2019 Pine Ridge Reservation Trip


A mutual encounter

June 16th, 2019

High schoolers and a significant adult in their life will leave for their week-long pilgrimage to Pine Ridge Reservation Sunday, June 23.

Good Shepherd has been organizing trips to the Reservation for ten years through Wings as Eagles Ministries, an organization that assists in relief for Native American communities, particularly youth.

Pine Ridge Reservation’s poverty rate is estimated at 53.75%, with some estimates exceeding 80%. The U.S. average is 15.6%. The health, income, and education disparities in Pine Ridge as compared to the rest of the country are staggering. As a result, Wings as Eagles Ministries focus much of their effort on building strong communities with opportunities to succeed starting at a young age. This includes getting children and teenagers access to daily resources, meals, educational opportunities, safe communities, and instilling hope.  

Good Shepherd has done this pilgrimage through Wings as Eagles Ministry for the last ten years to continuously build upon their relationships there. Wings as Eagles Ministry has been a part of the Pine Ridge community for 18 years and operates by listening and responding to the needs of the community and growing a mutual relationship.  

Much of the trip participants work during the week will be playing with the children, like doing arts and crafts, and making food during the day. At night, the group has a chance to process the day, which is an opportunity for high schoolers and their significant adult to have conversations they may not have often at home.  

“It’s interesting to watch high school kids and their understanding of the world and as they move into college and how different cultures relate to one another … and watch them process and navigate that,” Sarah Iverson, director of spiritual programming and development who organizes the annual pilgrimage each yearsaid. “But it’s also been rich to watch adults shake their control issues and become a different version of themselves than what I get to see here. It’s been great to watch kids take the lead in front of adults and watch their confidence grow as they lead, as they embrace, as they do all of these things.” 

The trip is a mutual encounter where the participants are both hosts and guests. Participants organize activities and serve food as hostsAt the same time, they stay in the Dream Center – a building made by Wings as Eagles meant as a community center for the Pine Ridge youth – as guests. Sarah described the trip as one where participants will encounter themselves, each other, and God in new ways. Throughout the week, Sarah said she hopes the group can be a “vessel of transformation” so the world can look more like the kingdom Jesus Christ would want it to look like.  

Upon returning from the pilgrimage, Sarah hopes the encounters that the participants have will motivate them to serve and spark change.  

To carry all of that weight and to just be in the moment with that kid who wants to get a piggy back ride and to not miss the encounters and what can happen in those individual encounters,” Sarah said. “But then also to come back and say, It can’t just be that encounter. Now that I know, now that I’ve seen, what will I do?’” 

Want to hear more about Sarah’s experiences at Pine Ridge? Click here.

Day 1

Heading to South Dakota

June 23rd, 2019

The group left at 6:30 a.m. and arrived to the site at 8:00 p.m. The total travel time was about 14.5 hours (including the time change).
Day 2

Opposing Emotions

June 24th, 2019


Love was our destination

Karen Burkhartzmeyer

As I write this, the sky west of Wings as Eagles has gone from layers of spectacular pinks and orange to dark purples as the sun sets on another day. To the east of the Dream Center, ominous dark clouds provide a dramatic backdrop for lightning bolts that move across the sky both vertically and horizontally as a storm rolls in over the vast landscape…

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Day 3

Showing brokenness in different ways

June 25th, 2019


A new perspective on the Last Supper

Grace Nemeth

Today was full of new adventures and challenges. Waking up this morning was more difficult than Monday. The tiredness and ache, inside and out, made for a more quiet and thoughtful morning. Our devotion this morning gave most of us a new perspective on the Last Supper. We all pondered on the line “He broke it…”

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Day 4

Severe thunderstorms

June 26th, 2019


Life lessons and insight

Heather Swartz

Happy 17th birthday Ella! This third day on the Rez was a lot to process, so it’s hard to know where to begin. The kids were dropped off at the Dream Center, and I played with Heaven and Kirra, two girls I knew from my last pilgrimage out here…

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Day 5

Heading home

June 27th, 2019


‘Everyone is family’

Kirstin Poppen

Today was a mix of emotions, happy and sad, as it was the day that we left the Dream Center and began our journey back home to Madison. The morning started off with a breakfast consisting of whatever was left in the kitchen. After breakfast, we packed up our stuff and loaded the bus, but before we left, we had one last worship…

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Day 6

Final reflections

June 28th, 2019


Life lessons and insight

Sherri Swartz

We left the motel at 6:30 AM and had a quiet bus ride, with many people back asleep, until sometime after we crossed the Missouri River back to eastern South Dakota. At a rest stop we encountered humidity for the first time in several days. We are just visiting, catching up on outside life with the help of our electronics, and starting to anticipate what awaits us next back home…

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