I'm looking forward to seeing Carol* again this summer. And I'm looking forward to our eight middle schoolers meeting her as well.
Carol is Native American from the Lakota tribe. She's about ten years old. I first met her in 2011 on our church's first youth mission trip to Sisseton, South Dakota, in the heart of the Lake Traverse Reservation. Every year since then our church has taken a group of young people on a YouthWorks mission trip to Sisseton. We minister to the community in a variety of ways; Carol's favorite is Kids' Club. However, the ministry flows in both directions. We give; but we also receive and no one exemplifies that better than Carol.
Two years ago a YouthWorks staff member explained how they arrived in early summer at their local partner church. Before long Carol rode up on her purple bicycle, excited to make new friends. She did that throughout the summer, riding up to the host church every Sunday afternoon to wait for the vans and buses which would bring eager youth missioners to Sisseton.
"You see, Carol loves you long before she ever meets you," the staffer explained. "She loves you when you're back home, preparing to come to Sisseton. And once you arrive, she loves you all the more."
Carol is only 10 years old, but she's already taught me much about love and acceptance. I can hardly wait for our youths to meet Carol--along with others like her--in the Lake Traverse Reservation. And I hope our youths love them all even before they've met them.
Prayer: Loving God, may our love for others cross both cultures and miles. In Jesus' name. Amen.
*Carol is not the girl's real name
(Rev. David Schultz is pastor of the Orion UMC in the Spoon River District and chair of the IGRC Commission on Communications)