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updated: 8/22/2011 11:34 AM

Glen Ellyn church group treks to Montana

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First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn

For the 16th straight year, five adults and nine youths from First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn made the 1,140-mile trip this summer to the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana.

Joining up with local youth and adults from a church in Culbertson, Mont., we provided five days of vacation Bible school for approximately 40 at Fort Kipp and immediate area children.

We also had a get-together with area youth of the reservation at the Black Dog Recreation Hall in Fort Kipp. In addition, we performed maintenance work and a construction project at the Red Eagle and Makiacu churches.

By all accounts, this was a very successful year in not only the work performed, but more importantly, the validation of the established relationship between Glen Ellyn and the Fort Kipp/Brockton/Riverside people.

This relationship has deepened over the years and was very much in evidence by the hospitality shown us. The wonderful evening meals prepared for us and the opportunity to linger on through the evening to catch up with old friends provided a real sense of family -- truly we are considered family.

Youth, who participated in our past vacation Bible schools and are now adults with their own children in our VBS program, dropped by to say hello and chat with us. How joyous it was to see and hear about their successes and plans for the future.

Our annual trip west has migrated from one party providing service to the other to both parties being equally served by the other, just as is done with any family.

It was very gratifying to see the resurgence in the Red Eagle Church in Fort Kipp. A new and very energetic Session (governing board of lay people within the Presbyterian denomination) is looking for a new pastor. Worship attendance is increasing as former members are now returning. At one time, Red Eagle Church was the strongest and most active church among the 22 churches making up the Dakota Presbytery. Makiacu also continues to grow, aided by the new construction in tribal housing in the Riverside area.

However, our joy was tempered by the recent news of Amanda Bighorn's return to the Father. Amanda and her husband of almost 50 years, Leonard Crow Belt, have worked diligently over the years to foster and grow the Makiacu Church. Amanda loved the Lord, her husband, her children, her people and the Makiacu Church -- and she loved us. In fact, the obituary that she prepared before her death listed a member of our party as one of her children. The one listed we know was her way of naming all of the congregation First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn as her children.

Next year we will again make the trek west, during the last full week of July as always. Our plan is to begin construction on the third addition to the Makiacu Guild Hall -- the Amanda Bighorn Memorial Hall, if you will. Construction will be phased over two or more years, depending on the funding available.

More space is needed for the growing youth Sunday school program and other community activities.

Volunteers are needed to join the work and to provide financial support. For more information, contact Joe Riley at (630) 890-2678 or