Saturday, May 26, 2007

Part 2: Brothers and sisters

A theme that arose from our mission trip was that of unity. In many ways, the Lakota are disunified--those who live in poverty, sadly, do what they can to keep others from overcoming. They would rather see everyone remain stuck in the same miry condition than to allow talented and ingenuitive individuals rise up to something better. If a few could overcome the poverty and the addiction, then it could really be a springboard for change within the whole tribe--and there are many talented artists, storytellers, and entrepreneurial minds among the Lakota. But the masses put great effort into keeping these individuals out of work, and they scorn one another for their successes... and it makes me sad not only for those who are being oppressed, but for their oppressors as well, who are indirectly perpetuating their own oppression.

These are the words that we shared with the Lakota community in Whiteclay. I may have been the messenger, but the message was the Lord's.

All of us on this earth are God's people... and though we are many and varied, God designed us all, and desires for us to live in peace and to be unified through Him. Psalm 133 declares, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" We are the brothers and sisters, and it is God's Spirit that can bring us--each family, the whole of the Lakota people, and every tribe and nation of the world--together in Him.

The tradition of the Three Sisters--corn, beans, and squash, grown together in a single plot of land--began out of the understanding the Indians had of a need for unity between the crops. Corn stalks grow strong and tall, providing a support for the beans, which need something sturdy to climb. The beans, in return, support the corn stalks, and they add their nitrogen to the soil so that future generations of corn might have the nutrients they need to prosper. Spiny squash vines run along the ground, defending the entire garden from predators. Their shallow roots keep the soil moist so that nothing dries out.

The Three Sisters portray a beautiful picture of the unity that God intended for all His creation--most importantly for us, His people.

But what if the corn, towering over the squash and beans, blocked them from receiving the sunlight? What if the beans climbed the corn stalks to pull the corn down? What if the squash vines tangled and choked the corn and the beans? If the crops lived in competition and strife, they would destroy each other. And they would ultimately destroy themselves too, since none of the Three Sisters can prosper without the help of the others. If each tried to pull its sisters down, then none would thrive.

So it is with God's people. We are all brothers and sisters through Him, and He says that it is good and pleasant for us to live in unity. Envy, strife, anger, jealousy, are seeds that our enemy sows to try and bring division among us in our homes and our communities, to choke out our love and concern for each other.

But our Lord Jesus commanded us to love one another, just as He loves us. He demonstrated that love in His life on earth, and in His sacrifice on the cross for each of us. When we love each other as Jesus taught, then we do not pull each other down--instead, we lift each other up and help each other grow.

This is unity that God declares good and pleasant--and our unity as brothers and sisters in God our Father brings greater abundance of life to all of us.

While we were there, God used us to turn this:

Into this:

What began as a solidly packed hill of dry, flaked earth, permeated with weeds and lifeless, rotting tangles of grass roots will become a Three Sisters garden, at the southern border of Whiteclay. As we dug weeds which were anchored deep into the fallow ground, as we tilled the soil and broke up the rocky hunks and made it arable again, as we planted and watered the corn seeds which will shoot up within days, we prayed that God would do this very same work in the hearts of His beloved, the Lakota. There is much dry, packed soil to till, and I believe that we were used to begin that process. Only God knows when the harvest will be ready... but I have faith that there will be a harvest, that beauty will come once again to Whiteclay--in the physical land that has been reclaimed for God, and in the people who are now so content with their filthy rags because they cannot imagine anything better. When this garden begins to flourish, when God transforms the southern gate to the reservation into a place of great physical beauty, may the Lakota begin to see their Creator's beauty and harmony reflected in the land itself. May they begin to conceive of God's plans to prosper them, to give them a hope and a future... and may they unify themselves as a people, under God their Father, to let go of the old and take hold of the new! The missionaries who live with these people are Bruce and Marsha Bonfleur, and their name is French for "good flower." Thank You, God, for sending Good Flowers to such a desolate land and a hopeless people, to bring them hope for new life!

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