This summer we received an invitation to visit the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. We were invited by a pastor who lived there and we’re excited to go. We traveled almost 2000 miles to get there, and as we crossed the border to the reservation we realized how far away this was from what we call home!
The Rose Bud Sioux Nation in South Dakota is a nation of 25.000 people living on 2800 square miles of land. The land is vast, the summers are dry and the winters are cold. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F and winters going low to -30 °F with an average snowfall of 41 inches.
We stayed in a small town called “Mission” and found out that this was a mission, even more than expected. The church there was small. The first night we were only a few people, the pastor, the leader of the school, the worship leader and his wife, plus a family with nine kids! Even though the meetings had been advertised on the radio nobody from outside showed up! We realized that God had to give us a new strategy to reach the people, so we decided to make a bill payment. If Jesus came to announce good news for the poor, what would be more fulfilling that paying peoples bills?
Next day we went out with flyers and visited every corner of town, as many trailer homes as we could reach, every apartment, every street. As we knocked on the doors, the kids would answer. Many places we did not see the adults. Most people were friendly, and when we invited them for the bill pay they were very surprised. They had never heard of anything like this, and they all had bills that needed to be paid. One family had been without electricity for five months!
As we walked around and talked to people we could feel the hopelessness. So much poverty, misery, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment … there were only a few grocery stores in town, only one bank, a Family Dollar with next to nothing on the shelves and more than 100 miles to the nearest Walmart. I was thinking of the family in church with the nine kids. How do you raise your kids and provide for your family with little substances in such a desolate place?
We were “hope dealers”, dealing hope to the hopeless. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, so in this case, hope had to come before faith! We were speaking hope, declaring hope, singing songs of hope: “Let hope arise, let hope remain, the dawn is breaking, it’s a new day!”, expecting God to change the atmosphere.
Many people came for the bill pay, they brought their bills and entered the drawing. The first two nights we gave away 2 x 500 dollars, and Sunday morning we gave away 1.000 dollars. The money was donated by people in our home church and people that we met on the road, it was awesome to see how it all came together!
First night five people were saved. The pastor was crying. For the past 40 years he had never seen five people saved at the same time, he said. The following days more people got saved. I think we counted 21 in total. We saw how hope was restored in peoples lives, maybe they came for the bill pay but they stayed for Jesus. They did not hurry to get back home, those that came the first night came back, and some of them also brought friends and family along.
When we left with our team after service Sunday, we wanted to pack them all up in the car and take them back home to Orlando, but obviously, that can’t happen! We believe God has another plan. Jesus says, who should I send, who will go? I trust God will call and send people to fulfill the mission out there, he is the author and the finisher of our faith, and we believe that He who started the work will be faithful to complete it, not only in our lives but also in the life of the people we ministered to.
We left a piece of our hearts there, and we pray that we will be able to be back. Help us share the vision. Some of you have supported this trip financially, and we trust that God will call more people to support. Pray for Mission, pray for the reservation, pray for the Native Americans. Let hope arise!
You can watch the video from the reservation here: hope dealers in the reservation