So, I had told Pastor Karen (K) that I would be back, and I returned in March of 2019 with 10 teenage girls and 2 adult volunteers. The kids were from my Church in Florissant, MO Atonement Lutheran. The week we arrived 2 feet of snow fell on the reservation.
We arrived and Pastor K did a wonderful job. She was a little stressed at the lack of progress on the parsonage and the center. One night she and I had a chance to talk. During our conversation she commented that most people say they will return but do not. And that I seem to like it out here. I replied, without thinking about it, that there is something about this place that calls to me.
At that she asked if I would consider a call out here. Without hesitation I said that I would, but I had to check with my wife. She said it would be about 18 months before she would want to leave but she wanted me to pray about it.
Meanwhile, back at Atonement, I loved what I was doing, and I truly love the people. I was teaching in the school 3 days a week and leading midweek confirmation. I was helping the church find itself and encouraging them to think about the church of the future. They were coming to grips with some financial issues. So, the concept of leaving had floated in my head.
Back to my conversation with Pastor K. We talked some more about what ministry was like on the reservation. I told her I was interested but that I needed to talk about it with Jackie and I would let her know.
Shortly thereafter I stepped outside to call Jackie. I asked, “Do you wanna move to South Dakota?” Her reply? “Sure, when are we going?” No what are you talking about no where would we go simply a “sure when are we going?” I laughed and said “No, no no, no you have to come out and see this place before I would agree to a call.
All my family had been to South Dakota Jackie, and I had been out to the black hills a couple of years prior. The kids had been here with me on YouthWorks trips. But none of them had ever been to Pine Ridge village. Emily had been on the reservation with us on the other end of the reservation.
I need to back up a bit. When I entered the Seminary Jackie and I talked about where we would go, we envisioned going wherever the spirit blew us. We would look at the open calls list on the ELCA site talking about different places we could end up. Jackie was scheduled to retire from teaching at the time I graduated from seminary. Honestly, we thought we would end up in the country somewhere, perhaps Montana.
But as graduation grew closer reality set in and with 3 kids in college living at home it was not a good time to move. At the same time, my intern site asked if I would consider taking a call with them and continuing in my role. After further discussions with the bishop, I restricted my call and the bishop agreed to the restriction and on the day, I graduated Atonement voted to extend a call to me as the associate Pastor.
We thought the idea of going somewhere new and different was gone.
That summer Pastor K called me and asked if I would still consider a call to Pine Ridge. She was ready to move on and return closer to her family in Wisconsin. During our conversation we arranged a visit for Jackie and me to visit the center in October of 2019.
More will come later.
God Loves you, but he may laugh at your plans.
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