Port Angeles: Saddle-making helps bring people together

PORT ANGELES — Dennis Bender, an Evangelical missionary, was looking for a way to build relationships with the Guarijio people of northern Mexico.

He read books about saddle making, watched two videos about it and thought crafting saddles would be an ideal trade to share.

Enter Russell Johnson, a 70-year-old Port Angeles man who repaired his first saddle when he was 7 years old and has built hundreds of saddles since.

For the last three weeks, Johnson has been teaching Bender the trade inside his shop in the Olympic foothills so when Bender returns to Mexico, he can pass the skill on to others.

“We just try to hang out with the people as much as we can,” Bender, 32, said last week. “That’s where the saddle making will be a big thing.”

Bender and his wife, Machelle, 30, also a missionary, have been living in a small town in the mountains of Chihuahua state among the Guarijio Indians, with their two daughters, 4-year-old Lydia and 2-year-old Brooke, and two other American missionary couples with the New Tribes Mission.

Machelle Bender is a Port Angeles native, and the couple’s missionary work is affiliated with Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles.

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The rest of the story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News.

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