Is it worth it to minister among Native people in some of the poorest and most remote places in America? Lakota pastor Rev. Larry Salway shares his answer…
Seventy believers gathered on March 24, 2013, a cold, windy day in a small, remote Lakota village on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Huddled in their chairs with slumped shoulders, their lined, forlorn faces and ragged clothing tell the story of extreme poverty and difficult lives. Theirs is a daily struggle to survive–lives filled with trauma, pain, grief, and suffering.
These people are literally the poorest in the nation, living 60 miles from the nearest grocery store, gas station, or ambulance service. The two roads in are rough gravel full of large pot holes. They seek work but it is usually far and seasonal and transportation is difficult. Their vehicles don’t last long on these rough roads and there is not enough money to fix or buy another.
The world has passed them by–they are forgotten. Not even their own tribe cares much for them and rarely offers assistance. The Catholic, Episcopal, Mormon, and United Church of Christ churches were closed years ago. There aren’t enough people or funds to keep a church open, they say. The Mennonite church is kept open by five brave, single, young women. Their pastor has also left. There are more fish in a bigger sea somewhere else. Denominations say it is easier to win people to Jesus in other countries around the world. The people in this village have been abandoned.
Three years ago this region suffered three major blizzards a week apart. This village suffered greatly and barely survived. While the rest of our region and nation focused on aid to Haiti, our nearby neighbors in this village were struggling to survive. Their plight was told on the local and national news but few paid attention. “We need to go to Haiti,” they said. This village was snowed in with 27′ drifts in several places. No plow could get through. The power poles were knocked down. There was no heat, water, electricity, or food for weeks in sub-zero temperatures. It took two full weeks for their tribe to ask if they had survived. They were too small, too insignificant. They were passed by.
A relative of the people called to ask if we could lend a hand. Yes, we will try! With a caravan of five old vehicles loaded with donated food God had sent in, we headed out for the 200-mile journey in sub-zero temps to offer our aid. Little did we know there would be no gas station or food once we left Rapid City. It was a remote place where we were going! Groceries for 200 families were delivered and God’s love was shared to four desperate villages. The people were shocked! Who are you, and why do you care? Why don’t you pass us by?
>>Please click to read the rest of the story at WesleyanLifeOnline.com…