Ellen Mustoe has returned from a mission trip to Eagle Butte, S.D., among the Lakota Indians. She worked with the people of First Baptist Church of Eagle Butte in conducting a Vacation Bible School program and other outreach activities from June 16-25. She said the weather was cool.
The Washington resident traveled with 30 others to the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. The mission has been going on for about 20 years, and Ellen has participated for 16 years.
At least five different churches from Virginia and Maryland participated on the trip, although the project is now based at the Hamilton Baptist Church in Hamilton, Va.
The Cheyenne River Sioux are one of the currently recognized five tribes of the Great Sioux Nation. Based at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in north-central South Dakota, the tribe suffers from extreme poverty, Ellen explained. Ziebach County, one of two counties where the reservation is located, ranked as the country’s second poorest county in 2010. Data gathered through various sources suggest an undeniable connection between alcohol abuse and a higher-than-average mortality rate on the reservation.
“It has a high rate of depression and suicide,” said Ellen.
According to the 2010 census, the reservation’s population of some 1,300,has a median income of less than $18,000, and an unemployment rate said to be as high as 87 percent. Less than one quarter of the children who start school at age 5 will graduate from high school, and most who do graduate go to college, trade school or into the military and do not return to the reservation.
“Although Eagle Butte is only two times zones away from us,” Ellen said, “it has been likened to a third-world country.”
In Eagle Butte, Ellen served on a team that conducted a Vacation Bible School for 85 children and 12 adults. Supper was provided each evening before study time, and a basketball camp brought in some 25 teenagers in Eagle Butte and another 15 in nearby Cherry Creek. Another activity, Ellen said, was the “Off the Wall,” program, a time of fellowship and Bible study that she said attracted many of the young people who used to hang out in front of an abandoned building across the street from the church.
Also assisting the team were Pastor Ben and Tiffany Farrar of First Baptist Church, and Amy and Clint Holly, local Baptist missionaries serving at the Windswept Academy Christian School, where Clint is headmaster.
Ellen said many positive results have occurred from the missionary work. One of the young people who attended at an earlier time said he wanted “what the people who came from the Virginia churches had,” because they were so joyful and loving. His name is Ivan Uses the Knife, and he has put into print several Christian comic books that he designed and wrote.
If you would like more information about the mission project, call Ellen at 540-675-3233.