I have to admit that I did not have a clue what I was going to do when I got there. First aid, yeah, no biggie. I do that all the time at sporting events and on trail patrol. But why was I on my way to the Yankton Sioux Reservation with no team, no support? Just some vague notion, as Sgt. John Ordway said of the Corps of Discovery, that “the Missouri calls.” Indeed, so strong was that calling on my heart that I broke into sobs when I first saw the big river in Yankton. Quoting Lewis himself, “The road took us to...the waters of the mighty Missouri...I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind has been unalterably fixed for many years."
Originally, the plan had been to ride our bikes from Yankton, on the Missouri River, to Wagner, about 50 miles northwest, as much as possible along the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail, then veering north at Springfield, to Wagner. There were a couple of problems with that; One, I was alone. Two, I did not realize that Yankton, despite it’s name, is not in the borders of the Yankton Sioux Reservation. Still I decided to try riding back and forth on the trail, collecting my car each time and moving it forward, then riding forward and back to the car. That lasted two times. I load my gear on my Bianchi Volpe, “Clark”, (named after William Clark) and rode from Yankton to Gavin’s Point Dam, and Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area on the beautiful Auld-Brokaw Trail, then from the dam to the end of the recreation area and back. It was all on a very nice trail, but the back-and-forth bit was kind of draining. We had planned to have a SAG van and driver with the team, but now the van was mine, the driver was me and I was the team. Then, as I was sitting in a shelter at the west end of the state park, eating my lunch and resting, the Lord put a thought into my head; Two words, “Prayer Ride”. In other words, don’t ride to the reservation, ride across it, praying in the Spirit as I go. What a concept!
I pedaled back to my van at the main rec area parking lot, energized not to push through, but to scout the trail, plan the course, then go to Wagner and take part in the ministry there. Once again, I was proceeding on…
As I started my “scouting trip” from the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, I came across two cyclists who were traveling the same route that I had planned, struggling up the six mile hill from Lewis and Clark Lake. Other than that, the route seemed pretty tame. Then, as I crossed Choteau Creek and entered the actual reservation, I started seeing groups of riders dressed in matching blue jerseys, more and more of them as I drove into Wagner. They were the college-aged riders from Bike and Build, an organization that “raises funds for affordable housing projects- Over six seasons, Bike & Build has contributed $1,643,145 to housing groups to fund projects planned and executed by young adults”. Still dressed in my L&C Trail jersey and bike shorts, I stopped and chatted with them about their trip…and another piece of the puzzle fell into place, but I wouldn’t know that for several hours. Parting from the B&B riders, two short blocks took me to All Tribes Fellowship Assembly of God, my base for the weekend. I met Elaine Harris and a number of others whom I would be working with at the “Day in the Park” the next day. But Pastor Tim was till “out in the field” working with other volunteers who had arrived up to a week previous, and were doing “helps projects” out on the reservation. Another piece fell into place. The Harris’ invited me to stay in their home, and even let me bring Clark into the house for safe keeping
The Day in the Park was a huge success! Over 800 people came and enjoyed a beautiful day, music, ministry and fun! We had a Prayer Ministry booth next to the health/medical booth. I did first aid (Nothing major.) and took blood pressures. We had free food, bounce houses for the many, many kids, and gave away over 350 book/backpacks, thousand of diapers, sweaters, hats, reading glasses and much more. Local Native American Christian musicians gave a free concert. The biggest blessing was that the tribal elders have asked Harris' to do this again next year. We, the Travelers have been invited by the youth pastor (with a very moving testimony) to come back next year and do a Prayer Ride across the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation, as well as the Yankton Rez. We have also been asked to bring team members to do helps ministry the days before next year's event, and not unlike the Build and Bike riders, we Travelers will be able to help in those projects, too. I also got to know KC Kopaska, who’s “Native American Ministries” was one of the sponsors of Day in the Park, and with whom we hope to be working with more in the future.
The next day, it would be time to begin the journey home. But first, I rode my bike from Harris’ house to All-Tribes Assembly for church. I was blessed by the testimonies that were offered about the events the day before, and then enjoyed a hearty meal of Indian frybread and salad, and got to know more of the people in that community of Believers. Finally the time came, and we loaded Clark into the back of Pastor Tim’s truck, and headed off to the west side of the reservation. We took my van and parked it in the abandoned town of Greenwood, on the Missouri River, then Tim and Elaine took me up to the point where the main road, SD Hwy. 46 crossed the road into Marty, the tribal capital, then down into old Greenwood. We said our good-byes, and I promised to be back next year if not sooner. As the wind, which had been blowing cool air from the NW all week, now howled hot wind from the south…the direction I was headed. I got started riding and started praying and singing. On a 15-mile ride that should have taken an hour or so, three hours later, hot and tired I pulled up to the van in Greenwood. On the way, I had enjoyed the kindness of strangers, including Sister Pat, a nun at the convent at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, the first Christian church in the Dakotas, and Wes Faust and his family, both of whom filled my bottle with ice water on that hot and windy day. (Wes also took the pictures of me riding my bike. Thanks, Wes!) I prayed and I rode, and realized that I have met some wonderful, amazing people, both Native American and white, and heard some awesome testimonies. I met a neat retired gentleman, Tim Yaw, who travels from event to event doing prayer ministry. I've seen other people who have traveled hundreds of miles to get outside of their comfort zone and help those in need. I have seen the need, first hand, as I did that "Prayer Ride" across the Yankton Reservation. And I know that I will be back. The Sioux Nation is my new Karelia. (Of course, if God opened the door for me to go back to Petrozavodsk and rural Karelia, I would go. I love Northwestern Russia and her people.) Right now this is the direction where I am called and I will go back, hopefully with a team that will do "Prayer Rides and Practical Ministry". (This is our new theme.) For as many as three days before the Day in the Park, people from as far away as Florida set about the task of painting, rebuilding, plumbing, lawn care, even traveling hundreds of miles to find as many children's school backpacks as possible, as far away as Sioux Falls. And I've seen the joy in the faces of over 350 Native children when they received their very own backpack, filled with school supplies.
We have been invited to return. We have been invited to do a Prayer Ride across the Lower Brule Reservation, in addition to the Yankton Rez again. We have been invited to hammer nails, paint walls and pray for those who are in need...and there are many. The third week of July 2010; Put it on your calendar now, and pray about it. I'm going back there, and I hope you will be with me.
This Traveler is proceeding on...