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[PCUSANEWS] The way the wind blows

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Date Mon, 11 Sep 2006 12:58:21 -0400

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06461 September 11, 2006

The way the wind blows

Storm-damaged Native American church in Montana is restored

by Jerry Van Marter

LOUISVILLE * When the windstorm blew across the northern plains in July 2005, it never made the national news. No casualties. No large-scale damage. No headlines.

But for the 50 members of the Makiacu Presbyterian Church on the Ft. Peck Reservation in Montana, the storm was devastating. "It lifted the roof clear off the building and then slammed it back down," says the Rev. Jerry Swanson, the church's pastor.

The storm also wiped out the six unique pentoid-shaped windows of the church, which was built in 1902 and is part of Dakota Presbytery.

It's not the first time the Makiacu church has been storm-tossed. The missionaries who built the church did it 'the white man's way' * facing north. In the early 1930s, a tornado picked up the entire building, carried it 45 feet and rotated it 90 degrees. It now faces east, which is Native American building tradition. The roof and windows survived that storm.

Restoration of the historic but isolated church, which sits on the Lewis and Clark Trail about 100 yards from the Missouri River, was taken on as a mission project by First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn, IL.

"The Makiacu church seems to be the one bright spot in a sea of despair," says Elder Joe Riley of the Glen Ellyn Church, noting that the Ft. Peck Reservation has one of the highest unemployment and per capita murder rates in the country.

"We believe that Christ-centered community action is the real answer to the plight of Native Americans. Jobs and money won't supplant the 'what's in it for me' attitude," Riley continues. "When people gather in Christ's name, it becomes 'what can we do together."

Together, Riley and Swanson, made the appeals that funded the repairs. In addition to the Glen Ellyn and Makiacu churches, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance kicked in $10,000. Two presbyteries * Yellowstone ($3,000) and Northern Plains ($1,000) * also contributed to the restoration effort. Volunteer work crews did much of the hard labor and Marvin Door and Window Company provided new double-insulated pentoid windows at a reduced price.

The Sunday after the window installation was completed, Makiacu Elder Leonard Crow Belt told the congregation that because of the new heavy-duty windows, they will now be able to hold services in the building year-round.

"Now we're going for a manse," Swanson says. "We've got a house and a contractor who says he'll move it and put it on a new foundation for only $7,000!"

For more information, contact the Rev. Jerry Swanson at 406-653-2272.


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