Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Rose is a Rose is a Rosebud

Rosebud.  What a lovely place name!  You might look at the name on a map of South Dakota and imagine miles of colorful flower gardens. You would be wrong.

The real Rosebud is a Lakota reservation in the southeast corner of South Dakota. Last week, a group of high school youth and adults left Philadelphia to spend a week there. We went to serve, to help wherever we could. We lived at Tree of Life, a ministry that has been in Mission for 30 years. Some of us ran a Vacation Bible School in the town of White River. Some of us worked onsite, helping with the food distribution, doing some painting. Our days were full of activity, but also full of revelation. For you see, things on the reservation rarely go as planned.

Painting with Tree of Life

The Christ’s Lutheran folks at Tree of Life spent a large part of their time unloading pallets from semi trucks, donations from various corporations. And what was donated? Fresh fruits? Vegetables? No! The trucks were loaded with cast-off items that could not be sold. Hundreds of pairs of high heels. Thousands of bottles of Mountain Dew. The Mountain Dew will contribute to the rotting teeth and the diabetes that afflict 80% of the Rosebud population. There is nowhere to go that would warrant dressing up in high heels. Halfway through the week, the food distribution was shut down. Tree of Life had run out of food.

VBS in White River was not smooth sailing, either. We’d brought the same curriculum we’d used

home in Oreland. There, 50 little ones enjoyed our VBS. They were brought and picked up by attentive and loving parents. Here, the children either walked a distance or piled in to our van after a
free lunch at the community center. Some of the older ones were already hardened by life, and did nothing but cause trouble.  They mocked our planned activities. They pushed and shoved and cursed. We tried to keep a vision of their home lives in mind. Raised by teenage moms or overwhelmed grandparents. Beaten. Neglected. What would it be like to be Jeremiah First-in-Trouble? Anessa Little Boy? Aiden Yellow Eyes?

So now we are home, haunted by memories of the people we were trying to serve. Hoping that things will get better (even though I was there 11 years ago and nothing has changed). It was a humbling week, without the gratification of making an obvious difference.

This Rosebud is full of thorns.  There is little chance of it ever blooming. Still, where there is life, there is hope. Education is a key, as are access to health care and decent food. Jobs. Habitable houses.  It is a long road ahead for the Lakota people, and no magic wand (or magic group of volunteers) to make it shorter.

In the end, we prayed. And we continue to pray with and for the people of Rosebud.  And we invite you to keep them in your prayers, too. 

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