Pine Ridge Mission Trip 2015 – Background

My daughter Stacey and I are planning to go on a short-term mission trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in NSM2015LOGOretinasouthwest South Dakota this August. The trip will be with about 20 other people from my church, Fairfield First Baptist, and is through Next Step Ministries. This is the first in a series of blogs I’ll be writing about the trip.

Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the Oglala Lakota tribe, and located in Oglala Lakota County (formerly Shannon County), South Dakota, which is the poorest county in the United States. Some statistics:

  • Pine Ridge has 8 times the United States rate of diabetes.
  • The alcoholism rate is estimated as high as 80%.
  • The median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
  • The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is approximately 83-85%, and can be higher during the winter months.
  • About 97% of the population lives below Federal poverty levels.
  • 1 in 4 infants is born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects.
  • The suicide rate is more than twice the national rate.
  • Teen suicides occur at a rate of 4 times the national rate.
  • School drop-out rate is over 70%.
  • Teacher turnover is 800% that of the U.S. national average.
  • Infant mortality is three times the national rate.
  • Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate.
  • There are an estimated average of 17 people living in each family home (a home which may only have two to three rooms).  Some larger homes, built for 6 to 8 people, have up to 30 people living in them.
  • Over-all, 59% of the Reservation homes are substandard.
  • Over 33% of the Reservation homes lack basic water and sewage systems.
  • 39% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have no electricity.
  • At least 4,000 new homes are needed on the Reservation in order to combat the homeless situation.

History

LakotaThe Oglala are one of the seven subtribes of the Lakota tribe, who along with the Nakota and Dakota, comprise the Great Sioux Nation. Prior to the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806, the Lakota had little contact with non-indigenous people, other than a few traders. At one time, the Lakota controlled a vast area of the Great Plains, including parts of Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

In 1851, the United States government negotiated the first Fort Laramie Treaty with the Lakota and several other tribes in order to secure the safety of travelers on the Oregon Trail. The Indians were to receive an annuity in the amount of fifty thousand dollars for fifty years. The U.S. Senate promptly adjusted the compensation from fifty to ten years, then failed to actually deliver most of the commodities promised as payment, and did not enforce other treaty provisions.

In response, the Lakota and others attacked settlers, causing public pressure on the US Army to punish them. A series of battles between the Lakota and the U.S. Army followed.

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie ended this war. The treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation, which comprised the entire western half of South Dakota, including the Black Hills. The Black Hills were (and are still) considered sacred by the Lakota. The treaty provided for hunting privileges in areas of Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota until the buffalo were gone, as well as for schools, clothing, blankets, and food rations. It also called for land allotments to be made to individual Indians.

SiouxreservationmapWhen gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1872, the U.S. government refused to enforce provisions of the 1868 treaty keeping miners out.

Despite the fact that the 1868 treaty required that ¾ of all adult Lakota males had to approve any land deals, and that the Lakota overwhelmingly refused to sign the new treaty, the U.S. Congress ratified Indian Appropriations Act of 1876, which cut off all rations for the Lakota until they ceded the Black Hills to the United States, effectively stealing the Black Hills from the Lakota.

The government also began the systematic destruction of the buffalo herds that the Lakota relied on for food and shelter. This forced the Lakota onto the reservations in order to receive food allotments, or to starve. Once on the reservations, the government again ignored treaty provisions by reducing food allotments, causing widespread illness and death due to malnutrition.

The Dawes Act of 1887 forced the Lakota to divide the Reservation land into allotments for individual Indians, and to sell off “excess” lands to white settlers. It was designed to force the Lakota to become “civilized” by becoming farmers and abandoning traditional tribal structures and traditions. However, because the land was unsuitable for farming, and due to severe drought, the Lakota were reduced to near starvation.

In 1890, in part due to the desperation of the Lakota people, a religious movement known as the Ghost Dance arose. It was believed that the dance would reunite the Lakota with spirits of their dead ancestors, make the whites leave, and bring unity, prosperity, and peace. Unfortunately, many white settlers felt threatened by the movement, fearing it would lead to a new round of war with the Indians. The military was called in. On December 15, 1890, 40 Indian policemen tried to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, a supporter of the Ghost Dance, killing him in the process. After Sitting Bull’s death, about 200 members of his followers, fled and joined Chief Spotted Elk, and attempted to travel to Pine Ridge for protection. On the way, they were met by a 7th Cavalry detachment under Major Samuel M. Whitside. On December 29, 1890, while camped next to Wounded Knee Creek, the military attempted to disarm the Indians. After a scuffle, a shot was fired, then the military opened fire on the Indians. A massacre ensued. In less than an hour, at least 150 Lakota men, women, and children had been killed, and many more wounded. Some estimates put the total casualties (dead and wounded) at around 300 of the approximately 350 Indians in Spotted Elk’s group. Many of the women and children fled into a nearby ravine, where they were systematically hunted down and shot. The Wounded Knee Massacre effectively ended all Lakota hopes of a return to the pre-reservation way of life.

Religion on Pine Ridge Reservation

Approximately 46% of the residents on Pine Ridge Reservation are affiliated with a religious congregation. Nearly half of those are affiliated with the Catholic Church, and a little over a quarter are affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The rest are spread between various evangelical churches, mainline Protestant churches, and a smattering of others.

The Oglala Lakota are very spiritual people. Although not affiliated with a church, most hold to some variation of traditional Lakota beliefs, and many affiliated with churches combine some traditional beliefs with their Christian beliefs.

According to Lakota tradition, the Lakota were given their culture by a sacred person, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who gave the people the sacred pipe along with a promise to teach them the ceremonies and standards for living as a united tribe. This pipe links the Lakota to their relatives the buffalo, who would give their very lives to sustain their kin.

The Lakota language has no word for religion. The sacred are not restricted to certain times, places, or activities – the Lakota held and many continue to hold that all is sacred. Religious revelation through personal quest, dreams, and visions remains an important part of their dynamic belief system. Lakota religion teaches that everything has a spirit, and many Lakota worship the spirits. The Great Spirit is the most powerful of all – the traditional Lakota God.

There are many Christian organizations that do mission work on Pine Ridge. Most center around building projects and other ways of trying to improve the living conditions on the Reservation. Many of the Oglala appreciate the work these groups do, but many others have a deep opposition to Christianity and Christians. Many feel they have been stripped of everything they once had, and that their traditional religious beliefs are all they have left. Others resent that religion, especially Catholic and Episcopalian churches, was shoved down their throats in the deliberate attempts to “civilize” them by forcing them to give up their traditional ways.

Why this matters

Pine RidgeBecause I will be spending a week in August on the Pine Ridge Reservation as a missionary, I felt it was critical that I learn as much as possible about the people I will be ministering to. The Gospel isn’t about changing culture; it’s about introducing people to Jesus Christ. Part of evangelism involves understanding the people being evangelized in order to be able to present the Gospel message in a relevant way. The message doesn’t change, but how it’s presented must be tailored to fit the understanding of those with whom it’s being shared. Part of always being ready to give a defense of the Gospel to everyone who asks us about it (1 Peter 3:15) is to anticipate the probable objections to the Gospel that a particular group might raise, and to prepare Biblically-solid answers.

In Lakota culture, one must earn the right to be heard. The way to earn that right is by building relationships, and relationships are built through understanding and trust. At this point, my goals for the trip are: 1) help improve someone’s life through building projects; 2) build relationships through service and friendship; and 3) when given the opportunity to be heard, present the Gospel in a way that it can be understood and received. My hope is that the preparation, study, and prayer I have undertaken will allow me to have an impact on someone’s life with the Gospel.

There is great spiritual warfare on the Reservation. The worship of spirits opens the door to demonic activity. Many of the suicides at Pine Ridge have been directly attributed to bad “spirits” telling people to kill themselves. Please pray for the Lakota people on Pine Ridge Reservation, and for the Christians (both natives and non-natives) working to spread the Gospel and improve living conditions.

The righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

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2014 Mission Trips

Hope in a World of Brokenness

Stacey and Joey Wendling Mission Trips

Monterrey, Mexico – June 2014

Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota – August 2014

Greetings from Fairfield, Ohio!

The reason we are writing to you is that we have the opportunity next summer to join with our church, Fairfield First Baptist, to provide hope in a world of brokenness by going on mission trips to Monterrey, Mexico and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

In June 2014, Joey and Stacey once again have the opportunity to serve the children in orphanages near Monterrey, Mexico. Our church is partnering with Back2Back Ministries to serve the children in 10 Christian Casa Hogar’s (Children’s Homes), and two churches in the Rio and Cadereyta communities. Each Children’s Home has 30 to 100 children ranging in ages from 10 months to 17 years. These children come to the homes from a variety of backgrounds – neglect, abuse, abandonment, and in some cases, economic inability of the parents to provide for them. Whatever the reason, each child is truly a gift from God. It is our hope that each child would have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and have opportunities for a productive and meaningful life. Our efforts will include:

  • Construction work to improve the facilities, programs, and living conditions
  • Sorting and preparing donations for the daily distribution to the children’s homes
  • Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ though interaction and relationship building

Stacey Wendling

In August, Stacey will have the opportunity for a second mission trip before she heads off to Liberty University, this time to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge is an Oglala Lakota Native American reservation, and is one of the poorest communities in the United States. The poverty on Pine Ridge is devastating. It is common to find homes overcrowded, as those with homes take in whoever needs a roof over their heads. Many homes are without running water or sewer, adequate heating or air conditioning, and have black mold. The unemployment rate is about 80-90%, with a per capita income of around $4,000. Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere, behind only Haiti. Alcoholism and suicide are the leading causes of death.

Stacey and our church will be working with Next Step Ministries to serve in the Pine Ridge community to help rebuild the reservation and restore the hope and beauty buried deep among the brokenness found here. We will have the opportunity to serve in a number of ways, working with families and their children, meeting residents on a daily basis, restoring and building upon relationships with community members, rebuilding homes, churches, or trailers, roofing, drywall, and painting. Throughout this week, we will be acting as the hands and feet of our Lord to serve this community in a valuable way. It is exciting to think that Stacey can be a small part of that!

Joey Wendling

We are writing to you because we will by relying on friends and family for support as we prepare for the trip and while we are gone. Between the three trips, we need to raise nearly $3000 for trip expenses.

First and foremost, we ask for your prayers. Please pray for the orphans in Monterrey, the workers in their Children’s Homes, and for the people donating time out of their summers to take trips to Mexico to work to improve the children’s lives. Pray for the Oglala Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation, that they would have hope, and pray for those who are working to bring them hope. Please also pray for Stacey and Joey, that they would be able to raise the funds necessary, and that God would be preparing them for the work He has planned for them.

Secondly, if you are able, we would greatly appreciate any financial support you might be able to provide. We need to raise nearly $3000 for the three trips. Gifts are tax deductible, and checks should be made payable to Fairfield First Baptist Church, with Stacey/Joey Wendling Mission Trips in the memo line.

Children in a Monterrey Children’s Home

We are so privileged to be able to tell these broken communities that there is a greater life they can live, and a greater love they can experience. That a life with Jesus can bring real fulfillment, purpose, and healing to the wounds they feel. We hope you also feel privileged to be a partner in a mission going after lost and broken people with a message of hope, as Jesus told his disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33



Should you feel called to give in support of the missions effort in Mexico and South Dakota through giving to Stacey and Joey Wendling, please fill out, cut off, and return to the address below.

Gifts are tax-deductible. Please make checks payable to Fairfield First Baptist Church.

Name: ______________________________________

Email: _______________________________________

Phone: ___________________________ (home or cell)

*Please mail to:

Fairfield First Baptist Church

1072 Hicks Blvd.

Fairfield, OH 45014

Attn: Stacey/Joey Wendling Mission Trips