So many cornfields today! This morning we began our trek back home from South Dakota. Big shout out to the wonderful leaders on this trip. Amy Young, Nancy Stallard, Clara Maloy and Brian Maloy did an amazing job all week loving our students and encouraging them. This morning their help getting the cabins cleaned out and the students packed was incredible. Getting everyone going is always difficult and everything was seamless this morning. I think this was the most relaxed pack up day I have ever had in youth ministry because of their leadership and servant hearts.
Before we left we got to meet one last time with Don Lykins and the team at Dakota Sonshine. Don presented our team with a picture from their camps over the summer. He also shared with us how God has been moving in the Native American culture. Through the Lykin’s faithfulness over the past 13 years they have finally begun to reap the harvest for their labor. Their perseverance in the faith is so encouraging and inspiring. There is so much room for the Gospel to explode in their area.
After breakfast traveled from Dakota Sonshine to our hotel in Independence, MO. Everything went smooth on the way with no hiccups! Praise the Lord for that! When we got to the hotel we got together to debrief the memorable moments and what God has been teaching us throughout the week. It was so incredible to hear from our students what God showed and taught them. God was doing work this week! It was so wonderful to hear the many stories of how He was at work. I encourage you to chat with a student about what they found memorable and what God taught them over the week. You will be blessed by it I guarantee!
Thank you so much for all your prayers. Thank you for your support financially through Trivia Night and other things. We are so blessed to have a praying church and family members. Please continue to pray that God will move in the lives of the children we were able to minister to. Pray for the Lykins that God will fill them with wisdom and boldness to continue sharing the Gospel to a people who are in desperate need of hope and truth. Pray that God will give us safe travels in the morning back home. We are so thankful for you taking time to read through these!
I can’t believe that it is already Friday evening. It is amazing how quickly this week flew by. It was has been a wonderful week of serving and learning about God’s heart for the broken, lost, and forgotten. I am so proud of our students for their hard work and positive attitudes. Never once this week did we have to correct a student for poor behavior. Rarely did we have to get on students for being sluggish and unmotivated to do the work. All in all God has blessed us with a great week of service.
This morning we were able to knockout the trail build for Dakota Sonshine. Our students jumped right in with shovels, pick axes and rakes to get it done. I wish you could see just how they encouraged one another as they worked together. It is a wonderful thing to be in the presence of fellow believers, working together for a common purpose and lifting one another up throughout it. After finishing we took a moment to pray and dedicate the trail to God.
Afterward the students went out in groups of 4 to prayer walk the campgrounds of Dakota Sonshine. Without hesitation they began going out. It was great getting to hear their prayers; prayers for God to move and for the devil to have no hold over the children that would come to the weekly camps. We know that spiritual warfare is a real thing and that Satan is very active in this area. Prayer walking and asking for God’s presence in this place is so important for the life of the children that come. We pray that God will continue to be magnified in this place as the children see God’s power over the demonic.
After lunch we received news that 4 campers at Dakota Sonshine this week put their faith and trust in Christ! How awesome is that? A few of them got baptized this afternoon as well. Please pray for them as they have gone home. We know that in this culture there is a lot of shaming for those that walk away from the traditional beliefs. For many of these children their faith will be tested right away as they get home and their families shames them for their decision. They will have to make a decision to lose their family and follow Christ or lose Christ to please their family. Pray they will have the boldness to continue in their faith in God.
During the afternoon we took our last trip out to the villages. Throughout the week 4 of our students helped with the staff at Dakota Sonshine, since their jobs were done they were able to join in with the rest of the group. There were tons of great discussions out in the villages and that is because of your prayers. I know that one of our students had some wonderful conversations with a girl on her site and was able to give her her own Bible so that she would be able to continue learning about God. Another student was blessed to hear a kid ask him to read a Bible story after speaking to him about God all week. These are just a few of the many conversations that happened today. We know that God is alive and moving. It is so hard to leave these kids as we go, we have to trust that God will raise up workers to care for them, water the truth in their lives and see it come to fruition of genuine faith.
As we retuned to camp we took the night to go in town. We had a fun time visiting the Nicollet Tower, which gives views of three states. We also spent a moment driving up to the Minnesota border and hanging out by Lake Traverse. It was great getting to see our students let their hair down and be silly for a night (its one of the best things they do). We finished up our time out by getting ice cream at Dairy Queen. While at DQ we ran into two children that we had been ministering to all week. It was a joy to see them and they had a fun time getting to see us outside of the normal element.
This trip has been special. God has had his thumbprint all over it. I know that He will continue to make His name known here even while we are gone. We are thankful that He was willing to use us during this week even though He doesn’t need to. Thank you for your prayer. Thank you for your notes of encouragement, they mean so much! Please continue to pray for the children that we have been with. Their lives will go back to normal and that is not an easy life. Please pray for us as we travel. Pray that we will not stop sharing the Good News just because we are leaving South Dakota. Pray that we will continue the attitude we had here as we go home and get back into our weekly routines.
Today was an excellent day. We started off the day finishing a couple different projects. Our posthole digging crew was able to set the poles in position for the fence to go in. Not only did they work hard but their posts where in a pretty straight line! Meanwhile, the rest of the students worked tirelessly, carrying dozens of rocks up a hillside to reinforce the trail to the zipline. The trail has been suffering from erosion and we know that adding rocks, trees limbs and rebar will give it protection for many years to come. Thankfully, we were able to get the majority of this done so tomorrow we should be able to finish.
After serving and eating lunch we gathered together in our teams to head out to our various villages. Good news today! Our team going to Enemy Swim was finally able to gain access to the area and minster to the people there. They had a large group of kids that were incredibly responsive to our teens serving them. It has been so wonderful to see our students serve these kids from broken backgrounds. As a youth pastor, really just as a Christian, it brings me so much joy to hear our students sharing the Gospel and Bible stories with the kids. Not only this but how they show unconditional love to the kids is staggering. It is amazing how honest and real they are. I know that God is not only working in the lives of the kids at the villages but He is also teaching so many valuable things about life, Himself and themselves while they are at it.
After going out to the villages we had free time and devotional time. Today’s devotional was all about showing God’s Heart for the Nations in the Psalms and Prophets. It was great getting to hear from our students how the individual passages moved in their minds and hearts. In case you want to know what passages we studied you can Click Here to read them all. It is a blessing to know that God cares for all people and that He sits enthroned above all things. Nothing is above Him and nothing can overpower Him. What a great God we serve.
As we closed out our night we watched the movie, “War Room”. I felt this movie would do a good job encouraging our students to pray in all circumstances. It may seem that the kids in the villages aren’t receiving our words and it may seem they don’t care, but we know that through prayer God can move in ways that are impossible to man. We know that He can change hearts toward Him. So the challenge has been made for our students to be fervent in prayer throughout the evening, morning and in the villages. We know God is going to do great things, whether we see it or not!
Before I sign off I want to let you know something else that happens on our mission trip that I haven’t mention. Every night we close our meetings with what we call the “Encouragement Hot Seat.” I choose 5 students each night to go in front of their peers to be encouraged. There is always a bit of nervousness on whether or not some students will share but that is always quickly relieved by the rush of hands in the air to love and uplift their fellow friends. It has been so heartwarming to hear our students love one another and encourage one another every night. It truly creates a sense of unity on this trip. I know that God will use that to bring us together as we go out into the field tomorrow.
Tomorrow is our last day of ministry here in South Dakota. We know that the mission doesn’t end until we are face to face with God in heaven. We also know that tomorrow will be tough. For many of our students this will be their last chance to see these kids. It will be hard to say goodbye to those they have been ministering to and loving all week. Please pray that God will continue to use us to impress the Gospel into the lives of these children. Pray that He will give us hope as we leave and say goodbye to the children we have loved for the past 4 days. Pray that God’s name will be exalted in all the earth!
Day 4 was a great way to celebrate the middle of our mission trip. Last night we got to see God’s glory on display through a beautiful lightning storm. Consequently, in the morning we waded through lots of mud and water. Thankfully, this softened the ground for our team that was posthole digging for a fence to go around the water slide. The teens worked so hard and did an excellent job. We also had a crew helping clean up the grounds and another that jumped back into the creek to collect rocks for reinforcing the trails around the campground. All in all our students rocked it (pun intended) and did it all without complaining. I am so proud of how they are serving the Lord with glad and sincere hearts this week.
Due to the rain we finished up earlier with our service projects and dug into our devotionals before lunch. Today in our devotionals we learned about how many of the familiar passages we know and love in the Bible actually have a message we tend to gloss over. That message is how God always has a purpose to bring glory to Himself among all the nations and in all the earth. We see this played out in the entirety of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” During our discussion this evening the students responded with a desire to go out and be blessing to all peoples.
This afternoon we sent our three teams to the different villages to work with the local kids. Our team that goes to Enemy Swim ran into another snag at their site so they joined the team at Agency. This worked out great! All of the students have been so great with the children. The children we are working with come from many backgrounds including neglect, poverty, abuse, etc. Some of these kids welcome you with open arms while others make you prove your love to them, pushing your patience to brink. I am so proud of how our students have loved these kids unconditionally and worked together as a team to share the Gospel in word and deed. We hope that even though we have only 3 hours with them each day that it will make an impact on their lives to know that God loves them the way that we have loved them this week.
As we got back together at the campground we met for our evening lesson. We debriefed the day out in the villages, discussed the devotional and I shared a little bit about our ministry of reconciliation from 2 Corinthians 5. We know as Christians that God has blessed us so richly. We have the greatest hope and the greatest joy, the truth that we, hopeless sinners have been reconciled with our perfect God through the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the hope that we share with the children in the villages. That is the hope that we have to give with one another. We know that as Christ has reconciled us to God we to can reconcile our relationships with one another.
Thank you so much for your prayers. God has been answering prayers. We have seen our students unify in wonderful ways. We have seen children receiving our message with joy and gladness. We have seen joy on the face of Don Lykins as we have served around the campground. Please pray that God will continue to open doors in the lives of the children and their parents. Pray that we will be bold to share our faith even when it seems it doesn’t make sense to these young children. Pray that our minds will be so focused on God’s glory over ours in everything that we do.
Day 3 is behind us, and it was a great day watching our students jump in and show the love of Christ. The bridge project we began yesterday, which you’ve certainly seen pictures of on Facebook, was completed today and looks outstanding. The students all dove into the project and took ownership over the different tasks needed – definitely awesome team building.
After lunch, we loaded up the vehicles and headed out to our respective villages – Old Agency, Sisseton Housing and Enemy Swim. Thank God, we had an excellent first day out in the villages with no major issues and lots of excited kiddos looking for CSM Students they remembered from last year. What a blessing! Sadly the Enemy Swim team was rained out in their location, but they took advantage of the weather and drove around praying for the homes, the village, the kids, the next few days, even the small churches on the edge of the village. They drove over to meet the team at Old Agency fully knowing that God clearly wanted them to pray fully over the Enemy Swim village before starting back there tomorrow (Wednesday). As our teams got back together we heard story after story of how God was being shown through our students even in the midst of rowdy and unruly children who need the Gospel more than anything.
Tonight we showed the students “The Drop Box” movie, which was outstanding for them to experience. You can check it out by clicking here; highly recommend it with a box of tissues. We had some brief discussion; they seemed to be processing the hard reality of the world around us. It’s difficult to see the forgotten, the hurt and neglected children of the world and not want to protect and love them all. More than likely, tomorrow’s work project time in the morning will have some good follow-up discussion. (A little background: Tue-Friday morning we work at Camp Dakota Sonshine, the mission we’ve worked with for years, and then in the afternoon we disperse to the three villages we’ve built connections with to spend time with the children who live there.)
Keep praying for open doors and receptive hearts. Even after we leave and the children have experienced Jesus through our actions, words, love and attitude – they have a hard life. Even with the opportunities they have at Dakota Sonshine thorough the year, their families may not believe and in some cases actively pull them away from Jesus. They struggle to know how deeply they are loved, if by no one else than Jesus. Pray that the Spirit moves in their lives here and gives us the wisdom to know how to love them well.
Today has been a wonderful day of service. We spent the whole day doing service projects around the campground. I am so proud of our students! They worked hard in the warm sun and they did it all without complaining or grumbling. They were good to make sure and help out however needed.
Our main project for the day was working on the bridge that connects the property over a creek. As history serves, we built the bridge five years ago but the path has been slowly eroding away. We were able to dig out some of the dirt, place rocks (which were gathered from the creek) and reinforce trouble spots with cement. The students jumped right in with gathering rocks, digging, leveling ground, and cutting up wood to place as a barrier. We hope this will keep the path in good shape for many years to come!
Other than this, many of our students weed whacked, mowed, and cleaned up around the camp to prepare the grounds for the campers arrive tomorrow afternoon. I am excited to see how God moves here at Dakota Sonshine and on the reservations with all of our students.
God has been teaching us some pretty awesome things too. If you would like to see what we are learning in our devotional times you can click here to get the PDF. We had some great discussion in our evening debrief. I also gave out the challenge from John 13:34-35 for our students to love one another as Christ loved us. We know that if we are to have any identifier as true Christians it will first and foremost be by our love for one another. As we go out on the sites and as we interact with one another throughout the day we are challenged to love one another.
Pray that God will give us open doors to meet new kids on the reservations. Pray that we will live in unity with one another loving each other as Christ loved us.
On the road again. Nothing like an endless picture of cornfields, roadways, and semi trucks! Turns out all of our labor from the day before proved fruitful because we have arrived safely, smoothly, and excited! Everyone is settled into their rooms for the night. One of the highlights from arriving was seeing Jack Young (who has been working here all summer) get to surprise his mom at dinner tonight. It was wonderful; tears were shed, as they should!
We got to meet with Don and Teena Lykins and get the run down on what to expect for the week. This week we will be going out into villages beginning Tuesday. We are planning to minister to the families and children in Sisseton Housing, Agency and Enemy Swim. We look forward to seeing old friends we have met over the years and creating new bonds to share the Gospel.
Along with going out to the villages we will do some projects around the camp. We plan to do posthole digging for a fence, perfecting the trail we worked on last year and tiding up maintenance chores around camp. Our students are excited for the opportunity to minister and serve. We can’t wait to see how God uses us for His great work.
Before I sign off for some much needed rest, know that God has been doing amazing things here at camp. Don and Teena have reported that the camp has seen 41 teens come to faith this summer! That is a huge number and is indicative that God is working in great ways. Secondly, they have baptized 20 people! One of the coolest stories was how one of the mom’s came to pick up her son and mentioned a desire to get baptized herself, something she had wanted to do but was unable and they were able to do it right then and there! It is wonderful to see how God moves. Though there are many great things there’s also lots of spiritual warfare as well. We have heard stories of hardships and demonic presence. We know that God is greater and will protect us so we do not need to be afraid. But please continue to pray for peace and His presence in all that we do.
Thank you for your prayers and your time! -Ben