My week was good. It was not what I had hoped for, but it was good. I know God's hand was in it in a big way and I have no doubt that He knew exactly what was needed and had me there for a reason. When I made the last minutes plans to go, I had in mind a nice week of leisurly getting to know some of the Lakota people better, the adults as well as the kids. That was not to be. At least not in the way I had hoped and imagined. When I arrived and Paul greeted me with "Are you ready to get to work?" I knew things might be a bit different than I imagined. :) I ended up spending the week doing a LOT of cooking and a LOT of cleaning. You know, the monotonous daily grind kinds of things that no one relishes in but that someone has to do. As I cleaned and cooked for the AIC I was reminded that very often missionary work is not the glorious, exciting things that everyone dreams of doing. More often it is doing the daily grunt work. It's choosing a lower positon and becoming a servant who is willing to do whatever is needed rather than striking out to do "great things" for God. Sometimes I think those daily events of life, be it on the reservation or in your own home, are the things God uses to shape us ... the stuff of spiritaul growth. Rich Mullins has said,
I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you're doing as ministry. Start realizsing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toliet or not. Your ministry is in how you love people. You love people when you simply call your wife to let her know that you'll be late for dinner rather than letting her burn the meal. Loving people - being respectful toward them - is much more important than doing music.
.... If you're a Christian, ministry is just an accident of being alive. It just happens.
In doing what I did, I was able to build a better relationship with the missionaries there and have been blessed for it. I saw a side of Paul that I imagine most workcampers never get to see. Yeah, he is still Paul but he is also a sweet and gracious man. Who knew?? Many times he tearfully thanked me for coming and said he didn't know what they would have done without me. I've never felt so appreciated. And I think by being willing to work hard I won his respect. That will help to lay the groundwork for future mission trips. Even though Paul and Kathy will be retiring, they will still be around to influence the new missionaries and I am confident that they will have noting but good things to say about our group. Let me assure each of you who are going or who have been that they are VERY grateful for your sacrifice and hard work there. They could not do what they are doing there without each person who is involved and they know that. If you've ever questioned "why are we going" or wondered if your week there really makes a difference at all, let me tell you that it does. I saw how much of a difference it really does make by being there this week.
And least I forget, in the end, God did give me a reward. Breeanna, a 3 year old Lakota girl (pictured below in a post) remembered me from last year and clung to me almost the entire time. I remember her being very shy last year and shrinking back from all of us. Not so this year. She lit up when she saw me and would not leave me alone. I also saw Bubba, Michael, and I got to know some of the adults that attend the church better too. In fact, I ate every meal with them from Wed - Fri.
Someone had donated 2 trailers to the church there and they were both pretty much trashed. I arrived on Monday and the AIC (American Indian Council) began on Wed. so there was still a LOT of work to be done to clean the trailers up enough for people to be able to stay in them. They needed to be scrubbed down - many times. I got 4 buckets of black, dirty water out of the kitchen cabinets in one trailer and we vacumed up a lot of nails, staples, screws, etc out of all the rooms. The Radison they aren't, but at least they are now in good enough shape to sleep in. The people from the AIC slept in them and they all survived. Nice to know they tested them out for us, eh?? BTW, they now also have a pot-a-potty in them. That will save everyone a long walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night if nature calls. Now, that said, I must tell you that Terry (Paul's son-in-law) placed them in the living room of each trailer. :)
Construction of Pam's Court Begins
On Monday or Tues (I forget which), Cody ) began digging out the basketball court. That was a nasty job. The dirt there is like cement and is very hard to dig up. He used the bobcat to scrape of the top layer of dirt and grass and then began tilling it to losen it up enough to be leveled out. Because the dirt is so hard it had to be tilled several times. I also attempted to help by raking the dirt in a vain attempt to level it up a bit. Of course, I have no idea what I'm doing so I probabaly only succeeded in moving the dirt around. To make the job even harder, it was over 100 degrees that day. Imagine us covered in dust and dirt and sweat and battling the cement hard dirt and you can get a picture of how that day went. On Monday of this week Paul and Cody will be working on it some more. They will be forming it up and filling in the sand and rebar so that it's ready for us to pour next Monday when we get there. Better pray the sand doesn't blow away. The first night Cody arrived they had a sand storm with 80 mph winds. Our sand may well blow away if that happens again. That is the only day Paul has to work on it though ... what is, is.
Buying the sand and ordering the cement proved to be ... interesting. I know where the cement place is but the man who owns it is apparently never there. The day Cody and I went in to Martin to find him and order the cement we were told to "look for a Ford pick-up with a backhoe on it". Hmmm ... needless to say we were not in Cincy anymore.
Cody's softball ministry
Tues evening Vi drove me and Cody and Paul and Kathy's grandkids into the village to visit with Ella a bit. We were not there long but it was nice to see her again. Then we were just driving around to show one of the grandkids the village and happened to notice several young adults playing softball over at the school. We stopped and went over to watch. Cody slowly worked his way into that group and ended up playing with them. Once they saw him play they were thrilled to have him play and asked him to play with them in a tournanment. He has been playing every night and getting lots of chances to witness to them as a result. When our team goes out, he will be not be with us for the Teen Nights because he has a ministry in place there at the softball field and I think it is wise to let him continue that. Let me just remind everyone that the rule that no one goes into the village alone still applies to our trip. Cody will be the only exception because he has already built up a rapport with the Lakota people on that team and I don't want to hurt what he has started. No one from our team will be allowed to go over to watch either .... the reason being .... while I was there a number of us when over to watch and I got the impression that we overwhelmed them a bit. I don't think they were comfortable with us being there. I didn't sense that they were hostile, just uncomortable. Once the ohter left and it was just Cody and I, they seemed much more at ease and began talking to us some. I just don't see any good coming out of a number of us going over so the rule is that no one will. I hate to see us hurt what has been started there.
The American Indian Council
When I left I was not sure what an AIC was. I had been told by someone here that it was where all the tribes gather to make their laws. That was not correct. It was the First Church of God's missionaries to all the reservations in the US coming together for a campmeeting of sorts. They had confrences all day long and then services at night. Many of the FCOG missionaries are Native American so it was cool to get a taste of each culture. During one of the confrences we divided up into groups with a member from each tribe in each group and we discussed some of the problems the reservation faces and what needed to be done to deal with them effectively. I decided that since I was just along for the ride to keep my mouth shut and listen. To my surprise they asked me for my input so I was able to contribute a bit and left feeling very humbled by that experience.
It was heartbreaking to hear the missionaries talk about the problems they face. The discouragement they feel is truly overwhelming. I don't know how they continue on. Surely it is only through the grace of God that they do. The need is just so great and the workers so few. Time and again I heard them speak of their need for help - especially help to work with the teens ... and there is just no one to step up to answer the call. In the past years that I've been to the rez I've not cried but this time, listening to the missionaries express their need and their discouragement and knowing that there is just SO much to be done and no one to do it, made me cry like a baby.
Please keep them in prayer.