"I was in Pine Ridge at the first of the Month when the benefits were being handed out. So that’s when all the checks arrive, right? And alcohol sales are prohibited on the Indian reservation, so thousands of Indians travel south two miles to the northern community of White Clay, Nebraska. If you have ever been there, you know White Clay has about 10 businesses. Four of them are liquor stores; 3,000 cans of beer sold everyday from one store on average. How sad it was to see! And these are the things we see in concentration there, but you and I see them. We see the same problem happening for the same reason in many cases in our own communities. How sad it was to see these Indian people laid out on the sidewalks, sitting in the ditches along the roadway, and staggering down the street.
I was there to serve a group of about 40 local mission leaders who were, for the first in an unprecedented way, putting not only their heads together but their hearts together to try to solve a problem. They said it has never happened before like this. They have for decades been banging their heads up against a wall trying to figure out how to help the Lakota people. And, in our discussions together, it became very evident that federal benefits weren’t helping the Lakota people. And, not only that, short term mission trips weren’t helping them either.
This was confirmed when I had a conversation with a guy named Bruce who leads a ministry called Lakota Hope. And, he said, “It’s time, James. Short term mission trips really aren’t helping. Boy, they come and work hard, and they paint, and clean up, and they do all sorts of stuff. And, they have great intentions but the consequences are not so good. We think it might actually be perpetuating the problem rather than solving it.” He said, “I am changing the way I am doing things. Every short term mission trip leader that contacts me that wants to have a group come to my mission to help. I am writing him or her a letter and it’s going to say, ‘I no longer want you to come and do for the Lakota people; we want you to come and be with the Lakota people.’”
And I thought Bruce has got it, and it resonated with me. It seemed like Christ. And though when we look through the gospels and we see all the things Christ did and the miracles He performed, we are awe struck and wowed by it. I’m afraid that sometimes we forget all He really wanted to do was be with His people. He did not deliver the demoniac just to set him in his right mind. He wanted to be with him. He didn’t touch the leper just to cleanse him; it was He first loved him and wanted to be with him.
Then I thought about the joy was set forth with Christ. The reason for which He endured the cross was to be with us. And, I thought about the cross again, just like you and I thought many times, and we have wept as we think about the agony and the blood and marring. And I have never pictured this before, but for the first time ever, as I pondered on this, I thought there was surely a joy in His heart that probably could be seen on His face when you were close enough and heard in His voice as He turned to the man hung beside Him and said, 'I tell you today you- will –be- with -me.' That was His joy."