By Rev. Bruce Taylor, Decatur United Methodist Church
Photo right: Two buses donated by Decatur UMC will be used to transport the children on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
In the summer of 2013, a youth mission trip of Decatur United Methodist Church formed the initial bonds between the church, the Chanku Waste (wash-tay) Ranch, and the people of the Oglala Lakota Nation residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. There the young people met the Hadden's, a family from Georgia who works full-time on the reservation tending to the needs of this poor community.
In April 2015, while on their way back to Georgia, Matt Hadden, his wife Amanda, and their three children made a stop at Decatur UMC to share further details of their work with the congregation.
The people of Decatur UMC were moved with emotion to hear the plight of the Oglala Lakota people at Pine Ridge. A few statistics tell the story: 90 percent unemployment (There are no employment opportunities in the region of the reservation.); 70 percent drop-out; 97 percent live below the federal poverty line; infant mortality is 300 percent higher than the national average; and teenage suicide is 150 percent higher than the national average. The congregation also learned that the Hadden's desperately needed a bus.
Following the Hadden's visit the response was the same from just about every circle of the church, "We have to do something!" The Holy Spirit ignited the church and in a dramatic display of God at work, $10,000 was donated, a 44-passenger bus was purchased, and a 20-passenger bus was donated. The larger bus was filled with needed supplies and delivered to The Hadden's on June 4, 2015. The smaller bus will be delivered in July, without a doubt filled with expressions of love and support.