Last year, The Pioneer did a story about horseman and youth minister Chris Buller, who was riding his horse to work at the United Methodist Church, and hoped to get a riding program going for kids on the Warm Springs Reservation. The following is an update from Buller on the program and its successful first year.
By Chris Buller
UMC Youth Pastor
The Methodist Church, on a conference and local level, has been incredibly supportive. The conference has supported me financially and has lent me logistical and networking expertise. Locally, I have been able to preach about once a month, and the work that I have been able to do with local youth has taught me volumes.
I have been taught the unique cycles of activity that exist in Madras by the youth as I try to work within their busy schedules to strengthen their foundation in faith.
I have been able to get to know an incredible group of adults, who may be the warmest group of people I have ever known. Madras United Methodist Church has a rare sense of strength that comes from people who are working at living their faith and loving their neighbor, that is born out in so much of what they do.
The weave of people and skills has made my job as youth pastor and my work on the reservation possible. I am surrounded by statements such as: "All children are loved here," "We feed people's stomachs and souls," "When you really need something let us know," and "We are working on being intentional in sharing the love of our faith."
A home church like this and a conference that has embraced what I am doing makes my job and call possible.
When I came to this community (from Montana), I didn't even realize that there was a reservation near town. But after substitute teaching, I felt a call to use my horses to reach youth on the reservation. I wanted to build a group of kids who were connected by their passion for horses.
I hoped to be able to build a consistent place in young peoples' lives where an adult could share and experience joy in life and faith. I wanted to foster a place where youth could feel safe to dream and reach for goals that taught them about who they were and how they fit into creation. I hoped to be an example in Christ.
I wanted to build the trust and relationship that allowed youth to ask me some of the hard questions in their lives, and with God's help, be able to give them answers or at least growing questions to ask themselves.
Horses have given me a place where I can build trust and credibility with a group of people who have been given many reasons to not trust and to question credibility.
One caution that I heard early-on was that the white community in Madras wouldn't support what I was doing. I have found the opposite to be true. People from the Methodist Church and from the community as a whole have asked how they can help.
I have had horses, safe saddles, tack of all kinds, hay, experience and money all donated in the last year by this community. And Methodists from all over the country have donated to the program.
Youth in the riding program include: Maranda, Kelly and Anthony Blueback, Jillisa, Trevor and Dustin Suppah, Harrison Buller, Johnny, Leander, Jasper, Austin Jr., and Joella Smith, Daniel Gilbert, Jordan Holiday, Julia Yahtin, Sallie Polk-Adams, Ozzie and Angela Polk, Teryl Florendo, Krystin Allan Alford, Traci Colwash, Stephan Sutterly, Abigail Beamer, Kayla Vincent and Kristy Olney.
I am now in a place where I am ready to build something more concrete. I am going to start a parenting and family group around real life on the reservation. I want to facilitate a program that is structured and has goals that could survive without me and continue to share the love of my faith for generations.
I wanted to write this to update my community as to where I am in my call, and I wanted to thank all who have helped in an incredible year. I hope that the communities on both sides of the river will continue to help and guide me in what I am doing.
If you have any advice or aid you wish to offer, or if you want to know more details about what is going on, please contact me at the Madras United Methodist Church, 475-2150.