God's work continues as faithful servants are called, and will be called, to places of ministry all over the world. Last month, thirty six ago, I answered the call of God to work for Him at Wounded Knee, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation among the Lakota Sioux people. After only two years of ministry, I had to leave the post for personal reasons, wondering what would become of the mission there. Last summer, though, it thrilled my heart to see the land once again, as my wife and I dropped by for a visit. I was encouraged to found out that others had taken up work, and that great improvements had been made in every facet of the ministry.
When I arrived in 1980, fresh out of seminary, with great aspirations as a newly appointed Home Missionary, my thoughts were much about the people (about a hundred who lived in the village and surrounding area) and the property (about five acres). Begun in the early half of the 20th century, the land had been acquired by the Church of God (Anderson), and they began sending missionaries to win the people to the LORD. I had read all I could get my hands on about the mission, prepared myself as best as I could for the work, and was sent with much enthusiasm to carry on God's work at Wounded Knee.
There were many signs of past work in the area, both religious and secular. Several old church buildings were in sight from the mission (some still being used), including the early missionary Catholic church (long since abandoned). Over the hill was the village of Wounded Knee, which was actually a plot of government built housing - mostly in bad repair with individual houses without windows. Just down the road from the turn-in to the mission compound, the burned ruins of a community store were still heaped up after the 1973 American Indian Movement (AIM) uprising. On the property itself was an old building, which had been the original church (being used during my time there for a fellowship hall), the new teepee chapel (pictured above), and an well-used trailer in which my family and I lived.
My work there was as a restart-up ministry. Little had been accomplished since AIM had destroyed so much of the property, and the will of the people, seven years before. My missionary mentor from Anderson came to visit me during my first year there. When he saw the ruins, he said "history dies hard." The people and the place were still hurting, in many ways like so many of their ancestors throughout their history. I did all I could to tell the people about Jesus' love for them and show them that God cares for them. By the time I left, it seemed that I had done so little. But others followed me, the church continued to send missionaries, and the LORD never gave up on the ministry there.
I went on to other fields of ministry, but my heart was touched in such a way that I'll never forget the people and the place of Wounded Knee. God's work does continue there! And for His grace and mercy shown us all, who have been called (and will be called) to work for Him there, I give all the glory to our heavenly Father.