Hi’hani waste! That’s good morning in Dakota. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Chrystie Adams and I have been at Brown for 47 years as a member of our Brown Memorial Choir. Originally, I was going to give a Minute for Mission about the Baltimore Dakota Learning Camps (BDLC) and the Pejuhutazizi Family Learning Camp, but it seemed appropriate to share my faith journey with all of you as the Baltimore Dakota Learning Camps and Pejuhutazizi Family Learning Camp have been a big part of my life and faith journey for the past 21 years.
Let me give you a little background about my faith journey:
I grew up in a small Midwestern, very Republican and conservative town of St. Charles, Illinois, about 40 miles west of Chicago. I was a “chosen baby”—adopted as an infant and always made to feel very special by my mom and dad. From the very beginning, my family, church and music—both in church and at school—were a very important part of my life.
The St. Charles Congregational United Church of Christ was the place where my faith journey started. Our church always felt like a place that honored the teachings of Jesus, despite the very narrow-minded views of life in the Midwest in the 50s and 60s. We had a female minister, a gay youth leader and a black seminary intern—all really outside the norm for conservative St. Charles where the superintendent of the St. Charles School for Boys was not allowed to purchase a house because he was black, and the mayor could not belong to the St. Charles Country Club because he was Jewish.
Here are a few of the memorable moments in my journey at the Congregational Church of St. Charles:
My teaching career started in Baltimore City in 1971 where I was hired to teach Music at the brand-new Lake Clifton High School. I immediately went in search of a church home and only knew of two places that I might consider – Memorial Episcopal where Edith Hoe was director (She had been a professor at Gettysburg), or Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian, where Mr. Belt was organist and choir director. When I went to see Mr. Belt he showed me the Pilgrim Hymnal that was used at Brown and I immediately recognized the hymnal I had grown up singing from in my hometown church. It seemed like a sign from God!
I could recount so many amazing memories from my many years in the music ministry at Brown, but let me jump ahead to 1997 and a conversation with my then fifth grade daughter, Rebecca. It went something like this:
Rebecca – “Mom, you need to come and chaperone the middle school youth group trip to Pine Ridge this summer.”
Me – “No, I teach middle school all year and I need a break!”
Rebecca – “Mr. Ed (that’s Ed Richardson who was the youth group leader for the Brown/Govans combined youth program) needs adults to go and Mr. Elden and Miss Bonnie are going and they need someone to play with!”
Me – “Oh all right, Rebecca. I’ll go, but just this once!”
Famous last words! That summer on Pine Ridge changed my life and Rebecca’s life and the next summer when Doug joined us, his life was changed. My journey with youth and adults from Brown and many other churches in our Presbytery started that summer and continues to this day.
Our family spent many summers on the Pine Ridge Reservation at the Makasan Presbyterian Church helping to staff summer learning camps and making lasting friendships with the Lakota children, youth and adults who we met over those many years. God’s love was so evident in the faces of the dear children we saw each summer.
Brown Memorial was a very strong support to Doug and me when we felt called by God to spend a year on Pine Ridge as the program directors for the Makasan Multi-Purpose Center. Doug left his job, I was retired, and we took the leap of faith and moved to South Dakota. That year was one filled with moments of joy and pain and all the while we felt a strong prayer presence from our Brown Memorial family.
Over the years, the Baltimore Dakota Learning Camps partnership has started summer camps in many parts of the Dakota Presbytery, from the Pine Ridge Reservation, to the Lake Traverse Reservation, to the Yankton Sioux Reservation. Seven years ago, one of our church families expressed a hope for their entire family to go on a mission trip together and the idea for a family learning camp was born. Brown Memorial was the founding church for the Pejuhutazizi Family Learning Camp and we will have our sixth camp season this summer. This is an amazing way for entire families to show and experience God’s love in the world.
Please come by and talk with me after church about the possibility of your family becoming a part of our Pejuhutazizi Family!