Wow. Word's can't even begin to describe the things that we have seen and heard over our two days serving on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Poverty is an understatement. Hopelessness, pain, drunkenness, abuse, tears, and hatred are all words that can only begin to scratch the surface of what people have expressed. Wednesday night one of the missionaries that we served with (Curtis Hoyt) gave a presentation and shared with us about the stats and what life is like on Pine Ridge. One of our students broke down in tears. It was beautiful to see that through the stories of life on the Rez, God was working in her life and challenging her to pray for these people. Other students shared with me the feeling of brokenness and hurt for the Native Americans later as we sat around the campfire for fellowship and worship.
The next morning was equally impacting as a few of us leaders and students sat with Floyd, an older gentlemen who runs the soup kitchen at 555 White Clay share about his life and experience with these people. Floyd expressed that he was in a tough place, wondering if serving in White Clay was where God still wanted him. Day after day after day he deals with intoxicated Natives who live from one can of beer to the next. They rely on alcohol to dull the pain, shame, and hopelessness that they feel. Seeing this depressed state regularly has a way of getting to you, and as Floyd shared and became more emotional, it was apparent that the ministry was taking a toll on him. He opened up more and shared that he wasn't even able to take care of his own home and clean as was needed, because there are many days he comes home and doesn't want to eat or clean because he is discouraged as well. Funny how God changes our plans in an instant. After hearing his story, Sarah, Bill, and I decided that if Floyd would permit us, we wanted to spend as much time on Thursday as was possible to help clean up his home! The students jumped right in and the team working together made a world of difference. It was extra special as Floyd shared that his wife he had been separated from for the past 15 years was coming to visit and spend time with him in July! We are praying for restoration there as well, as God has been drawing them back together in the past few months. Hopefully our service will encourage both Floyd and his wife- and that God would restore their marriage!
Our service work in Pine Ridge on Wednesday consisted of cleaning up two parks (The same two we cleaned up and repaired last year), clearing brush and a chopped up tree, and log splitting for winter firewood. On Thursday, after serving Floyd, we took a drive through the Pine Ridge community and headed to Wounded Knee. Wounded Knee is often taught to our students as a battle that took place between the Natives and American's. Rather than call it a battle (which it wasn't) the reality is that it was a Massacre resulting in hundreds of innocent Native Americans being mowed down by American Gatling guns. Women and children were among those slain- and they were laid to rest in a mass grave upon the hill where the American opened fire. Understanding this gives us a little perspective into the generational pain that these Natives hold onto.
Today, our last full day in Rapid City is a more relaxed fun day for the students to enjoy- that being said, please pray that the things that our students have seen and heard will have a profound effect on how they will live, and allow God to mold them going forward. We have already heard conversation about how some are really thinking about how to carry what they have learned to "Make a Difference" when they come home. A few of us spent time in prayer this morning for all of us, that as we go home, wherever that may be, we would all seek to serve others in order that God would add daily to those being saved! (Acts 2:47)