Saturday, July 19, 2014

Travel Day...great conversation, badlands, Buffalo National Grassland, Rapid City

     We started the day by finishing the cemetery mowing job and cleaning up our belongings inside the fellowship hall at the church. The team enjoyed breakfast together and as we were finishing Byron and Toni showed up to see us off.  We had a GREAT conversation with them about their vision for Bridger, the progress they have seen, the next steps they would like to see made in the community. I was thinking as we were getting our stuff packed up that I had not had the opportunity to talk to Byron about his vision. I had talked to Toni earlier in the week but had not been able to talk to Byron yet.  My main goal for the week was to have meaningful conversations with both of them. It took the whole week, but I was finally able sit down with them and chat. Below are some of the pictures from the completed cemetery and a complete team picture with Byron and Toni.  The Blackhawk marker is a memorial to him that has been placed in the cemetery. 

     After we said our good-byes we loaded up and hit the road. We went back to Wall to visit the Wounded Knee Museum since we were not able to spend time there on the way out to Bridger. After our trip to Wall we drove through the badlands and the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. We took a different route through the grassland this year and saw a herd of buffalo a little bit closer to the road than last year (see picture). After dinner in Rapid City we went to our hotel and settled in for the night. We have an early flight out in the morning and hopefully, we will get back to Augusta as scheduled.  Again, pictures do not do justice to the beauty of the landscape that we have encountered this week. But, until you make the trip with us these pictures will have to do.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last Full Day on the Res.

     I can base a hard day's work on the number of pictures that I took.  Today was a long day of hot work.  The weather has been phenomenal this year thanks to the pseudo polar vortex. But today on the hottest day of the week we decided to tackle the hottest job we were given.  All of us at one time or another were in the cemetery either shortening the grass with one implement or another or working to straighten up the grave sites themselves. Unfortunately, I only have the three pictures seen below as evidence (it's hard to carry a camera and use a weedeater at the same time).   

     Nan, the tireless gardener, worked all day pulling weeds and straightening the flowers and decorations on the graves.  Anna from the community was Nan's helper   Mickie picked up where she left off and continued work on the graves as well. Chip, Chiles, and James took turns with the riding mower and push mower while I worked the weedeater. Joy as always kept us well fed and visited with Debbie Day at her house and the children as they came to the church.  We have made a point to always have a pot of coffee on and a dessert at the ready for whomever may stop by.
     Chip "Mr. Fix It" Fiske rises with the sun each day, which is VERY early in this part of the country, to work on little odd jobs around the church.  I think he has been the little elf that could this week keeping the lawn mowers working so the rest of us could do other work.  He has also done work repairing the gate, fixing the vegetable sprayer in the kitchen, and repairing the water line in the orchard that was nicked by the law mower, and other jobs I'm sure.  By doing the work early in the day he is able to stop what he is doing at any other part of the day to visit as different people come by to visit.
     Chiles took the riding mower over to Eric Red Horse's house to mow his grass this afternoon.  James has been a great playmate to 6 year-old twins. Nan is itching to take home a puppy we have dubbed Doorbell because it is always at our front door, starved for attention, food, and water equally.  James, Chiles, and Joy got to go on a horseback trail ride led by Eric.  That always brings the treat of a beautiful view from the ridge into the valley below.  Joy commented tonight after supper that in our planning for the trip last year we were told to prepare each meal for around twenty to thirty people, adults and kids.  We ended up with a lot of leftovers last year but, this year that number has been right on the money with close to 45 last night for the special ceremony.  I think this is a sign of not only acceptance into the community, but also acceptance into the family. We certainly feel a special connection here.  I have enjoyed spending more time with Toni and Byron and hearing of their vision for the community and the partnerships with other churches.  I look forward to even more conversations around these points.  Just tonight Joy and I were talking with Toni and Bonnie about the possibility of a micro-lending program or a way for the ladies of the tribe to make money away from the Res selling beadwork and other things.  I am intrigued by the continued conversation with Justin DeLeon as he continues his doctoral research here on the res.
     Tomorrow we head out for our sightseeing day with mixed emotions. I, for one, am glad to be heading home to see my family and sleep in my own bed. But, I also know that I will miss "all my relations" (mikatuye oyasin).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Highlight of the week

     Today we continued working our little projects, accomplishing what we could from the list, and fostering relationships as we can throughout the day. Eric Red Horse made his habitual early morning visit for breakfast and coffee. Sylvester came by for lunch and to ask for some assistance in moving the old merry-go-round from the park in the community up to the church ( a new playground is being installed in the community). Debbie Day came by to take the guys to her place and to her brother's to mow the grass.  Nan went along to visit and ended up doing quite a bit of cleaning at Debbie's house. We have had a great week connecting with people and deepening relationships.  

     Wednesday night we had a larger than expected meal with many people coming up who have connections to the church and to Byron and Toni. We had a great meal with chicken, hot dogs, fry bread wo zapi (fruit syrup into which you dip the fry bread). It was another great time of fellowship. 

     We had heard earlier in the week that they wanted to do a ceremony for the Fiskes since they had lost both of Chip's parents and Joy's father all in May. They did a Wiping of the Tears ceremony for them. It started out by one of the ladies giving Chiles a quilted pillow and Joy and Chip received a quilt. The elders were asked to share a few words to the Fiske family. Ben, who is a councilman representing this area to the Indian Council, then sang a song and while he was singing Byron did a smudging for them. The smudging is where he takes a smoldering bundle of sage and shakes the smoke around them. It was a very moving experience for the Fiskes and it was special for the rest of us to be a part of.

Later in the evening we gathered around the fire and talked with Nathaniel. This week we have been very intentional about relationships and we are seeing the benefits of that as we are able to get well beyond superficial conversations. We have been invtited into their homes and into their lives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The mowers got fixed...sort of

     While our focus this week is on relationships we do have a few tasks that we have been asked to accomplish.  Yesterday we made progress with the lawn mowers. We got the riding mower working and one of the push mowers working...sort of. The push mower made several stops at the "mower shop" throughout the process. We got the yard around the church mowed and the fruit orchard.  We still have the cemetery grass to mow as well. One of the community members, Debbie, is coming to pick up the guys with the mowers today to go mow her yard. We have our small jobs to do, but we stop whenever folks come around so we can have a cup of coffee or dessert. We have also started to weed the garden that was planted some weeks ago by a youth group that was here on Mission.

     Once we had a saw in hand James took to sawing the points on the crosses for the cemetery. They delivered them to the cemetery and Byron will place them at a later date.

      Throughout the day we had several visitors. We always seem to have children around but, today most of the kids that came by were brought by a grandmother or another family member. So, while the kids were playing outside the team was able to visit with the adults around the table.

     Bryon and Toni came by tonight and took several guys and children up to the lake to go fishing.  Pictured below are Byron and Nathaniel cleaning some of the fish.  Later Chip worked on cleaning some after these two had to leave.

     I had the opportunity to go with Justin deLeon, a PhD. student from the University of Deleware as he interviewed Toni. He is out here this summer doing research for his dissertation. He is also a documentary filmmaker so he is using those skills to create some marketing pieces for Toni and Byron and helping create some material that Toni can use as she speaks at different events.  we went to a great spot down by the river. Below is Toni and Justin during the interview.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where are we?

     I realized this morning that some of you may not know where exactly we are. Don't be ashamed that you don't know your US and South Dakota geography. Many of the South Dakotans we have met along our journey don't know where Bridger is. I have taken three pictures of the map with each one zeroing in a little closer on the Cheyenne River Reservation and the community of Bridger.  In the very southwest corner of the reservation sits the small community of Bridger.  

Bridger sits right on the Cheyenne River and is set in the beautiful river valley.  We have met many people over these last couple years. We also understand that there are many in the community (seen below) who we have not seen for one reason or another. There are about forty homes in this community. There are several other communities within 30 min. or so (Red Scaffold and Cherry Creek seen on the map and Takini and others that are not on the map). Below you can see pictures of the community houses, the church where we are staying, and the cemetery up the road with our constant companions(the horses) in the foreground.

Below are a couple pictures of the view from the church and several taken from "up top" down into the valley. See if you can pick out the church and the community.

Getting settled in

     If we were to measure our success by deeds we accomplish then today might not be considered a success.  If, however, we remember that one of our main goals this week is to be about the people and relationship building, then today was definitely a success.  The project-oriented, type A, git 'er done, side of me can be very frustrated when we don't have the tools or materials we need to accomplish the tasks that need to be done. But, when I remember that what we set out to do today should be about getting ready for the community cook-out that we had tonight then I am pleased with our teams' cohesiveness and team work.
     Our task list for the week includes repairing the gate wheel that we worked on last year, mowing the grass around the church, cemetery, and fruit orchard, sawing points onto the crosses that are already built and painted, and finishing the top wire on the chicken pen (which has been re-done since last year). However, in order to mow the grass we must first fix one of the three mowers that are on the property but all in some form of disrepair. Chip went to Pierre today for Rotary and to make connections on behalf of Byron and the community. While in Pierre he also went to the hardware store and made some additional purchases that we realized we needed as well. The rest of us stayed back and preparations at the church. We cleaned bathrooms, prepared meals, cleaned the fellowship hall, cut what we could of the yard with the manual push mower and swing blade, played with the children as they came by, talk to other community residents when they stopped by, travelled through the community inviting people to the cook-out tonight, and worked on the lawn mowers to identify the problems.

     Tonight we had several people from the community to stop by and have supper with us. Today was Mickie's 83rd birthday so we had cake for her and sang happy birthday (see picture). We had many opportunities for connections, relationship building, playing, and talking. After dinner we converted the grill that I had used to cook the hot dogs and hamburgers into a contained bonfire. Several of us sat around the fire while others got to ride horses and still others stayed in the fellowship hall to continue conversations.  All in all the fellowship tonight was good.  There were people that came to the meal that we did not see last year and may not have done much with the church before now.


   This was a great start to the week.  We are looking forward to the rest of this week as we live into the presence of Christ in the community and accomplish small projects along the way. Thank you for your support and prayers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

We made it to Bridger!

Amazingly, all of our bags made it to Rapid City this morning even the ones that started in Atlanta!  We made our huge pick up at Wal-Mart and loaded the minivan with groceries (check Joy Fiske's FB page for picture). Then, we went to the airport to get our bags. After we got it all loaded we headed to Bridger. On the way we stopped by Wall Drug for lunch and to walk around a little bit.  Toni and Byron met us at the church this afternoon. After we passed hugs all around we unloaded the vehicles and began to get settled a bit.  We have a short list of projects to be completed throughout the week that we will begin on tomorrow.

After a little bit of relaxing we got back in the vehicles and went to Dupree for a pow-wow. It was bigger than the one we saw last year. There were lots of beautiful outfits and very entertaining dances. Their were 8 circles of singers as well. After the pow-wow we came back to Bridger and ate supper before turning in for the night.  It will be a bit of an early night, but after the last two days of travel we have had the rest will be well worth it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Epic Journey Begins

I posted on Facebook earlier in the day: You know the saying, "You can't get there from here? Well, I think that applies to South Dakota." For the second year in a row our trip has gotten off to a rough start. The team got to the Atlanta airport this morning at 5:00. We went through the ticketing and security process with no problems whatsoever. Only to have that be the end of our good fortune. The flight to Chicago-O'Hare was uneventful, but we were delayed on the tarmac upon landing due to departure delays from the gate to which we were supposed to go.  This delay was at least 30 minutes which made our already tight connection totally impossible. Our scheduled flight to Rapid City left the airport while we were still on the tarmac. Thankfully, the airline rebooked us as a courtesy... The problem is that their idea of help was to send an unaccompanied minor through a completely different airport than the rest of the team and have him arrive a full two hours before the rest of the team would. After several attempts to talk to unhelpful gate agents and the rebooking team from the courtesy station I had to go outside security to the ticketing counter to try to get the issue resolved. With boarding passes in hand (finally!) I went back through security to join the team for lunch. Instead of going directly to Rapid City, we were now going to connect through DFW and then on to Rapid. We had about an hour and a half delay leaving DFW because the plane we were supposed to be flying was delayed in arriving. About 10:00 MDT we arrived on the ground in the Rapid City airport a full 12+ hours after our initial itenerary would have gotten us here. Oh wait, the excitement is not complete yet. Of the 7 checked bags plus the 5 carry-ons that were gate checked to our final destination from Atlanta we had 1 bag come in at baggage claim. With the help of a nice gentleman who works for the airport, not one of the airlines, we were able to track someone down that could help us locate our luggage. Unfortunately, it had not beaten us here as we had hoped. As it turns out we have luggage scattered across the county! My bag is still in Atlanta while the rest is in Chicago.  I don't think we have any in Dallas,  but I wouldn't be surprised  if that were the case. Given the time and the fact that we have no sheets, clothes, medicine for some we decided to spend the night in Rapid City rather than drive to Bridger tonight. The Chicago luggage should arrive by 9:30 or so tomorrow, not sure when the 3 pieces from Atlanta will get here. We will get our luggage and make our Wal-Mart run tomorrow. At least we aren't sleeping on the floor of an airport this year. every cloud has a silver lining!  I hope you enjoyed this comical tale as much as it was cathartic for me to write it down. I really am laughing about it even now.  1. There's nothing I can do about it now and 2. Getting upset doesn't help and 3. My bag didn't make the first flight. Really?

On a more serious note, the team covets your prayers this week as we forge new relationships and develop new ones. I ask that you would pray specifically for us as we seek to identify the best use of FBC's talents and the gifts and talents of the community to come together for God's Kingdom. May we follow the missio dei onto the reservation and be used as willing vessels to do God's work.