We had an amazing and blessed trip to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Your prayers and gifts help us learn, serve, play, and grow in our faith.
We took three adults and ten teens, from grades 7-12 on this week of service and left at 5 a.m. on Sunday, June 23. On our way to our housing site in Whiteclay, NE, (just two miles from the reservation border,) we stopped for breakfast at Perkins and even did an unplanned stop at the Corn Palace. (As predicted, the kids weren’t all that impressed with it, but we had enough time to go and say we did it!)
We arrived at our housing site, Lakota Hope, around 5 p.m., gaining one hour going into Mountain Time. There, we unloaded our vans and picked our bunks in what could only be called an “apocalyptic bunker” where the guy’s side was triple stacked with bunk beds in three rows, and the girls had three rows of double bunks. We were crammed in there, but at least there was somewhat predictable air conditioning to help with the poorly insulated leaky metal roof. We wouldn’t learn until Monday, when we had our first showers, that there was no hot water! Ouch!
Monday through Thursday, our team of 13 was divided among twelve total work crews—we actually broke into three different crews (each with one adult from GDLC) to join others from five churches across America (two Lutheran churches, an Ev. Free church, and a Vineyard Church.) Another unique part of our week was that the church from Ohio brought a whole team of 20+ adults and no teens—so that made our week a little different, in that of about 100 “campers,” many were over age 18. We had a lot of new friends to make!
After a simple breakfast, we packed our lunches and had a half hour for crew devotions where we read Scripture and reflected together and in our journals. We also loaded our tools up for our work sites and did a group stretch together. From GDLC, two of our crews were on roofing projects, and the other was working on an outdoor shed double-door and insulating the inside of a house for a Lakota elder. The weather every day was over 90 degrees with full sun, and our work sites didn’t have a lot of shade, but the first three nights we had such bad storms that we had to re-locate our camp after dinner to an indoor structure down the road, as our housing site only had outdoor meeting spaces. Seeing those storms roll in was quite a sight! We made the most of it by taking shelter in our vans and playing music and singing at full volume. This was another time when friendships across grades 7-12 really happened. Really fun for me as a youth director, to see! Each night before bed, we had time to sing and hear a speaker and video that went along with of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” a deep theme that bridged the light of Christ with what is true in our lives.
We learned about Lakota culture and how a young man named Abram Neumann from the Twin Cities moved to Whiteclay, NE to help shut the liquor stores down—an effort that took a few years. He was an amazing man of faith that many of us decided must be Jesus!
In the afternoons, after wrapping up at our work sites, we would come back to the housing site for (ice cold!) showers and some free time. Leaders could catch up on emails and go to leader meetings to meet with the construction managers from Next Step while teens played card games or volley ball or took a nap. Each afternoon there were also community involvement activities such as going to see the Wounded Knee Massacre site (just a few miles from our housing site), hearing community members speak about life “on the Rez,” meeting local artisans and purchasing their art, visiting Red Cloud Indian School and museum, and having a community cook out with Indian Tacos & Fry Bread on Friday.
On Friday, we had a full day to plan on our own, so we rented a two-hour ATV tour at Edelweiss Mountain Lodging in the badlands, just about 30 min west of Rapid City. We were split between 4 six-passenger ATVs and got to ride (safely!) on groomed and ungroomed trails, following the tour guide, before having to head back. We left at 7 a.m. for home on Saturday morning, June 29 and arrived back home around 7 p.m.
You can view hundreds of our trip pictures and videos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmEtBhM7
Please be very proud of our whole team. The teens endured a lot of unpredictability and challenges with incredible servant-leader attitudes. Our adult guides, Marshall Saunders and Ben Bowman were everything I as a youth director could have asked for in relational ministry. We hope you will stay tuned for the next opportunity to give again for the trips in 2020; one trip to New York City is already planned for those completing 10th grade through adult. Each of us were changed in unique ways. Thank you, again, for your generous gift.
Yours in Jesus,
Katie LeClair, Director of Youth & Family Faith Formation