I realized that I said I would write about this trip and never did so I want to make up for that by telling a little bit about my trip and what I learned. Here is the wiki page on the Pine Ridge Reservation and some basic info about what life is like there. Some of the facts on the wiki page are wrong (go figure that wikipedia is not completely accurate). Unemployment is actually around 80 percent not 40 percent. But they are right about it being the poorest reservation in America.
(this is one of the homes from the reservation)
Here are some of the major problems facing the Lakota people.
1. Need for Jesus and Christian workers. I know this is stating the obvious but I would be remiss not to state the obvious in this situation. The Lakota people are deeply in need of hearing the good news of the gospel and the hope that comes through Jesus Christ. There is a deep demonic and evil spiritual influence on the reservation that leaves many in a state of despair, anguish, and cyclical sin. The Lakota need a raising of a generation that loves Jesus and wants to live life to the glory of Jesus.
2. The systemic nature of the problems. The many major challenges on the reservation are compounded by how interrelated they all are. As soon as one would begin to think about addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, they are confronted by the realization that the causes are related to the other major issues. Trying to address, in isolation, any of the major issues is like trying to pull one thread out of a spider web; it can’t be done.
3. Alcoholism is a major issue on the reservation. Although the reservation is technically a “dry” reservation, the presence of White Clay right at the boarder of the reservation makes the destruction influence of alcoholism catastrophic on the reservation. Then take into account the massive amount of bootleg alcohol and the problem is only worsened.
4. Hopelessness. The people sorely in need of hope. They look at life and see no alternative or possibility of things being different. Granted, there are some who have hope and achieve success but the overall cultural climate is one of perpetual futility and a life of dysfunction.
So there are some of the facts, here is some of my big idea takeaways.
The truth is we live in a busy bustling world. We turn on the television or open the newspaper and are bombarded by the needs and hurts of this world. With over six billion people on the planet there always seems to be some cause or concern that I should care more about. But given the reality that I have a whole mess of problems and responsibilities of my own I tend to delete those that are outside of my world. Stepping outside of my context and life for a few days and immersing myself in world that was foreign proved to be massively spiritually formative and healthy for me. As a matter of fact it functioned as almost like a chemical reaction to all the theological and biblical content I had been learning over the last year; it gave life to dry bones. Seeing the faces and worlds of many of the Lakota people, exercised my compassion and empathy muscle like nothing has in a long time.
I could not stand the idea of leaving there and doing nothing because I believe as Christians we are responsible for what we know. I have committed to praying daily for one little girl who I met while I was there, here name was Allie, or as I nicknamed her “purple crocs.” I called her this because she gave me an Indian name which was “big fat whale.” I do not know what will become of Allie, but I know the Lord does and that he loves her and wants her to know him. I would ask that all of you spend just a few minutes today, or tonight, praying through some of the issues I laid out in this post, because now you are aware and there is something you can do to.