South Dakota

Today’s guest author is Ryan Wilburn, one of our youth participants on the South Dakota mission trip.

When people asked me where I was going for my youth mission trip this summer, I told them what I knew, that we would be helping out on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. I had it in my head that I would be stuck in the middle of nowhere for a week in the middle of summer. I had no idea that I would leave after an amazing seven days with my eyes opened and my heart full of the love of Christ.

Rosebud, South Dakota was quite unlike any place that any of us had ever seen, let alone experienced. We spent a week immersed in the culture and lives of the Lakota people, playing alongside their children, and working to create a future for the culture.

I was blessed to be able to work with the children in Parmalee, a town outside of Mission where we stayed during the week. I never thought that it was possible to love strangers as much as my friends and I loved those kids and I didn’t think that a lunch of fish sticks and frozen peas could be so fulfilling. I don’t think any of us expected to be leaving Parmalee in tears on Thursday night, but we were surprised by a lot on this trip.

The kids we met in our four short days taught us so much about life and loving unconditionally. They didn’t let their happiness be dulled by the fact that their community is trapped in a cycle of poverty or that they live in a place where the unemployment rate is higher than any of us could even imagine. The smiles on the faces of those children and the light in their eyes opened my eyes to what joy truly is. While some of us were able to see our work pay off before our eyes as we laughed and read and gave piggy back rides, another group was moving furniture and painting walls in a community center in Mission.

Throughout the week I wondered what their work meant and how it was impacting the people we came here to serve, and these questions were answered when we met Shane Redhawk who, with his wife Noella, created this safe haven for youth in the community, a place where they can reconnect with their Lakota culture while avoiding the trouble that is all too common among the young people. So while the work projects crew wasn’t able to see the impact they made immediately, their work was crucial in the improvement of the community center that will be help so many people for years to come.

Every one of us made an impact on the people in those communities, just as the communities made a huge impact on us. I watched as God worked through every one of us, breaking down our barriers so that we could love and serve as the hands and feet of Christ. Now when people ask me about my mission trip, I jump at the opportunity to tell them about the Lakota people of the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and their rich culture and the buffalo and most of all the relationships I formed with the kids, the community, and my fellow youth. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a week of my summer.