Gathering each morning with fellow students for coffee and conversation over scripture is not the average routine for a college spring break. However our group from Iowa State Lutheran Campus Ministry did just that before heading out on our mission trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. We were grounded in scripture and led by a passion for unity, justice and service.
Our primary project consisted of repairs to homes as well as the local retreat center. Shingling, placing skirting around a house, installing windows and bathroom flooring, and painting were just a few of the many home improvements we tackled. It was not uncommon to occasionally see flying screws and flushed faces, but we made it through our struggles and frustrations together in grace.
In addition to our time spent serving others, the group took time to visit a jewel of the reservation, the Red Cloud Indian School. Red Cloud is a Catholic institution administered by the Jesuits and Lakota people whose joint effort is a mission “to develop and grow as a vibrant Church, through an education of the mind and spirit that promotes Lakota and Catholic values.” We toured Holy Rosary Church, the Heritage Center, and the cemetery located on school grounds that holds the final resting place of Chief Red Cloud. Our visit to Red Cloud Indian School reminded us of the importance of continuous dialogue with everyone we serve, enabling us to nurture a loving relationship that shares an understanding of each others’ histories, traditions, and values.
The importance of sharing and understanding of each others’ backgrounds was part of another visit while at Pine Ridge. We were invited to Oglala Lakota College where we interacted with Lakota artwork, maps, photographs and plaques describing to us a history overview of contact between the Sioux Nation and European settlers. At a Lakota language class on campus, we were given the opportunity to ask questions about the language program and share about academic life at Iowa State University.
We will never forget Iowa State Lutheran Campus Ministry’s spring break at Pine Ridge. The Holy Spirit broke down all our expectations and humbled us in the midst of a beautiful people. Matthew 25:40 states, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” This is the attitude we came to learn and live while serving the people at Pine Ridge.
Written by Alexandria Sveum, Iowa State Lutheran Campus Ministry Student
Spring Break Mission Trip Leader: Jon-Scott Johnson