Lynn Long spent her early years on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin, where she was born. She knew little of her identity as part of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians when, at 6 years old, she and her nine siblings were placed in the foster care system.
Though she lived with a strong Christian family who encouraged and allowed her to visit her reservation while growing up, Lynn’s memories of the sexual, physical, psychological abuse she suffered from family members there caused her to avoid the area all together.
Due in part to her foster family, Lynn had become a Christian at age 8. But in 1981, Lynn began attending services at Willow, and God found her anew. He continued healing her heart, and with that, changed her posture toward her birthplace. Her understanding of her Native American identity also shifted,and for years, she began praying that a group from Willow would visit her reservation. But, she says, “it just seemed like it was not going to happen.”
And then, two years ago, the HighRoad Riders chose to learn more about nearby Native American reservations as a theme for their trips. Soon after, a friend from Lynn’s section at Willow called to encourage her to join the motorcycle ministry on a ride north to her home reservation.
“I just couldn't believe it,” she says. “It was just so exciting. I just remember hanging up and thanking God that He was finally going to answer my prayers.”
Lynn never imagined herself as a biker “because I was so afraid of bikes,” she says. ““The leather jackets were a little threatening to me; I'm all about lace and dresses.” Still, she figured she could follow the HighRoad Riders in her car.
“Looking back on that trip,” she says, “I know it would have been wonderful to have a lot of other ministries in this church come up. But I guess (for) our church's first introduction to a tribal community, I would not have wanted any group other than the HighRoad Riders to experience that, just because of the persona that they give, the tough exterior, the leather coats. But it was really their spirits that I believe won over our people that day.”
The HighRoad Riders won over Lynn, as well, and she joined them again this summer in Wisconsin, hauling supplies and food in her car. Except on this hot summer day, Lynn had packed too much ice cream. Fearing it would melt all over the car, Lynn began looking for a way to get rid of the dessert.
“I ran to the beach, and I noticed that there was a native family,” she says.“I offered them our ice cream, and one of the lady’s eyes started filling up with tears. ‘We're really hungry, because of COVID,’ she told me. ‘Our commodities (from the federal government) haven't come in yet, so we could really use that. We were just talking about getting some ice right now, so that would be great.’”
As Lynn handed over the ice cream, she explained she’s from a large church in Chicago and asked if she could pray for the woman.
“I just remember she looked at me, and said, ‘I'm a mess. You don't want to know about me. We really don't have much money. We don't have much food. We're here to fish to get food,’” Lynn says. “At that point I said, “‘Jesus can fix our messes. He's fixed mine, and he can fix yours. And I said, ‘Look at the team up there. He's helped so many of us, and there's nothing in our lives that He can't fix. Jesus himself was dark-skinned. He was poor. He can identify with us because he lived in a village. There's nothing He went through that we haven't gone through as native people, so I encourage you to just pray with me, and we can talk to Him, you and me, just like we're doing right now. And you can talk to Him anytime and tell Him your fears and anything you want. He's going to listen to you. He's right here.’ And I said, ‘I'd be glad to do that with you right now, right here on the beach. You don't have to wait.”
Together, with the woman following Lynn’s lead, they prayed. When they finished, the woman started crying. Right away, Lynn wrote her email address and Willow’s web address on a napkin. She told her about Teaching Pastors Albert Tate and Megan Marshman, as well as Senior Pastor Dave Dummitt, and suggested she watch a Willow service online.
“She emailed me that Sunday night after I got home and said that she had listened to Pastor Albert that day, and she was thrilled with him,” Lynn said. “She said, ‘He's just so funny, and he talks about prayer and faith. And I don't have a big faith right now, but it's going to get bigger.’”
Lynn looks back at the trip with enormous gratitude.
“Thank God that He uses His people to help my people,” she says. “To think that I was part of the HighRoad Riders, and my little biker people fulfilled that, that weekend. I just wonder what He's going to do next.