Together for Hope, CBF Rural Poverty Initiative Together for Hope is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s twenty year commitment to community development in twenty of the nation’s poorest counties. These counties are located in five regions of the country: Appalachia, the Black Belt of Alabama, Mississippi River Delta, the High Plains, and the Rio Grande River Valley. Focal counties are in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas. Began in 2001, the Rural Poverty Initiative is in its sixth year. TFH has been at work in South Dakota since 2002. The four poorest counties there are Buffalo, Shannon, Todd, and Ziebach. Buffalo county is the poorest county in the United States.These four counties are home to three Lakota and one Dakota Indian Reservations. Crow Creek, the only Dakota tribe, is located in Buffalo County. The Lakota tribes are Pine Ridge, Shannon County; Rosebud, Todd County, and Cheyenne River, located in Ziebach County. Per capita income ranges from $5,500 to $7,500.
Year of Discovery, 2006 This has been a year of orientation for the Kesner’s. After Chris Thompson’s resignation in 2005 we became the CBF facilitators for Together for Hope High Plains in February 2006. We have been working with Chris and Dana’s Warm Embrace organization since 2003, but these new TFH responsibilities still feel brand new, and, at times, are overwhelming.Warm Embrace began in 2003 as a project to provide Comfort Items to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Since then six churches continue the ministry there, with projects in Eagle Butte, Bridger, Cherry Creek, and Red Scaffold. Chris and Dana continue to coordinate the work of these churches through Warm Embrace, Inc. Together for Hope High Plains works in close concert with Warm Embrace and continues to develop other ministries as well on the Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Crow Creek Reservations. Since April, we have made five trips to South Dakota. Our first visit was to Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River in April. The last of May and First of June we pulled our Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer and visited all but one of the reservations over a period of almost three weeks.The last of July we were part of Liberty, MO, Second Baptist Church’s, mission trip to Cheyenne River Reservation. Come September it was time for the national Together for Hope Team Meeting in Rapid City. This meeting concluded with tours of Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River led by Lakota residents Byron and Toni Buffalo, Leon Matthews and Ata Jack.Our final trip was in November, when we pulled a cargo trailer loaded with clothing, quilting fabric, toys, some furnishings and other items to three of the reservations. First stop was at Crow Creek, followed by stops in Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge.
We have learned a lot, met a lot of key Lakota people, and increased our awareness of reservation needs. Most important has been the continuation of some relationships and the beginning of others. Pray for us as we seek to help interested churches and persons channel their resources in the most productive ways possible to increase hope among these descendants of our original American ancestors.
Coats and Blankets for Pine Ridge “You are God’s angels!” He said it two or three times while we were unloading the truck.
This was our first contact with David Lays Bad, a Lakota minister who lives with his family on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He, along with his wife, Ella, and their five children; Napoleon, Mike, Esther, Mariah, and Elijah helped us unload twenty-four large leaf bags full of coats, blankets, and other items. It was a delight to get to meet and visit with them . . . along with their eight friendly dogs.
A highlight of the visit was David’s testimony. “I decided they were not getting it right,” he said, as he proceeded to tell us of his decision to follow Jesus as savior. “I go to the Baptist Church at Sharps Corner when I’m not preaching somewhere.” “I’m really more of an evangelist,” he said. “I just want to help people know Jesus.”
Ashworth Road Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa and First Baptist Church, Smithville, MO were very generous with the donation of coats. Clay and Beverly Green of Independence, MO collected blankets and toys for the trip. Many of the coats and blankets were new and the rest were only slightly used. Before delivery, we go through all collected items to make sure that none of our donations reflect poorly the presence of Christ.
Women on Mission, Second Baptist Church, Liberty donated two large containers filled with tooth paste, soap, and shampoo. Senior Adult ladies from a Baptist Church in Kansas City gave more than 100 hand-knitted cap and scarf sets. We gave some for distribution on Pine Ridge and the rest we left at Crow Creek Reservation.
New Opportunities on Crow Creek Reservation
“A few days ago, when we decided to do some cleaning at the community building, we discovered eight people sleeping there,” says Lisa Lengkeek, a Crow Creek Tribal member and worker.
We met with Lisa and Lori Traversie on our last trip to the Crow Creek Dakota Sioux Reservation. Lori is also a Tribal employee. This was our first meeting with them and our first trip to Crow Creek.
Desiree Furman made these contacts possible. She sent an email to Kathleen asking for quilting fabric. In a later communication Desiree told us about Lisa and suggested that we contact her. To shorten a long story, we delivered a bag of fabric to Desiree’s home on the 9 and met Lisa and Lori on the 10. We were disappointed that we didn’t get to meet Desiree. Although we made the delivery to her home, Desiree was ill and unable to meet with us. We did have a nice visit with her mother and her mother’s husband.
Back to the homeless people. Tribal officers suggested to Lisa that she ask us if we could provide cots for the homeless. Tribal members do not normally become homeless because other family members make a place for them. It is not unusual for three or four families to live in the same house. “A three bedroom house will often have a different family living in each bedroom,” according to Lisa. Now that they have discovered some of their people homeless, the tribe is providing a shelter for them. “They have heat in the building, but they don’t have any beds,” Lisa says.
They have beds now! The CBF staff in Atlanta chose Crow Creek as the recipient of their 2006 Christmas gift. Their gifts allowed us to purchase ten cots! UPS delivered the cots to Crow Creek in early December, 2006! We pray that God will use them as worthy expressions of Christ’s presence!
Pray that Together for Hope will find other ways to be the presence of Christ to these wonderful people. We are exploring the possibility of helping the tribe begin a combination food pantry/soup kitchen as our next project.
~Kathleen & Ray Kesner
Together for Hope is part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Rural Poverty Initiative. CBF is a fellowship of churches across the United States who value traditional Baptist beliefs including salvation by grace, through faith; the priesthood of all believers, local church autonomy, and sharing the gospel through word and deed with people throughout the world. Rural Poverty Initiative is the Fellowship’s commitment to offer hope in and around the nations poorest counties. Together for Hope is the mantra which drives this commitment. Four of these poorest counties, located in South Dakota , are Buffalo , Todd, Shannon , and Ziebach. These counties are the focus of Together for Hope, High Plains. TFH is CBF’s twenty-year commitment to offer hope by listening to local leaders and others who work among the poor in the nations poorest counties, building relationships of trust, learning about existing resources, and walking alongside them to find solutions.
ABOUT THE FOCUS COUNTIES
American Indian Reservations are located in all four TFH, High Plains counties. Crow Creek Reservation comprises approximately half of Buffalo County . Rosebud Reservation is in Todd County . Shannon County is a part of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and Ziebach County is in the Cheyenne River Reservation. High unemployment and low income are present in all four counties. Per Capita Income averages from slightly over $5,000 in Buffalo County to above $7,000 in Todd County . Alcoholism, diabetes, teen suicide, and alcohol related automobile accidents are also significant and continuing problems. Being the presence of Christ while respecting and relating to the age old Indian culture of Lakota people who live in these counties is a major concern. Past failures to respect the Lakota culture must be overcome. We seek to live out the gospel while celebrating with the local people their traditions and their culture.