The Prettiest Darkest Place I’ve Ever Been

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I’m sitting in one of the most beautiful locations in North America — high on a hill in South Dakota. Below is the Missouri River — powerfully winding it’s way south and east from it’s origin in Montana. In any direction I look there are hills and trees and an occasional car doing some sight seeing.

The closest Wal-Mart is over an hour away.

At night, the stars are clear and crisp. God promised Abraham his descendants would be greater than the stars in the sky. For a suburban dweller, that promise indicates Abraham would have more than a half a dozen progeny. Look up in the enormous South Dakota sky and God’s promise is more impressive. If someone got out a canvas and a brush and painted what I woke up to this morning, they could finance a house on their earnings from the painting. It is very nearly breathtaking.

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I am sitting in one of the most beautiful locations in North America.

Down the road, there’s a town. It’s called Ft. Thompson. There are less than 2,000 residents. Ft. Thompson is in Buffalo County. Buffalo County is the poorest county in the United States. The per capita income in the county is $5,213. The average age is 18. There are four people per square mile. There is 57% unemployment. The houses were provided by the federal government when the federal government reduced the land the Native Americans were living on again and again.

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The people have grown dependent on the very forces who have pushed them to the brink of collective insanity. It’s ironic, really, and sad. A nation of warriors — the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota people — have been mutated into a starving, impoverished, frightened people. They were deceived for various reasons, and the rest of the country was told they were savages. Down the hill the government built a dam that flooded out the old town to help power the upper midwest and keep other non-Indian towns from flooding.

Who’s the savage, again?

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Our group has spent the day learning the culture of the people. We toured a museum, drove around the community, and watched a documentary tracing their background. Twenty-four hours into my trip, I’m struck powerfully and equally by two truths:

1. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

2. This is one of the darkest places I’ve ever been.

The contrast is at least interesting and at most overwhelming. How can God’s glory and Satan’s handiwork co-exist so obviously? Perhaps that’s a naive question. This certainly isn’t the only place where the two battle for territory, allegiance, and notoriety. The better question is, perhaps, why do they co-exist.

The only answer that I can think of is that not enough of God’s people have risen to the challenge of driving out the darkness and allowing God’s glory to shine. It takes work. The ministry we’re partnering with is a good one. But it’s a young one. And this is a hard field to plow. After over ten years of labor, the wonderful people here are only now beginning to see a harvest.

Pray for Diamond Willow Ministries. Find out more about them here. And journey with me through this week, through the prettiest darkest place I’ve ever been.

6 comments

  1. Thanks for a well-written and important essay, Titus. I’m sure your personal heritage makes the mission there even more interesting and important. I wouldn’t be surprised to see you involved more and more in native American evangelism/ministry.

    I remember that the leader is a “Rod” – funny how I remember that. Have you seen their ARM communion table baptistry? I have a photo of one in use somewhere in their ministry area.

  2. Such a small world! I’ll have to send you the picture of the ARM communion table baptistry to which I referred. It’s digital so it will be some type of high tech transmission… I’m so state-of-the-art on tech stuff…..

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