Fun Free Day 

Today for our free day we traveled to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and Sylvan Lake. In Custer Park we drove through the wild life path and saw deer, burrows, and moose just outside of the park. At Sylvan Lake the students swam in the lake, jumped off some rocks into the water, and hiked. It was a great day to end the trip with beautiful scenery and some historical education.  Just before dinner we played a round of indoor, black light mini golf.

 

 

Last Day of Work

Today we worked on a local house that had 12 kids between the ages of 1 – 18 living there. The grandparents are helping raise the kids and the grandpa is unable to care for the yard because of a heart condition. We cleaned up trash and personal belongings left outside and weed wacker and mowed the over grown yard. We also found out about half our students have never used a mower or weed wacker but they enjoyed it!

Local Missionaries 

I had someone back home ask more about Matt and Amanda and their ministry here so, here’s a little more information. They have been living and serving here full time for 4 years. Their three kids are young, 8, 5, and 2 and they live here on the Ranch. During the school year Matt is a teacher at a local school in addition to the pastor of the church and leading various programs at the Ranch. 

The kids camp they run here at the ranch (which is free) has been going for a few years and just recently after building the relationships and foundations they are seeing kids give their lives to Christ. 

During the school year they run nightly programs the teens and that ministry is growing as well. They recently had a students Ilajah (Elijah with an “i”) become nationally certified as a welder and is now able to travel anywhere in the U.S. and get a welding job. He also happens to be the son of a Chief! 

In addition to the lack of skill and education here there aren’t places that teach skills and if they do learn a trait there are no places of employment right here. Thoss young people who want to better themselves must travel away from their family, culture, and everything they know to work. It’s a real struggle. 

It’s been amazing talking with Matt and Amanda about their ministry. I’ve been able to witness the relationships Matt has built here as natives come to the church to talk to him and arrange him to help them. They often are victims of stealing around here with people breaking into the church to take things or walking into the ranch when no ones here. Recently his family traveled away for a week and someone came on their ranch and stole over $400 worth of diesel gas he uses for the buses to pick up kids and his tractor. Yet, they just continue to really show the love of Christ to everyone they meet. 

**the website is haddenjourney.org or haddenjourney.com that will redirect to the same place 🙂 

For more information or to follow them here’s their information: 
 

Wednesday Night Chapel

Ed, our team staff, shared with us last night about the importance of the word “therefore” in scripture and what it means to us. We looked at the various things God has done for us in scripture and therefore how we should live from it. We looked at mostly Ephesians, Eph 1:3-7 and 4:1-4.  


We looked at the demonstrated life of Pastor Saeed, a Christian Iranian Pastor, who is imprisoned in Iran for 8 years for practicing Christianity. We read a letter that was released to his family and church back home encouraging them of his situation and encouraging them how to live. Although he’s in terrible conditions being persecuted he knows God is using his imprisonment for his Glory and expects him to live in a way to share the love of Christ with those around him. 

Our group was challenged to live the therefore life. “God loves and forgives us therefore we should…” It was a good reminder to act towards others not under our own expectations of what’s good, just, and fair, but through the eyes of Christ, the way he is towards us. 

We are looking forward to our last half day of work this morning before experiencing some of the local culture. Our afternoon plan is to head into town, Pine Ridge, and experience a Pow-Wow. Today is the start of a traditional 4 day Pow-Wow with the biggest part of it starting this afternoon. 

Tuesday Night Chapel

One of the team staff shared with us last night about learning from Andrew the disciple. We looked at various examples of his faith and humbleness in John 1:35-40, Matthew 4:18-20, and John 6:5-13. 

We learned about how God takes the inadequate and insufficient and makes it adequate and sufficient. It was a great reminder that we don’t have to rely on our strength and wisdom because God can do way more through us than we could imagine. 

Day 3 Work

Everyone did great today finishing up our projects at the church. We painted the ramp, repaired and replaced the siding, laid down new carpet, and hung shelving.

After work we went and saw some wild Bison.

 

Sheep Mountain in Badlands 

Today after work we traveled about 15 miles down into part of the Badlands called Sheep Mountain. To say it is beautiful is beyond an understatement!!

 

Day 2 Afternoon work 

It’s always hard going back to work after lunch but the group did great getting refocused and back working.

 

 

 

Day 2 Morning Work

Yesterday the students worked hard but today they are beyond focused and are getting things accomplished twice as fast! We are continuing our work on the church with painting, sidewall repairs, and installing new carpet. The weather is beautiful – 73 at lunch time – and things are going so smoothly.

As Matt shared about the struggles in the area, we’ve been able to see the faces to these problems as they pull up to the church looking for someone to help them. Today a woman, Gomez, and her 8 or so year old daughter pulled up because she heard about a group that goes around and cuts grass. Her other daughter has a house down the road that was overgrown and broke the lawnmower so she wanted to see if we have a weed wacker and could help them. Although we were unable to at the moment she was directed to come Sunday at 11am and speak with Matt.

But I’m thankful that didn’t end our conversation. I (Jill) was able to talk with her for about 10 minutes learning about her family. She was excited we were from Florida because her dad traveled there to the Seminole reservation to sing for the opening  of the Casino and it was his favorite place he traveled. So it’s her life goal to go to Florida. I was able to listen to her story and pray for her and her family including Antonio her husband whose awaiting heart surgery. What a blessing those 10 minutes were.

We are continuing our afternoon focused on our tasks and taking in the beauty of the weather and scenerie around us.

 

 

Cultural learning 

Last night we had a different type of chapel by hearing from Matt Hadden, the missionary who lives here full time with his wife Amanda and their three kids. Matt traveled here 5 years ago on a TEAMeffort adult mission trip just like ours, and God called him to live here and serve Him, the Lakota people here on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Matt shared with us some of the history of not just this reservation but of all of them. He also shared about the reality of how the Lakota people live and struggle – like how most families consist of 7 generations of non-working, non-educated people. In addition to the extreme economic downfalls here the spiritual struggle is just as bad.

It was amazing hearing how similar their spiritual culture is to the gospel and yet the percentage of Native Americans who say they are Christian, who believe in Jesus, is less than 4% in the entire United States. Matt was telling us how they have a ritual where one of their members is hung by hooks through their chest off of a tree and prays for the forgiveness of all the people, while the people sing, and dance around him. He is continued to be pulled by ropes until the hooks tear the flesh and then when flesh is torn and blood is shed the sins of the people are forgiven. You would think the teaching opportunity to share about Jesus being hung on a tree and shedding his blood and tearing his flesh for our sins would be an easy transition but as Matt said, “the church and the white people messed it up.” For years (and still now) those who have tried to share the gospel with Native Americans have tried to “fix” the culture (become more like us) and the people before loving on them and building relationships.

I love how Matt shared that it’s a good thing God doesn’t have to fix us and change us before he loves us and wants a relationship with us. He shared that God did not call him here to fix all the economic problems, and to get rid of “pagan” traditions but to build a platform of love and relationships and to share the gospel. He shared many ways that he and his family do that – running a children’s camp, teaching skill classes to young people (building motorcycles, learning tools, welding certifications, etc.), caring for basic needs like diapers for single teen moms, and more.

It was amazing hearing and learning about the culture, and heartbreaking hearing about the real struggles these families have. I think it reminded all of us how truly blessed we are, not just for food and basic needs but for the possibilities of our future. Our students go to school, they learn, they have a desire to live a life worth living and growing. Their futures have great potential that they can decide colleges, skills, traits and careers. The Lakota young people aren’t educated (less than 8% graduate high school), they don’t know any skills or traits and their future is that of past generations – nothing. They have no one encouraging and challenging them to be the best they can be, and that’s heartbreaking.

Continue to pray for our team, but pray for the Lakota people and for Matt and Amanda and the work God is doing through them here. We’re here for a week and we’re doing the best we can to serve, but Matt and Amanda are here for the long haul to continue doing what it is God desires of them for the Lakota people and for Native Americans elsewhere too.