There was a pounding on the front door around 11pm. Now, we had been told it was possible that beggers would stop by the guest house, but they have been told that's not ok and we were told not to open the door. So we didn't. From my room, I didn't hear anything else and assumed the person had moved on. But a little while later I was told he was still on our porch... seemingly planning to spend the night there.
One of our group members was especially concerned about this - since her bedroom had a door to the front porch (I don't blame her!). She asked if it was ok to call the police to come ask the man to move somewhere else. We agreed that would be ok....
So we called Google 911 to get some local law enforcement phone numbers. First, we called the Rosebud Reservation Tribal Police - and got an answering machine. Then, we called the town of Mission's police - and got an answering machine. Next, we called the Todd County sheriff - and guess what? Got an answering machine! Lastly, we just dialed 911... and never got connected.
It really goes to show how a lack of funding and resources affects how a community can keep their residents safe. We were fine - our visitor was just sleeping off a night of drinking (and the other group that was staying in our house came home while we making phone calls). But earlier in the week we had heard that there had been 4 deaths the previous weekend - 1 accident, 1 illness related death, 1 that I never heard the cause of, and 1 young woman who was beaten to death by her husband or boyfriend.
After our difficulties finding a law enforcement officer... my heart just broke thinking of this young woman. What if she had been trying to get help - to no response? What a horrible reality to know that help is so limited and not exactly something you could count on. Something we take for granted in our safe lives! Something to think about...
Today would be our last full day of work - and boy, did we WORK today (after our morning devotions with Russell and the other volunteers, of course)!
Beth R. continued her position in the Thrift Store - lovingly taking care of customers all day.
Carol took her turn in the sewing room - making quilts (of course!).
Amy decided to help serve meals in the Warm Welcome Center - and what a busy day she had providing meals to the many customers that came in getting ready for their weekends!
And Beth J., Kathy, and Megan ended up working in the warehouse most of the day - bagging thousands of pounds of donated corn and potatoes for people to take home for their Fourth of July weekend! (Ask Kathy or Beth about the corn and they will likely break into a fit of giggles!) This seemed like hot, dirty, menial work to do all day long - but when we put it into perspective of how we are able to serve others... It was definately worth spending the day this way. (And we got to meet several of the people who picked up the food - all very kind, friendly, warm-hearted individuals!)
(Bringing in ANOTHER box of corn!)
(Even Beth R. came out to help stock corn in the store!)
(This is what I did for most of the day - with the help of a teenage boy named Avery, we went through a bag and a half of potatoes! Uffda!)
After relaxing for a bit in the afternoon, we began our busy and fun-filled evening! It started out at a craft fair at the local college - Sinte Gleska College. Many people from the reservation brought out their jewelry, paintings, bone carvings, beadwork, etc etc. All beautiful! I think we each bought at least one thing to bring home... some of us a little more...
Then we headed across the street to have some "Indian Tacos" for dinner - YUM! Pretty close to our tacos, but served on fry bread. Delicious.
And while we were eating, we made a new friend. Steve is a teacher at the college - teaching about the Lakota Sioux culture through art and traditional dress and crafts. He was fascinating to listen to! He taught us about how to make moccasins, handgames sticks, porcupine quill bracelets, etc - and he had an interesting personal history to boot! He grew up outside the reservation, but when his young daughters decided they wanted to learn traditional dance, he began learning about his culture from scratch! He eventually brought them to the reservation and has been learning ever since - he's even a consultant for national museum exhibits (including the Smithsonian). After talking with and listening to him for almost an hour, several of us were wondering if it would ever be possible to give up 4 weeks of our summer to come take his class... Fascinating!
We headed back to our house, thinking our evening was over - and were happy to see that there was another speaker lined up at the house! A flutist! This was a man who played the traditional Indian flute - a beautiful, haunting, earthy sounding instrument. He told stories, made us laugh (a lot), told us about his life and what he sees as strengths and challenges on the reservation... including gangs and drug use. As a teacher of young kids, he tries to influence them towards making good choices in their lives - from our viewpoint, he seemed a wonderful role model for the local kids! He ended the presentation by playing "Amazing Grace" on his flute... and made the tears fall. A really special, moving experience for our last night on the reservation.
Once the house quieted down, our group met for our last evening of devotions. We talked about the Spiritual Habit of Celebration and shared the things that we were celebrating about the trip - including what strengthened our faith, what challenged our faith, and where we had felt God's presence in the week. It was a wonderful conversation - full of laughter and some tears, all of us sad to be leaving the next day. We ended with sharing affirmations about each other - affirming each others strengths, talents, and ways of reaching out to each other and the community we were serving. Our prayer was a prayer of thanks for such a wonderful experience with such an amazing community.
"The discipline of service begins with humility and ends with humility... We can humbly serve others because we know who we are: children of God. This knowing frees us to have the heart of a servant, even if we can't fulfill the need in front of us at the moment."
--Valerie Hess, "Habits of a Child's Heart"
"The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
(All photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)