We learned about the opportunity to serve the Lakota people almost 2 years ago, but Corona struck and delayed our trip… until now! Once we learned the last week in July was available, we took it! Why South Dakota? It’s a red state. The number of suidide cases are one of the highest in America. The Lakota need hope and love as they face death so much in the land. We had a desire to serve them instead of just handing out money. We had a rummage sale fundraiser, sold tanks and tees, and prayed for God to send us a team to go to them. And He did.
We had 16 people signed up and attending meetings every other week up until the trip. There isn’t a grocery store close to the Lakota reservation (the nearest Walmart is 2 hours away) so we had to plan meals and buy all our food for the team, congragation meal, multiple Vacation Bible School lunches, and community event in the village. Many Costco, Aldi, and Gordon’s runs were made. The food team scouted out all the sales and tried to pinch pennies so our donation to Pass Creek Church in Allen, South Dakota could be greater. Dont feel too bad for the food team though! We had lots of laughs and always brought back a story!
While on one of the shopping trips, we stopped at Aldi to pick up some burger for the tater tot casserole we were going to make and freeze for the trip. We loaded the car and were contemplating where to shop next when an older woman comes walking with a cheesecake in her arms. There were a couple more items on top that were sliding around while she got out her car keys. After a few minutes, she tried jamming her key into the lock, talking to herself. We noticed her and was wondering if she might need help. She looked in the back window, then tried jamming her key into the back door lock. When she went back to try the front door again, we were wondering why she wasn’t using her key remote? I was about to get out and help her but she must have heard my thoughts because she pressed her remote and… the trunk of the car next to her popped up!!! Want to know the worst part? The cars were different colors! They didn’t even look the same!! I almost helped her break into someone else’s car!!! She hopped in and sped out of that parking lot like mad! We laughed so hard, we cried!
The team worked hard and put in so many hours prepping for the trip! Julie planned the VBS, Cathy and Michele, chose meals, people donated school supplies for the kids, Madison prepared the VBS crafts, the team learned songs/stories, and I wrote a team devotional/ planned the youth night we are holding mid week. Nothing would hold the team back even though we lost 3 team members 5 days before the trip.
After the many of fun Costco runs, weekly meetings, fundraisers, and planning, we loaded the small uhaul filled with tubs filled with the weeks food. It all fit, despite all the food we had to make sure we had for my dad to eat while on the trip! The team met the day before to load all the non-cold items and packed luggage, then prayed together in anticipation for what was to come the next morning at 4am!
I spent the night at the church so I would be the first one to “arrive” for the trip! My plan worked! I won! I have a futon in my church office and was covered in blankets. I had to get up a few times though to adjust the lights. I wanted to get the perfect amount of a night light trailing into my office to create a relaxing atmosphere for the last night in Michigan I would get for a week.
THE DRIVE OF A LIFETIME
The morning came and everyone arrived! The day had come! We loaded the coolers with all the frozen foods, loaded them, and passed out our trip devotional booklet that the team is competing while in the trip. We were sent off with a prayer. We were ready to rock!
Julie, Marc, and my dad (Larry) led the way in their little red Honda with me driving Bertha (church van)! Luckily, I had Nicki as the co-pilot and a few backseat co-pilots to the co-pilot to direct me and inform on the weather for the week. Either I had a typo (which happens a lot as you can probably tell while reading this blog I typed using my phone!) or it was read wrong, but winter coats and earmuffs were packed since it was read that nights in South Dakota could get down in the 20s. It was meant to say could drop 20 degrees lower than the high of the day. It’s supposed to reach 106° this week!
We were jamming out in Bertha to the 7 hour playlist I made us while those in the other car ate snacks. We were cruising! Driving the trailer took some getting used to. Smaller trailers are harder to drive than big ones. Semi trucks would release wind that would get caught between the trailer and Bertha, causing the van to sway. I knew a semi was coming when Nicki would hide her face in her knees in terror! I had to encourage Bertha not to let the trailer push her around when we would race down the rolling hills of Iowa and Nebraska. We would have to slow down when we would run into those scenarios. Since Marc knows where the gas pedel is, we would have to kick it in high gear to catch up. Let’s just say we had to go incert the UHaul “suggestion” of starting under 55mph!
That’s when we had mega issues. We were only planning on taking a couple stops, but some of us need an additional bladder installed, to sit on a bed pan, or a catheter put in. My mom is a nurse so we had it covered…or so we thought. It got really bad on bathroom stops after the chili dogs at our Dairy Queen stop. Noting for next time: Nebraska only had fields of round bales of hay. We found a little house and was about to stop and ask if we could blow up their can LOL We tried informing the lead car about the potential bio hazard, but they hung up on us since they were too busy leaving us in the dust. No bowels were harmed in the process during that gas station bathroom stop! Happy days were there to stay!
Beyond every rolling hill was another rolling hill with a random fenced in cemetery. No desert or cactus in sight like I was imagining. We watched the 3 heads bobbling in the car ahead of us as entertainment. My dad was basically in the front seat chatting with the other two. The issues continued when Areosmith hit the speakers of the lead car. Marc was hitting the gas pedel to the beat. Bertha couldn’t keep up since the trailer would swerve. Once the road ended, they waited for us at least lol
The sun set down over the hills and our arrival time was getting closer. We rolled up to some guards with yellow vests. The lead car told them we were here to see Tim and Kim at Pass Creek Church. They were more concerned if we were showing signs of Corona. We said no so they told us head on in straight. We continued straight despite our GPS telling us we needed to turn. We started passing boarded up houses and people hanging out in some shacks. We couldnt find the church so we turned around in this driveway. The car didn’t have much trouble, but Bertha was bouncing around. People were staring at us wondering why a caravan was coming through their driveway. Wild dogs chased the lead car and when they hit a pothole, they were wondering if it was a dog. We are hoping is wasn’t. Bertha ran over their basketball that was left in their driveway. We continued down the road and had to turn around a second time. I can’t back up the trailer, so we had to off road the turn around. We headed back to the guards and they told us we needed to go back the way we came, so then we drove back a couple miles and gave Tim a call. We couldn’t find the church. We decided to turn around again and see the guards. They then told us to turn. We missed it the whole time.
We finally arrived and Tim helped us back the trailer by our bunkhouse. He was saying since it was Saturday, the guards might have been doing their drugs and forgot where the church was. There were only 3 options to go on the road and they told us all three so we eventually got there.
We were showed around and the bunkhouse is really nice looking! They have wood floors and air conditioners that definitely work. It’s like an arctic tundra in our bunkhouse. We have a kitchen, a couple bunk rooms, a couple bathrooms, and a sun room with some cute dogs looking in. I’ll include some photos below showing where we are staying:
We battled cats unloading the coolers and totes into the chest freezer and kitchen. Everyone was tired after the long drive so we made up our bunks and crashed. The next day we were going to their church and serving the congregation a lunch.
We woke up with dry eyes since the air is pretty dry, but we were excited to meet the church! We did our devotionals in the morning and started heating up the taco meal. While we were waiting for them to arrive, we met Lilly. Lilly is so nice and answered questions we had about the area since she lived 20min from the reservation.
The kids started arriving and we were able to play some games with them before the service. I was playing with them when BB came over and gave me a hug. One of the first things she wanted to do was get a piggyback ride! She was all smiles! She saw Madison and wanted a piggyback ride from her too but was scared to ask so I asked for her. Madison totally agreed to the fun and I think she liked Madison’s ride better!
The service started and I found a spot next to a little feller who was making a man out of pipe cleaners. Tim and Kim, the missionaries and pastors of the church started with some announcements and prayer requests, then we went into some worship songs. We sang the first two songs with a video, then Kim played a hymn on the piano. Kim shared she heard kids singing that would never sing. She said the Lakota dont really sing. It’s not part of their culture and they are uncomfortable with it so this was huge!
Cathy and I, along with the youth on the trip (Ryley, Nolan, Rebecca, and Madison), went with the kids for Sunday school. We taught the kids about how Jesus Saves. We gave the kids lifesaver candy when they shared their names and something about themselves. At first, only a couple kids wanted to share, but then ALL of them shared once we presented candy! We had full tables of kids which was awesome to see! That’s when we strapped on our lifejackets and told the story. Cathy did so well! We had more planned for the kids but the service was pretty short.
We sent the kids out to play while we set up for the lunch. The elders sat down and we served them their plates. The tacos were a huge hit. The kids didn’t waste a drop of their tacos. One kids spilled his taco all over his Janga blocks so Ryley and Nolan cleaned him up. His hands were filled with cheese. We really got to know the kids and congregation. Patrica developed a relationship with one of the ladies in the congragation and she sat down closer to her.
After the meal, we had a debrief about the VBS. They taught us about how to handle the kids and the structure. We had to change some of the stations around but it will be more beneficial for us to get to know the kids. We found out so many of the kids live in one house because if anyone in a home smokes meth, they are evicted from their rented tribal housing. Some are behind in rent 10 years but if kids or elders live in a house, they dont get evicted. That’s why many have kids. Many turn to drugs and alcohol making the kids be their designated drivers.
The tribe is very fearful of Corona and wants to shut down the church activities so we may not be able to have a community event on Friday. Hopefully we will still be able to have youth on Wednesday but there is a possibility that may be cancelled. Kim gave us rubber bands to wear to remind us to be flexible so we will be going with the flow this week.
After the meeting, we prepared for the new structured VBS. We had to adjust a few things and decorate. Julie has some awesome banners that we hung all over!
After finishing up, we had some worship and reflection time, which was amazing with the beautiful view of South Dakota hills. We shared our struggles and stories with each other. It is the first mission trip for many of the team members and its turning into a great one so far!
Later on that night we broke into card playing and laughter with each other. The team almost tasted the tater tot casserole we had for dinner a second time after laughing so hard! They played some ukure but it’s not really a game since you have to think too much. I always forget what the clovers are called. I started writing this blog post instead. There is some WIFI, but I didn’t want to go in the dark church by myself to write it.
It’s our first day of Vacation Bible School tomorrow! We have the yellow group of 6 and 7 year olds!