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North Dakota, 2016 — by Mother Vivian

God is present at Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota. It is beautiful country – the flat, glassy lake and the buffalo against the deep blue sky. This is the 10th year Trinity has been in relationship with this community and it shows. Immediately upon arriving at the church on day one, we were greeted with warm hugs from familiar faces that had grown a year older. After worship, they ask about the activities that are available. We offer them choices of the crafts area where they explore painting, the sewing station where they can make teddy bears, the traditions station where they are taught how to bead or make moccasins or dream catchers, the science station with fun experiments, or the tie-dye station where they can make their own t-shirts.

This sounds like a typical children’s camp, but it is not. For most of these children being in a safe place where they are allowed to play and just be kids for a few hours is a new experience. One child had to be shown what to do with a blank piece of paper and a marker and was amazed at what she could create. They live in poverty, are hungry, show signs of trauma, and know nothing different. A few of the parents participate but they are the exception.

To me, they feel like a people who are lost. Some of the Elders are trying to pass down their traditions – language, arts, worship – but many in the tribe have no desire to learn the “old” ways. At the same time, they also do not feel a part of the American culture, but are lost in a space in between. Many have stated that they feel that we are family because we have stayed in relationship with them for so long. We show up, being the love of Christ and walking with them where they are, offering ourselves, our time, talent and treasure, to show them hope. By this we are making a difference – slowly, incrementally, but deeply.

God is present at Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota, and I was privileged to be welcomed into their lives and shown Christ in the world.