From Terry and Darlene Wildman AKA RainSong
We have been closely involved in the lives of many First Nations people since 1998. Rain Ministries is the Arizona non-profit organization we founded in 2002 while living on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona. RainSong First Nations Music and Storytelling is the main branch and often the public face of Rain Ministries. But we are much more than just a music duo and recording artists.
We have been dedicating our time, and the gifts Creator has given us, to serve the First Nations People of North America; working and praying to see dignity and harmony restored to individuals, families, clans, and tribal nations.
As we travel and meet new people they often ask us how we got started in all of this. It takes a while to share even the highlights of this long journey we have been on. So we thought it might be a good thing to put it writing for those who want to know.
In the Beginning
Our story begins back in 1997 in Mesa Arizona. One of the reasons we were living in Arizona was the strong call we were feeling to become involved in the lives of Native Americans. Terry was working as a security guard at a public school and Darlene worked for the construction department of the Mesa Public Schools District as the Office Manager.
Behind the Scenes
We had been actively forming friendships with local Navajos. Our home became a gathering place for fellowship and exploration of what it might look like to follow the Jesus Way within the Navajo and other Native cultures. These small gatherings and relationships eventually led to visiting the traditional homes of our new friends far to the north on the Navajo Reservation. Hearts and minds began to open to new possibilities and the relationships expanded.
It was during this season that Terry began to write songs that reflected his native heritage. Sacred Warrior was the first song that he wrote, surprisingly enough it is still many people’s favorite.
A Season of Seeking
Working full-time and continuing these relationships and visits to the reservation was becoming increasingly difficult to manage. So we began to pray and fast, seeking the Creator for direction. This was an intense season for us, we experienced many dreams and visions that began to make it clear we were to leave the security of our jobs and pursue this ministry full-time.
Ministry was not unfamiliar territory for us, Terry had over twelve years of experience as pastor and worship leader in several churches. Darlene had spent years involved in the Jesus Movement in California and had hosted and led home gatherings, and she had been actively involved with the Vineyard movement.
We both felt that this ministry needed to move beyond the traditional church structures we had grown up with. Launching Out Early in 1999 we were introduced to some Youth With A Mission leaders and found a path to become involved in that organization for a season.
So just before the new millennium started, we rented out our condo, put our belongings in storage, and on the eve of the “Y2K” panic on December 31st, 1999, left everything behind and drove to Tyler Texas. There we attended the YWAM Discipleship Training School that became our home for the next five months. The purpose of this school is to provide intense live-in training for those who feel called to non-traditional missions.
YWAM Training School
Life at YWAM proved to be a challenge, spiritually and relationally. We were thrust together with strangers into a single living environment. There were young and old among us, including leaders, many of who were much younger than us.
This was an opportunity to grow together as a married couple and to dig deeper into issues we hadn’t yet taken the time to address in our lives. Discipleship Training School is not for someone who thinks ministry will be easy, students are challenged to grow at every level. If you have issues they will come to the surface, but we had some good leaders and instructors to help us connect with God’s Spirit.
On top of all that, we had the added stress of learning how to trust in God for our provision. We not only needed to raise enough money to live on, but also to go on these outreaches. It was a difficult and humbling experience to learn how to ask others to support us. Amazingly, a few people did respond and enough money came in to cover our needs.
School ended for us with two outreaches, one to New Orleans and Baton Rouge Louisiana, another to Madagascar, the island off Africa.
Journey to the Hopi Indian Reservation
After finishing the YWAM DTS school at the end of May 2000 we planned to drive back to Arizona to apply to serve at the Youth With a Mission base on the Hopi Indian reservation.
But first, we drove to Michigan to attend a wedding, as one of our daughters was getting married. After the wedding, we visited for a few days and then began our journey to the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.
We decided to reconnect with a few friends in northern Michigan. Our friend Alan Leese had started a church there called Hidden Springs. We attended the Sunday morning service and shared a few songs with them. They gave us time to share our hearts and the vision that Creator was calling us to. We also connected with a couple of our YWAM classmates who lived in the Upper Peninsula.
As we took a Northern route through the upper peninsula of Michigan, it was like our eyes had been opened to a new world. Everywhere we traveled we noticed the Indian names used for cities, counties, road signs, lakes, and more. The “signs” were obvious to us now, but so unread in the past. We had a sense that we would be back in Michigan to connect with the tribes there in the future.
Our route to Arizona took us through Wisconsin. We decided to stop and visit one of the YWAM locations on the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian reservation in Wisconsin. While we were there we met a young Ojibwe woman who was so excited. She had just purchased a CD from David Ruis that had a song that used a few words from her Native language. She kept playing it over and over again. A few years later we were honored to sing that song during a meeting where she wore her Native regalia and danced to honor her faith in Jesus along with her Native culture!
YWAM Tribal Winds and Hopiland
We arrived a few days later in at Kykotsmovi AZ on the Hopi Rez. We interviewed with the YWAM staff there and were welcomed to a two-year commitment to serve as staff. Our service included being the ‘song leaders’ and financial bookkeepers for the organization. Terry filed the paperwork to make YWAM Tribal Winds a 501c3 non-profit. We lived in rented staff housing and helped with further remodeling.
During our time there we learned so much about the Hopi people and Native people in general. Our learning curve was eye-opening as we discovered the tragic history experienced by the Hopi and the Navajo people of the area. The greatest being the colonization policies of the United States that they were subjected to. There is no space here to share what we learned. I have always said that I believe the Hopi taught me more about what it means to follow Jesus than I learned in church.
Sunlight Mission on Second Mesa
After 2 years at YWAM Tribal Winds, we felt our time with them was finished and Creator had something different for us. A door opened at the Sunlight Mission at Second Mesa on the Hopi Rez. Terry was asked by the American Baptists to consider pastoring the church. After prayer, we felt we should meet with the church members and talk with them about what they thought. We outlined the kinds of changes we would bring, thinking they would never want those changes. But they voted unanimously to offer us the pastorate. We accepted and moved to the Sunlight Mission parsonage with excitement and hope for the future.
More to come…