For the past four Decembers, I have traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with a team from our church. We partner with Wings as Eagles Ministries who live and work among the Lakota people on Pine Ridge.
Pine Ridge is such a complex place. The land is vast and beautiful with the earth showing off her wrinkles without a hint of shame. The layers and gradations of colors in the chiseled and wind-eroded cliffs are vivid testimonies to the countless years that have passed. Oh, if these hills could speak – what stories would they tell.
Stories of painfully slow work at the hand of wind, water and ice as they transformed the landscape into what we see today. And as they continue to transform it into what future generations will see tomorrow.
Stories of beautiful people like the Lakota who lived in harmony and respect with the created world.
Stories of blood spilled and promises broken as nations like the Lakota were deliberately and systematically destroyed.
Stories of a proud people broken and diminished – generations lost to despair and hopelessness.
Stories of Lakota veterans who served their conquerors in foreign lands only to return to die in empty fields – numbed and silenced by alcohol.
Stories of children swaying in the breeze at the end of ropes because they experienced the end of hope.
Stories of new generations desperate to end cycles of defeat and replace them with new victories over timeless enemies.
In the darkness that appears to permeate Pine Ridge, there are beautiful glimmers of light breaking through like the dawning of a new day. Lakota who are rising with a new vision for their people. Friends of Lakota who are walking in step with their brothers and sisters. Young Lakota children with dreams that are not yet crushed. And the Light that has been there all along – the Creator God who has wept over a broken land and a broken people; the Just God who has raged over the injustice done in His name; the Redemptive God who has never stopped working to bring new life out of a dry land.
May we see that we still have so much to learn from our Lakota friends. May we be on the right side this time. May we stand with God and not against God. May we be an active yet humble part of supporting the Lakota in redeeming that which we helped destroyed.