A group of 7 youth and 9 adults from the church will leave early Saturday morning for a six hour drive to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota - a "Third World Country" by poverty and living standards. There we will participate in the work projects, cultural presentations, family interaction, and other programs of the group Re-Member - formed more than 10 years ago to work with the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Volunteers come from across the country for a week long immersion. This is my third trip - first with my youth group from inner city Cleveland.
Re-Member is specifically a "non-evangelical mission," founded by folks from United Church of Christ congregations, particularly in Michigan. For the many church groups who come every year, it is an expression of their Christian faith. But the purpose is not to convert the residents on Pine Ridge. Missionaries bring their agenda. You might say we bring an agenda too, but it is one of listening and working with - not giving to. That is an important reminder. Though we are there to do some very hard work - especially housing repairs - we are not there to do anything we haven't been invited to do because we've listened carefully. And thus, over the years, relationships have been built and trust between members of the Lakota nation and Re-Member is very strong.
In my next post, I'll give some of the statistics that account for the term Third World Country.