August 10, 2012 – Fort Yates, North Dakota
“Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of expensive perfumed oil, and she poured it on his head as he was at the table. When the disciples saw this, they became indignant and said, “Why this waste? It could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor!” When Jesus learned of this, he said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a good service for me. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me! When she poured this oil on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:6-13)
We began our journey to Tipi Wakan many months ago. As our organizers prepared the way with our hosts, Pastor Boots and Jackie, many of us simply asked ourselves if we could commit the time and how we might serve. Prayer, some education, perhaps a personal need, and certainly support and encouragement from our families and friends helped us to make the choice to serve on this trip.
Miracles happened from the beginning as returning team members spread the word and our group grew from one church and a few to several churches and many. Meetings, emails, travel plans, logistics, and project planning dominated the months leading to the trip. The week prior to our departure, we gathered as a group in the Fellowship Hall of River Road Church to pray, break bread, build our team and share our dreams for the experience ahead. Laura Lee, our mission team leader, asked each one of us to describe what gifts we could bring to the people of Standing Rock. Some offered gifts of practical skill. Many offered spiritual gifts. Still others offered the gift of flexibility and patience, as we knew from the reports of Pastor Boots that a sudden storm had ripped part of the roof off Tipi Wakan, and we might have to scrap our original plans and adjust to the situation on the ground.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a functioning facility and the reassurance that all of our original plans would be realized. The roof had been temporarily repaired, the inside water damage had been cleaned up enough to use the facility and insurance would be able to cover the worst of the damage. The second miracle in as many months. As we reflected today on the accomplishments of the past week, Pastor Boots urged us to consider our work here in Cannon Ball as more than construction, more than VBS, more than feeding and cleaning, and more than medical care. Pastor Boots and Jackie reminded us that with every small interaction, every conversation, every act of caring, every simple service we provided to the residents of this community, it was as if we were the women who broke the alabaster jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus and honor “God with us.”
Today was a day of closure and reflection for the team as we wrapped up our service, reviewed what worked and what could be improved, and prepared for our return home. So, it seems in keeping with our growth together that our last activity was to attend an “annual” powwow at the community of Bullhead outside of McLaughlin, South Dakota. We came as many individuals from separate congregations with hopes, dreams and aspirations. We leave one community of faith with a common dream to continue our fellowship. We came with expectations of service and leave having been served. We came to honor the Sioux people of Standing Rock and leave having honored Christ himself. Amen