. We found ourselves in the awkward position of trying to explain to her that, in essence, the "experts" had told us that no one on the reservation would care what “some random white guy and his family from Alabama had to say about the Bible”! The lady listened patiently then left. A week later (you guessed it) she came by again asking, “When are you going to start church?” Well, we figured we’d just have to start it to prove to her that it wouldn’t work, so a week later we had our first adult Bible study.
To our amazement, people came! Actually, over the course of that first year 100 adults came! The second year, 100 more came! Now, they didn’t all “stay” but out of those folks a core group has developed. Since then, we have all been growing in our love for the Lord and our faith in him.
Reliable transportation is not easy to come by on the reservation, so the ability to provide folks with a ride to church is very important. Through the generosity of our supporters we have been able to buy (and maintain, insure, and operate) two 15 passenger vans and a 20 passenger shuttle bus. We are able to transport an average of 45 people to Hope Fellowship every week.
Come and Eat!
In Native America there is a wonderful tradition of feeding the soul and the body at any service or ceremony. At Hope Fellowship, we also have a meal on Tuesday nights, before Bible Study. What a wonderful way to look forward to the ultimate banqueting table in Heaven with our Father!
We serve the meal family style and the children and youth serve and clean up with us. It is a wonderful time of fellowship and training in good habits for some of the little ones. We prepare enough food for at least 100 people for our Tuesday meals now. If we have a smaller crowd, that is okay, the folks that come take all leftovers home with them anyway!
After dinner, we move into the ceremonial room in the Longhouse and sing praise songs, traditional hymns and hymn rewrites with the whole group. Currently, Heather German and Pastor Chris Granberry lead the singing with the help of some of the youth who come regularly. It is a joy to hear the folks from White Swan worship the Lord “in Spirit and Truth”. We also have a time of silent confession and prayer as well as prayers for the children in the church, nearby Reservations, supporting curches and our community. Chris Granberry finishes the time of prayer with the Lord's prayer before delivering his sermon.
After we pray for the children, the children then break off into the children’s time, we focus on the story of the Bible through singing, flannel board lesson, worksheets, and crafts. We emphasize who God is, who Jesus is, and what God has done. The children absolutely love Tuesdays, because they have fun, get loved, and learn. We love seeing the kids have fun and helping them think about God and who He is. One of the best parts about Tuesdays is when kids internalize the stories and understanding that the truths are true for them too.
In addition to our Tuesday night youth group meetings. The youth play important roles in the Sunday night worship service by helping set up, serve meals, clean up and help lead prayers and worship. They are given worksheets that correspond with Pastor Granberry's sermon as he begins.
"I've seen growth in inches (at Hope Fellowship), I can't wait to see growth in miles." -Grace Settler