Saturday, July 18, 2015

On the Way Home

     We have truly had a great week. It is nice to have the mix of those with experience having been out here before and those who come with fresh eyes gaining a new knowledge.  For those of us that have been before these trips have become a wonderful reconnection with old friends. For those who who are new it is a refreshing introduction to a simpler, harder, more beautiful way of life and being. We learn so much while we are here about respect for the earth, the animals, and each other. We offer friendship and encouragement to a group of people who don't or haven't always receive/d that from the "white" people they know or have known.  We hear stories of racism against the Lakota and other Indians and it infuriates me. But, then it causes me to pause and reflect, to ask myself are there people in my own life on whom I knowingly or unknowingly inflict the same kind of pain. Are there people or people groups whom I unfairly judge before taking the time to get to know them? Are they Republicans or Democrats? Are they black, white, or other? Are they rich or poor? Are they from another Christian denomination or do they have another religious belief system entirely? Are they gay? Are they too young or too old? Too many times I know I can say I have judged someone before I have even gotten to know them and hear their story. Shame on me! I must do better. If you can think of times when you have done the same then, shame on you too. We MUST recognize all people as children of God because they are. We must recognize all people as worthy of our time and effort because they are. We must recognize all people regardless of socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, age, race, creed, or religious belief as people and not categories; as individuals not a group; and as someone who can teach us instead of the other way around. I think there is a natural respect for a teacher. If we view all people as our teachers we might actually learn something. We should talk less and listen more. We should ask questions then be quiet and listen for the answers. Who knows? God might use others to teach us a thing or two. ;) !  I didn't mean for that to be so heavy, but these blogs are a way for me to decompress and reflect on the days and the week we've had. Thanks for bearing with me!

     Yesterday was our sightseeing day. We drove from Bridger after saying, "We'll see you later" (there is no word in the Lakota language for good-bye). We drove through The Badlands and the National Buffalo Grassland. Unfortunately, we did not see any Tatanka (buffalo) this year, but we did see groundhogs and Big horn sheep. We went to Mt. Rushmore and The Crazy Horse memorial and museum.

    My prayer as we re-enter our normal routines is that we do not forget the lessons we have learned this week, that we do not forget the friends we have made and the struggles they deal with on a daily basis, and that we continue to lift them up in prayer.

   A picture may be worth a thousand words, but even our words cannot capture the beauty of these people or this land. However, they can give you of glimpse of each. Enjoy these pictures of our final day.

The team pictured with Bud and Beth Lone Eagle (left), Zora Lone Eagle (front), and Sylvester Waloke (right).

The mountain in the background with a bronze replica of what the monument will look like in the foreground. 

In the museum we found a case of pictures. Three of these pictures had Sylvester in them!

     Thank you, FBC Augusta, for supporting us financially and through prayer as we have been away this week! I ask that you continue to pray for traveling mercies today, that flights are on time and luggage is received. We look forward to returning home to our loved ones to share our many stories.


Smudging of the New Building Addition

     In the course of this blog I hope to show the progression of the building addition at the Bridger church. We arrived at the beginning of the week with a platform and some very basic guidelines for the new structure. 

   It's had been mentioned to me that it wou be great if we work on the walls while we here as that would be the next step in the process. I accepted the challenge and began work on the structure on Monday after consulting my resident construction guru, Allen Hardin, via text and email. Chip pulled up a YouTube video as well. Work started slow as we were also asked to mow a few lawns in the area after getting the lawn mowers working. 

     Eventually, as we got our act together so did the building begin taking shape.  We got our "test" wall up and were easy to begin getting to the serious work.

     Things really got cooking by the end of the week. On Thursday the grass was mostly cut. Emory and James went up to Debbie Day's to do her yard. Chip was chafe ring them while also running to the store, getting gas, and talking a bit with Debbie after he dropped the guys off.  Meanwhile back at the church, Chiles and I continued working on the addition and to the second wall ready to be. Raised by noon. Chip went to go pick up the lawn mowing men and with their help we got the wall up.

     As it was nearing 3:00 on Thursday and the second wall was now in place Chip asked if we would attempt the third wall.  Having cut most most of the studs the day before I answered in the affirmative. So, after a water break we got back to building the third wall.  Very soon we were calling all those around to participate in the raising of the final wall of the addition! What a sense of accomplishment to have finished the building with a small crew and no real construction experience to between us. Does World Changers count?

     A little while after we were finished with room our friends started arriving for dinner. Marvin was Johnny-on-the-spot and grabbed my camera for a posed shot with Pastor Byron, Buffalo Chip, and myself. 

     Tonight we had a special gathering and dinner with the Texas group, folks up from the community,and Toni and Byron. After dinner we had a time of sharing what we had seen God do this week. There were some great stories of mutual respect and mutual giving and receiving of ourselves and our individual gifts. Folks from the community shared stories and songs with us. We also had a wiping of the tears ceremony for one of our new friends from Texas who has had three deaths of very significant people on her life in the last 6 months.  Byron also blessed the new room by smudging it before we began the ceremony.

     Toni was sharing with me earlier in the evening about how she plans to lay out the room to accommodate the quilting machine. I ca tell that she is very excited about the possibilities that machine and ministry holds.

     Our team had a wonderful day today and has had a really great week. Jackson, Jane, Paula, and Savanna went on a long hike today with Eric. I wish I had the pictures that Jackson took on his phone. I wish even more that you, reader, would be able to take in the beauty of this place from my words or these pictures. We are sad to leave but excite do see our loved ones again.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A New Part of South Dakota for Me

     Last night the guys and Savanna went fishing with Rodger and Tameka.  They got back to the church about 2 in the morning. Needless to say this morning got off to a bit of a slower start. Chip, of course, was the first one up and began digging holes for the support posts for the wall. When I got up I dug most of the second hole and got the wall ready to be raised. When the guys got up we all worked together to get the wall secured into place. 

     Then, Chip took Emory, Chiles, and James up to Sylvester and Deena's to finish mowing the grass.  While they were gone the rest of the team did the needed chores around the church until some of the kids showed up around lunchtime. Anna came back. Today we also got to see our old friends Aleika, LaQwan, and Dawson whom we haven't seen all week. Joy has done a great job this week with meal preparation and execution. I appreciate also all that Jane, Jackson, and Paula have done in straightening up, cleaning up, and entertaining our guests that have come each day. Joy not only takes care of us,  but here you see her getting water to the chickens. (Chiles got 54 eggs from the coop today!) 

     Chip and I had cut the studs to length for the second wall while we were waiting for the guys to wake up. So, while they were all up the hill I framed up the second wall.  Marvin was concerned that I would not be in any pictures so he came out to catch me working!

     I wanted to return the favor so when Rodger and Tameka took Debbie (from Houston), Marvin, and Savanna on a horse ride I wanted to be sure I got a picture of it. They all did very well on the ride. Rodger took them on a trail ride up to the ridge where they could oversee the valley. Of all the views I have seen looking into the valley is one of my favorites.

     Tonight we got to enjoy the spoils of the fisher people's labor as Rodger and Victoria brought the cleaned and filleted catfish from the night before to fry as part of dinner. He made up his own spices and it was very good. Joy supplemented with chicken strips and hush puppies that were all fried right on the tailgate of Rodger's truck.

     Chip and I went to Pierre this afternoon to get a few lawn mower parts. It seems that the ministry of the lawnmower is never ending. Perhaps it is becoming a ministry to the lawnmower! This was my first time to Pierre. While we were away we saw the effects of some pretty damaging winds that they have experienced recently. The drive to Pierre consists of driving through or by many farms. Several of the silos had been severely damaged if not ripped right from their foundations like tin cans. It is pretty crazy to see the degree of damage that wind can do.  The land is not necessarily flat, but you can still see for miles in any direction. Words and pictures do not do justice to the beauty we have seen in God's creation. A camera lens especially and even our human eyes can scarcely take it all in.

     When we returned to Bridger there was quite a crowd already gathered. Byron and Toni had come down earlier and Byron had erected a tipi with the help of Chiles and others on the church property. It made for a beautiful foreground for the sunset picture below. Again, the camera lens fails to capture the full beauty of God's handiwork.

"Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ministry of the Lawnmower

     Today began as most have this week. Chip was the first to rise to get the coffee pot going for his coffee and our early morning visit from Eric (Hermas). He then set out to work on the lawnmower to get it going for the day. As it turns out he was able to work on it off and on throughout the day and finally got it working this afternoon probably better than it has been in years. I continued work on the wall with James' help. Tomorrow we should raise a wall and starting building another. The gentlemen from St. Dunston's will be coming by tomorrow afternoon when after they finish the repairs on the medical clinic in Takini. That will be a big boost to get these walls up. 

     Joy and Savannah went on a horse ride to the river with Rodger while Eric helped Paula ride around the round corral on the church property.

     The guys rode up to Sylvester and Deena's to help him mow his grass. We also removed the blades from the riding mower in order to sharpen them, brought them back to the church to sharpen them and returned to help mow only to be called back to lunch when our stomachs rumbled. They will return up the hill tomorrow to work on their yard, retrieve the riding mower and go to Debbie Day's to work a little on her grass.

      Sylvester mowing his grass

     Chiles and Emory working on the blades of the red mower and the blade housing of the John Deere.

     Tonight Chiles, James, Savannah, Emory, and Jackson went with Rodger and Tameka to the river to fish for catfish. The rest of us went to Takini to join the Houston group in serving a meal and operating a mobile store.  Pictured below are Marvin with Erica from the St. Dunston's group selling household goods at the store.

     We served dinner in the linchroom at the school. There were probably 40 people that came (men, women and children). It was great to see that our team was not seated together. Each us found group of people to sit with and converse over a shared meal. What a blessing it has been for our two groups to be able to serve together this week.

     This last picture for the day is taken of the outside wall of theTakini you can see the Lakota star has been painted on the bricks. What you may not be able to tell is that this is actually two rooflines. The lower roof is in front and the upper roof (gym) is set behind, but taken from in front like this the star fits together perfectly!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Working on the Walł

     Day we got started bright and early. The sun typically comes up around 4:30 or 5:00. Chip was up with the sun and ready to begin work for the day. Our first order of business was to get the lawn mower working so Chiles, Emory, and James could finish mowing the grass around the church. Chip was able to make a slight adjustment without having to wait for a single tool or part and they were off and running. Here is Chiles on the mower while Chip and Emory clear away toys, balls, and other items from his path.

     The next big project that we began was to build the exterior walls on the addition of the church. Chip and I discussed the plans we had been given and decided on the best course of action for the day. We began working with James to get the walls started. As you can see below we built the two small walls to get under the eaves and began on the western wall which should be erected tomorrow. 

     While we were working outside on the walls there was a lot of activity going on inside as well. Jane, savannah, and Jackson were working to clean up the fellowship hall (aka our sleeping/eating/hanging out area) to be ready for our guests that would come for the cookout tonight. We also found out that we would be joined by the group from St. Dunston's Episcopal Church in Houston. Paula and Joy drove to Faith to get some needed groceries and supplies.  The Texas group arrived about noon, ate lunch with us, and made preparations for a small store of sorts that they would set up after dinner on the porch.  These pictures are supper prep and store prep by our two groups.

     Mr. Marvin spent the afternoon with the ladies from St.Dunston's. They went up to Takini to announce our presence and invite the folks to dinner at the school tomorrow night. They fell in love with him and I know that he had a blast with them as well. It has been a true blessing to be here at the same time as them this week. For the last couple of years we have been one or two weeks ahead or behind them. After dinner tonight they presented Byron with a saddle to be used as part of the horsemanship program. Unfortunately I missed the presentation so I was unable to provide you with a picture.  I did catch some of the story though. Apparently, they stopped by a church in Rapid City on Sunday for worship. They met a couple that attends there and got into a conversation about what they would be doing this week. The gentleman got one of his saddles for the team to bring. It was a true God-moment as the team was not to planning to attend that particular service and the gentleman and his wife alternate weekends between the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church.  They were excited to be able to present the saddle on behalf of the Rapid City church.

     Our dinner tonight consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken. We were able to connect with old friends as well as meet some we people. That continues to be the theme as we share meals with one another.  Take a moment to pray for Toni Buffalo. Early this morning one of her former students committed suicide. This is the fourth teenager in about 7 months and these one in less than a week.  We shared a tender conversation this evening where she voiced her grief for the families and the young ones and those still living who feel such desperation that suicide seems to be the only way out.

     We are having a great week and all are well!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Project Assessment

    Today we started checking things out around the church to see what we could do and what we may need to go buy in order to accomplish some of the many tasks. The guys began working on the grass around the church and the fire pit. We assessed the situation of the addition to the building, the lawn mowers, and prepared the grill to cook tonight.  After we made our preparations we had lunch and left for the pow wow in Dupree. We saw Byron and Toni and several of our other friends who we will cross paths with this week. Enjoy these pictures from the pow wow (opening ceremonies, open dance, drum circle, and one of the men's head dresses).

     On our way back to the church several of us went to the river (my second visit with a second group). This was my first time down to the river in three years.  We enjoyed skipping rocks and looking at the beauty of God's creation.

     We had a great meal tonight where we were joined by several members of the community including Rodger, Victoria, Tameka, Lanaia, Makai, and Uncle Ben (as they all call him). I predict our meal times from this point forward will be full of laughter, stories, and deeper connection as several members of the community often come to join us to enjoy table fellowship.

     Chip has a list of items that we need to purchase in Faith. He will further assess the riding lawnmower tomorrow to determine what is needed in order for it to run.  We will also begin work on the building addition. We were able to talk to Mike Lassiter this afternoon and get squared away on what is here, what is coming, and the plans are for the space. As we always do we will be prepared to stop work as folk from the community stop by. I also hope that we will be.  Able to encourage some of them to join us in the work at hand.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the ground in Bridger, South Dakota.

    You know the old saying, "You can't get there from here?"  It doesn't apply to Bridger any more! After three years we finally figured out the secret to getting here.  After our great ride on the people mover from Randy Gossert and Master's Transportation Ministry we checked our bags curbside and breezed through security as easy as you please. Joy called to check on us (she and Chiles had flown out on Thursday) and that was when the wheels started to come off. As soon as Chip hung up the phone the announcement came over the loud speaker that our pilot was not here and it would be an hour and a half before he would get to the plane.  What? Really? Luckily, within ten minutes we found out that it was actually the first officer that had been missing and another had been located and we would begin the boarding process very soon. After that brief twenty minute delay we were taxiing to the runway for take off. An uneventful flight later and we were all loaded up with our luggage and ready to hit Sam's, Wal-mart, and lunch. Here we are pictured in front of the Rapid City airport as fresh as we can be and ready for a great week of ministry and relationship building.

   After the grocery run we loaded the two SUVs to head to Bridger. Realizing we forgot the retried beans for supper we stopped off at Coyle's Supervalu in Phillip, SD. This was a great little store located right off the Main Street. Our limited inventory grocery stop was a step back in time. It reminded me of visits to Morgan's Superette in Martin, GA on those summer visits to my grandparents house.

     The team had a wonderful dinner and are all settling down as I post this blog.  We are eager to reconnect with our old friends and continue the work to which we have been called. We have two main projects for the week with other things that will come up while we are here. We are prepared to offer fun reinforcements in math and reading to the children as we interact with them this week. I am also excited to be a part of the building project here at the church. We are adding on a room to the fellowship hall which will allow for larger community meetings and provide opportunities for larger groups to stay and minister here in Bridger. As always we are reminded that relationships are the most important and I pray that I, for one, will stop the work long enough to connect with our Lakota brothers and sisters.