Kim and Paulette Paulson have been named the new co-directors at Spirit Lake Ministry Center. Mike and Libby Flowers, previous directors, retired last summer. The Paulsons have a deep connection to the people of Spirit Lake Nation.
Kim Paulson grew up in Maddock, North Dakota, about 25 miles west of Spirit Lake Nation.
"I have known a lot of the elders my whole life. I went to school with them in Maddock. A bus would bring kids from Fort Totten to the high school in Maddock," said Kim Paulson, who will serve as co-director at Spirit Lake Ministry Center with his wife, Paulette.
Meet the Paulsons
Kim was a general contractor for 25 years. "I was working on a project at Four Winds High School when Mike and Libby Flowers came to Spirit Lake. We met them at the beginning of their ministry and grew along with them for 16 years," said Kim. "I worked on many projects at Spirit Lake Ministry Center, like Arthur Hall."
He thought that he might retire and build cabinets in his shop. Then, the person teaching carpentry at Cankdeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten had a heart attack over Christmas and passed away. Kim interviewed for the position and started teaching carpentry in January.
"I've been teaching for seven years at the Tribal college," he said. "I have always been involved with the [Spirit Lake] ministry center. In the summertime, I work with the construction ministry. I always appreciated that Mike and Libby's ministry represented Jesus with skin and bones rather than just glad tidings and good wishes. People are coming and interacting, growing in relationships because the people on Spirit Lake have a lot to give. It felt like the people that came went home with as much as they left."
Kim and Paulette have five children, Ellie and Eliza, 18-year-old twin girls they adopted that are now in their first year of college—a son, Alex, 27, with Down Syndrome. Andy, 35, is married to Quinn and lives in Edina, Minnesota with their little boy named Henry. Nicholas is 33 and back at college at the University of North Dakota. Nicolas recently married at Spirit Lake Ministry Center, with Pastor Mike Flowers officiating.
"We started being foster parents for two beautiful little twin girls that were Native American, and their mom was from Spirit Lake. They are now our daughters. Their mom and dad passed," said Paulette. "Being involved in the ministry was good. The girls met their families and made connections in a safe environment. Mike and Libby blessed us by letting us do music. Kim started driving the bus. We would help Mike and Libby wherever there was need."
Alex is a great drummer, so he also got involved when Kim started leading music at Spirit Lake on Sunday nights. "It just moved along without us knowing how it developed. But we look back now and know it was God's plan," said Paulette.
Paulette has worked in affordable housing with government and non-profit agencies. "I've always been a director of property management and working with agencies to assure that people can stay in their homes because we believe that you need a safe and affordable home to be able to work on all the other issues of life," Paulette said.
Their first responsibility was coordinating Shoebox Christmas. In this first year, they distributed 5,000 gifts to Native American children across seven reservations.
"Thank you to all the churches that made Shoebox Christmas possible this year," said Kim.
Living between their home near Devils Lake and the Spirit Lake Ministry Center, the Paulsons know they will need to delegate. Paulette and Kim asked groups to help sort and deliver the Shoebox Christmas gifts.
"We are amazed by Mike and Libby. We always tell each other we are not Mike and Libby," said Paulette. "We had some wonderful groups come out and help us sort the gifts. We had some young girls from the Journey congregation at Spirit Lake who are in college help with our daughters. We ask for help, and people step up. We know people were worried that the program might not continue. When they heard it was, we began receiving gifts and heard the appreciation in their voices."
Shoebox Christmas gifts were delivered to the kindergarten students at Devils Lake, N.D. "Devils Lake serves a lot of Native American children. We had some extra boxes for children in that age group. We contacted the school and told the teacher we would love to share them with the class. She asked, " Could we get five to ten?" I said you can get more than that. We gave them 100 boxes. The teacher was so excited she could hardly wait to tell the principal the good news," shared Paulette.
"Mike and Libby and the United Methodist churches gave Shoebox Christmas a great foundation. The smiles and words of appreciation blessed us," said Kim.
Paulson's are gearing up for the summer construction ministry with VIM teams coming from across the nation, a ministry that was put on hold last summer as Mike and Libby Flowers retired.
"After COVID, the summertime ministry did not pick back up full steam," said Kim. "We are probably considering bringing in 50% of the teams we had before the pandemic. We would rather do a good job with 50% than poorly with 100%. We are beginning to get calls from groups that want to come. We will begin lining up the work for the groups and the education and interaction for the groups. We believe strongly in the mantra that Mike and Libby left—you love God, love neighbors, and build relationships. The relationships the groups build with the people of Spirit Lake are fulfilling for everyone. It is worth more than any construction project."
Kim grew up Lutheran, and Paulette grew up Catholic. They searched for a church home together. They tried a Pentecostal church and found that they still were searching. They attended the United Methodist Church in Devils Lake because they knew Pastor Mike Flowers.
"Mike told us that he had been asked to start preaching at the United Methodist Church in Devils Lake. Kim and I looked at each other, and we knew that the kids loved Mike. We knew everybody in that church, and they just welcomed us without questions.," said Paulette.
Today, Kim and Paulette lead worship each Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Journey at Spirit Lake Ministry Center. Once a month, there is communion with Rev. Dayne Zachrison, Devils Lake UMC, leading the liturgy or blessing the elements. Once a month, a meal is served for the congregation to enjoy. There are monthly gatherings for the women and the men.
"We had a baptism one Sunday, when Pastor Dayne was here," said Paulette. "Some of the younger men and ladies are taking ownership in their church and leading some of the gatherings."
The Paulsons are taking one step at a time as they move forward with the ministry at Spirit Lake. They bathe their work in prayer.
"We bathed our decision to apply in prayer. We knew that Mike and Libby had plans to retire. We prayed for God to touch somebody's heart to continue the ministry. We would have certainly been happy to just come alongside whoever God chose to come. That was the trigger point in our prayers when no one stepped forward. We knew things like Shoebox Christmas and the summer ministry had to start taking place now. We always had in the back of our minds that it might be us," said Kim. "God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called. We are counting on that."