2016 CBC In Montana

2016 CBC In Montana

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 A Final Post

So as I write this final post of the 2017 Montana Trip a lot has happened since I had a chance to last write.

Friday was a whirlwind of goodbyes in the school. Our boys touched the hearts of the students as was evident by the sad faces on the DLSBS students and the comments I received from both the kids and teachers alike. One young lady stopped by to tell me she loved our boys and was really sad to see them go. The teachers likewise were sorry to see their classroom help move on. It will be short lived though, as LaSalle University was arriving on our heels and will be in the building Monday morning.

In the afternoon we were able to visit Glacier one last time going on a guided hike by the National Park Service. We took the Red Eagle Lake trail that loops by the Beaver Dam at the St. Mary's entrance to the Park. The Beaver Dam is huge and the lodge is pretty impressive. The nice thing about this hike is that our guides, Matt and Becky were able to give us a Forestry lesson to go along with the scenery. They were great and the boys had an outstanding time. We managed to dodge most of the rain and got out of the elements just in time.

We followed up our hike with a quick drive up into St. Mary's to see some Elk, which wrapped up the most impressive wildlife viewing any CBC group I have taken has gotten to see (Elk, Bear, Deer, Owls, Osprey, Moose, Wolves, and Buffalo). We checked that off the bucket list and headed to East Glacier for dinner at the Two Medicine grill. The boys feasted on Bison and regular burgers while getting some last minute souvenir shopping done.

We returned to the bunkhouse in time to do some packing and cleaning before Mr. Gerdes and I put our undefeated Spades record on the line one more time. If you were or are a Spade player then you will understand that if the boys were more patient and didn't go Nil at terrible times then they might actually beat us.

As everyone bunked down for the night there were stories told and laughs shared as they slowly drifted off to sleep one more time in Montana.

Our travel day on Saturday was pretty much clock work. Eat, Shower, Pack, Clean all done by 9:00 am. We departed at 10:00 am, had time for a light lunch in Great Falls and were all checked into through TSA by 1:00 pm. Our flights boarded early, left early and arrived early at all locations. We managed to be out of Lambert by 9:00 pm when our flight was supposed to land at 8:50 pm.

All in all another great trip for the CBC boys. I am left in awe of the gifts our boys bring and receive on this trip. I am also left a bit sad as most of them likely won't visit Montana again. I hope that I am wrong. Hopefully the old groups and parents will read this. I am hoping to plan a reunion trip for next summer to do some work and share old stories. If you are interested contact me.

So now on a Sunday night before I leave for the Graduation Lock In, I am left with all kinds of thoughts and emotions. The one thing I know is that.

Jesus Lives in Our Hearts....Forever!

See you in 2018.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wow Time Flies

As I write this post it is mid day on Friday and this time tomorrow we will be well on our way to Great Falls to head home. Apologies for missing an entry yesterday, things were busy and it got away from me.

That said there were not major happenings in the school other than the boys are getting a taste of what teachers go through during the school year. I also think on some level they have a great appreciation for their teachers at CBC. Since the last post we had two guest speakers, Mrs. Olivia Davis and Mr. Robert Hall.

Mrs. Davis spoke to us about the plight of the reservation, how her faith and the Christian faith plays a roll in the lives of the people living on the reservation. The passion she has for her community was very evident and she shared some details of the problems individuals face. Her discussion of blood quota, racism in Montana and her personal experiences were very moving. I think it is hard for the boys to really wrap their brain around the idea of that the percentage of Blackfeet a person is has a bearing on whether they receive benefits or not. The idea of a Pedigree similar to animals was very eye opening.

The damaging roll that drug abuse has on the reservation is very troubling. In 2014 40% of children born on the reservation were born drug addicted and now in 2017 that number has risen to 60%. The idea that this is getting worse in the community weighs heavy on my heart. West Coast gangs from California are using the rural aspects of the community to produce Meth and distribute it. When we first came to Browning in 2012 we heard mostly about Alcohol abuse and Marijuana use, but Meth was not mentioned prominently.

Mr. Hall is a teacher of language at the local community college. He talked about the Blackfeet language and how it was almost lost. As a young man in the community he is one of the youngest speakers of the language. In his discussion it was amazing how the structure of the language was very verb/adjective driven. The name of an object is described as a way of naming it. He also discussed that gender and pronoun use is not prevalent in the language and that masculine and feminine is described other ways. I found much of this very interesting, but I am not sure how the boys felt.

We ended our day with 4 mile hike at Two Medicine at Glacier. We went up the trail to Aster Falls and toward Aster Point, but the snow made it a little dicey and there was a slight concern about whether we were on the correct trail. We decided to turn back. It was a pretty taxing hike considering the differing experience levels of the boys.

Today we are wrapping up our time in the school and as I finish writing this the boys are getting ready for lunch and getting a opportunity to pop into the two stores that typically have decent souvenirs.

Time will likely prevent me from writing another post before we depart but I will wrap up the trip in a later post. The reality that another trip is coming to end is sad, but we will all be happy to see our families tomorrow night.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts.... Forever!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Dog Days of an Immersion Group

Leading a group of High School students into an immersion experience is one of the most rewarding experiences I have each year. This being the 7th group I have been apart of (6 groups to Montana and 1 group to New York) it is interesting to see how each group handles the experience. There is one common factor and that is by the time Wednesday morning rolls around the newness of the environment is starting to wear off and the kids start to drag a bit. This particular group is no exception. They are all very excited but also exhausted, both mentally and physically.

On Tuesday we had a variety of experiences, most of the boys continued the work in the classroom. They have been working on reading, math and writing exercises in most grade levels. Several students aided in helping kids rehearse for the school talent show next week and we had 2 students who went o a field trip with the 5th grade to the Boone and Crockett club about an hour south of Browning. The best part of this is that the DLSBS students are moving beyond the newness of our boys as well and they are starting to get to know them and are sharing more information and both sides are asking more questions and getting more answers.

The afternoon concluded with our first guest speaker, Martha is a graduate of DLSBS and a junior at Browning High School. She held an open forum with the CBC boys to discuss life on the reservation as a high school teen. Martha recounted some of the experiences she and hear family have had in Montana. This included time on and off the reservation.

We concluded our evening with a Taco Tuesday dinner and some walks about the Mission (1 group went to the Buffalo Jumps and another to the Mission Cemetery). Card playing after dark is starting to take hold as a leisure activity. Wednesday and Thursday looks to be the two choice days weather wise so we will likely look to head to the Park one afternoon and get a real hike in.

Until Next time...

Live Jesus in our Hearts.....Forever!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Good Day of Work and a Wildlife Potpourri

The first day of work in the school was outstanding. Our boys worked hard and started the process of forging relationships with the students they are working with. We have 9 students here from CBC and they are spread out among 4 of the 5 grade levels.

In the 4th grade our boys were going through reading assignments and helping the students understood what they read and how to decode works from a text. The 5th graders did class prep for their field trip to the Boone and Crockett Club which is Tuesday. The 6th grade boys worked on art and props for in class skits and activities. The 7th grade boys did individual tutoring with several students who needed some extra support.

While wandering the school (which takes all of 2 minutes) it was fun to see the kids playing baseball in the gym with the 4th graders, eating lunch and talking with the students and playing basketball at recess or before school. There is lots of basketball being played. When we discussed the work at the end of the day and we asked how it went, they all were unanimous that things went great and they were having fun.

We ended our day with a long drive to the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. It is generally recognized as one of the best places on the east side of the park to view wildlife and it very picturesque. On the way in we saw several big horned sheep (traditional rams) and also so mountain goats up on a hill. We spent some time looking at the lake, river and took a short walk to see a waterfall before heading back to the van. This trip was as much reconnaissance as it was leisure, we wanted to know with the snow melt, construction and flooding how far into Many Glacier we could get.

On our way out of the Park we managed to see a young Grizzly Bear. This is one of the best viewings of a bear I have seen in my 7 trips to Glacier and it was treat to see this young one digging for a snack and reacting to the cars going by. No worries though we were safely in the van and a good distance from our snacking friend. The fun ended when the ranger came along and made everyone move off the road and ultimately scared the bear into the wood line. We then happened upon a Moose on our way out of the park, it was eating a snack right off the road into the trees. I imagine some of the pictures will be hard to spot it. So we had a great afternoon of wild life sightings.

Upon return to the Mission we had dinner, cleaned up and discussed the day a bit more. We took a short walk down the river near the bunkhouse to skip rocks and hang out. The evening wound down with some light reflection and a lesson in how to play the card game Spades.

Typically I would leave the post there but on our ride into school Tuesday morning we saw two wolves hanging out on the hill side. A pretty great start to the trip. I have updated most of the pictures and will keep adding over the course of the week.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts....Forever!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Great Travels, Dogs and Getting to Work

Good Morning,

First and foremost please excuse my grammar, ramblings and poor writing style.

Ideally I would make a blog post more often, but since we are in a pretty remote area it is not always possible update the Blog.

So in 6 years of doing this trip we have never had a travel day go quite so well. Both flights were pretty smooth and on time. No one lost any luggage or had any issues with getting through their TSA screening. We made really good time getting up to Browning from Great Falls.

Once we were at the Holy Family Mission (this is where we stay about 15 minutes outside of Browning) we had a nice meal, chatted with DLSBS President Brother Dale and the Principal Mike O'Brien and then took a journey to the top of the Buffalo Jumps (That is where all scenic sunset pictures are take from). We managed to collect a pack of friendly dogs on the way. The Blackfeet revere dogs on a level and do not believe in restraining their ability to wander. At the Mission there are two dogs that are owned/taken care of by the residents, Jack and Jill. We also collected Lady, Coco and another 2 pups that I did not catch the name up. They were our guides to the top of the cliffs called the Buffalo Jumps.

On Sunday morning we managed to sleep in a little bit and then went into to town for Mass at Little Flower parish. Little Flower is adjacent to the school and the Pastor Fr. Ed was one of the catalyst's to bring DLSBS to Browning. Fr. Ed spent several years in Guatemala and saw the work the Christian Brothers did running schools there and knew he wanted the Brothers to run a school in Browning. He spent 9 years petitioning the Brothers for a school before it happened. This is year 16 for DLSBS, so you can imagine the passion Fr. Ed has for the school.

Sunday afternoon we had an orientation with Mr. Ficaro who coordinates the immersion program and several teachers. The boys got a better idea of what they were in for. I think in many cases Mr. Gerdes and I did a good job of preparing them but in this setting they got some historical background and specific information about the current students at DLSBS.

Finally, we got a late lunch and ventured up to the Two Medicine entrance to Glacier National Park. Unfortunately we were a little short on time and the weather was not ideal (rainy and windy). We still managed to take a short walk/hike to see Running Eagle Falls and then drove up to see Two Medicine Lake. The boys were not phased by the weather at all and wanted to do more but we had a dinner date back at the Mission with the community.

Our evening wound down with a Pasta dinner with Brother Dale and the community at the Mission and then while Mr. Gerdes and I caught up with Brother and CBC Graduate Michael Hairsine '07 the boys took another journey up the Buffalo Jumps. Upon their return we gave out classroom assignments and enjoyed some conversation before bed.

As I write this the boys are finishing up their 2nd hour of work in the school. The weather for the week looks nice and I will be posting my photos as we go along.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts...Forever!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Less than 24 Hours

Today is a big day for the Juniors going on this trip and all the Juniors at CBC.

This afternoon the Class of 2018 will be ushered in as the new leaders of the school, they will have their Junior Leadership Ceremony, receive their class rings and have their Junior Ring dance tonight. For the 9 boys going on this trip some of that celebration will be short lived with an early wake up call to be at the airport by 6:00 am.

For the last 5 years (this will be year 6) Mr. Gerdes and I have led a group to Montana to serve the people of Browning on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. As much as we help I think our boys get more than we give. Every year each boy is transformed in some way, shape or form. No matter how much they have seen in their lives this tends to be different.

Why is it different? Well with a couple of exceptions these boys have never lived in community with each other, immersed themselves into a community they are helping or pushed themselves outside their comfort zone so far. In my own experiences each trip has brought new challenges, lessons and excitement. It is never the same and each group is amazing in their own way.

I am often asked who is/was the best group. That is like a parent picking their favorite child, each group has its challenges, joys and experiences that make it unique and specil. What I can say is that each group is great and every year I am awed by the gifts they bring to this community. Each boy will take another step toward adulthood on this trip. They will be forever changed (for the better). Just like every trip I take, I am forever changed. I am so grateful to CBC and De La Salle Blackfeet for these experiences.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts....

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Montana Trip is Coming and I Can't Wait!!!

So this will be my 6th trip on the CBC Montana Mission Trip and annually it is one of the highlights for my year. This year we are taking 9 young men from CBC and by all accounts they are great young men. Even though it is the end of their Junior year I get to know these boys so well and have made some lasting relationships as a part of the experience.

As I write this I am taking a peek at the pictures of previous groups on the wall. It brings back memories from playing Spades at the bunkhouse, to Great Guacamole, Bison Burgers at Two Medicine Grill, but most importantly all the young students at DLSBS that we have helped over the last 5 years.

You can use this blog as a way to follow the newest group of guys as they embark on a great personal journey. In many cases they will not understand the impact they are making or not for a number of years.

Pray for them
Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever