This past week, we were able to send 9 senior high girls out to Outlaw Ranch in Custer State Park for a week of service. Last year’s Mission Trip brought the Light of Christ youth down to Atlanta, Georgia to serve in an urban area. However, this year we decided to serve a different type of community. Outlaw Ranch is a Lutheran camp out in western South Dakota that is located, you guessed it, on a ranch. It is right outside of Custer, SD in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest. We were lucky enough to live, work, and play amidst some of God’s most beautiful creation in South Dakota.
It’s important to understand that there is an abundance of ways in which to serve a given community and that service shouldn’t be an act, but a lifestyle. We should constantly be aware of the needs of others and be willing to offer help in whatever capacity we are able. A big area of growth for us on this trip was developing that type of mindset. We are called to go out and accompany communities in order to fully understand their cultures so that we can best serve their individual needs.
We had a variety of work projects for the week, each impacting a different community. Our first partner for the week was the Black Hills Park Service. We had the opportunity to do some trail work for Custer State Park to maintain the accessibility of one of the trails. We helped clear the trail of over-forestation and over-vegetation and also helped reinforce water bars that direct the flow of water during rain showers. Our hard work helped ensure the longevity of the trail, and that future generations can continue to enjoy the park to its fullest extent!
Our second work project of the week was with Woyatan Lutheran Church in Rapid City, SD. Woyatan is a culturally diverse congregation that embraces all types of backgrounds, languages, and experiences based on the understanding that we all come from the same loving creator. Worships at Woyatan are a blend of traditional Christian elements and traditions of the Lakota people as a celebration of both cultures. We had the opportunity to work on their new retreat center, which will be used to house volunteer workers and native people attempting to find a new life in the city. Our youth also were blessed to be able to hear Pastor Jonathan Old Horse talk about his experience as an assimilated Lakota individual who came to know Christ later in his life. Pastor Jon was a wonderful example of what interfaith relationships can mean for our current day society.
Our final work project for the week was to help out with ranch chores at Outlaw Ranch. The Black Hills often experience severe thunder and lightning storms, and one had recently blown down several trees in the area. We helped transport the chopped wood to a more accessible part of the camp for campfire use in the future. Many hands make a big job like this fly by.
Amidst all the service work, we had time to play games, hike to the highest US peak east of the Rockies, canoe under the stars, paddleboard in the misty hours of morning, go horseback riding, laugh until we cry, and most importantly grow in our faith and attitude of service. I can truly say I was blessed to have been able to join them on this journey in faith. I saw so much growth throughout the week in each individual in the group, and I’m extremely proud of all the work they accomplished! Lord, let us learn to Pray, Love, Serve, Grow, and Shine Where We Are.
2019 Youth Mission Trip