Rooted in Relationship
Nine years ago Good Shepherd started bringing high school youth and their parents (or other significant adults from their life) to serve and learn together at Wings as Eagles Ministry on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Over the years we’ve taken over 120 individuals (many multiple times) to this place to engage in this ministry. We do not frame this experience as a “mission trip”, though that is the language often used to refer to it.
It is a journey, a pilgrimage, a family reunion, and more. An unusual individual and communal undertaking. An inner journey as well as an outer – a journey towards but also a journey away from. The days are full of activity that exhausts the body, mind, and heart.
It’s a trip of great foolishness in many ways. It may not compute according to worldly ideals – but it’s not the world whose favor we have interested in gaining. The foolishness of Christ carries and guides those who travel. This experience confuses so much inside you, even as some things become startlingly and sometimes painfully clear.
Many churches undertake trips of this sort each summer but at Good Shepherd we have tried to be incredibly intentional and thoughtful in how we work, where we go, and what we are expecting. Lots of places go wide and cast a wide net to gain different experiences and perspectives. We’ve chosen to go deep and return year after year to this same place in order to gain a deeper understanding of the story of pine ridge and to form more consistent and steady relationships with the people we meet.
Answering the Call
There are so many great stories that have been crafted over the years and we’ve shared many of those with you. There are many layers of blessing and heartache in a journey like this. We are entering into a big and hard story of our history, we are also learning to be vulnerable with others in our congregation, we are working alongside our family members in a new and less personally controlled situation, and we are engaging our own questions and gifts and faith in ways we don’t always find space for at home. Going deep as opposed to casting wide has blessed us in unexpected ways over the years including gaining the trust of the Wings As Eagles staff and developing a style of service that is distinct from many other groups in terms of willingness, authenticity, respect, joy, hard- work, and light touch.
This summer we unfortunately had not been able to get a trip scheduled as we were busy preparing our youth for the ELCA National Youth Gathering. Not long after our return Pastor Lori called us in need. She needed to be with her mother in New York and yet there was work that needed doing. The idea of forgoing a week of ministry was complicating her decision to be with her family, which is a choice she often is faced with. Her hope was that our church could provide a small team of seasoned workers to perhaps come and take over for a week so she could be gone. She did not have another team that she had known long enough and developed a deep enough trust with that she could a) feel comfortable exposing her vulnerability with and b) trust to carry on the work of the summer in an respectful, responsible, efficient, and joyful way.
Sustained by the Spirit
So once again here we are. A small group of folks who have traveled here before as youth or with their children. There was not time to do a congregational collection or to responsibly prepare new travelers. We have come by caravan and our stay is not long but the work is blessed. An extension of the consistent ministry wings as eagles does, a continuation of the relationships that have developed over the past nine years, and a fresh opportunity for the Spirit to dance in and among us.
So although we’re already half way though our week here, and although you may never have been on this particular part of the globe, we would love for you to join us in prayer these next couple of days. Prayers for understanding, for humility, for dignity, for nourishment, for hope, and for unity (this theme from our sermon series has found its way into our conversations and connections here as well… that sneaky Spirit).Thank you for your prayers and we look forward to gathering and sharing with you all soon.