By Carl Stagner
They may not agree on everything, but they agree on the mission. You have to understand: on the Pine Ridge Reservation, hope is as sparse as the vegetation. All of the mission teams that come to Wounded Knee Church of God in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, know that what the Lakota people need so desperately is Jesus. They don’t first need a lesson on a distinguishing doctrine of the Church of God. They don’t need bickering. They don’t need a divided church. They need Jesus.
Even in the United States, there exist cultures and regions that resemble third-world countries. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is one of these. Pastor Stanley Hollow Horn and his wife Sylvia have ministered in this reality since 2002. That’s why a clearly communicated mission with Jesus at the center is so important. “Since November 2002, I have learned to have a deeper commitment to Christ and to live out our mission statement, to show love and compassion to the Wounded Knee community, and to have compassion for the people and to feel for them and to really care about their salvation.”
The popular spiritual song says, “Give me Jesus.” Wounded Knee, a vital outpost of Church of God Home Missions, is happy to oblige. In this Native American culture, poverty abounds and alcohol abuse is widespread. Conflicting voices—from pop culture to the Lakota religion—clamor for attention. Amid the noise, Jesus Christ is proclaimed through service projects, VBS and community carnivals, counseling and recovery ministries, as well as simple presence among a people which much of Western society seems to have forgotten.
Throughout the year, teams from multiple denominations come for a taste of life on the reservation and a chance to experience missions without having to cross an international border. Jesus is the subject that brings them all together, in spite of some doctrinal differences, to accomplish these hope-giving projects. “One time I talked with Chaplain Obadiah Smith,” Pastor Stanley Hollow Horn explains, “and he said we are called the Church of God because we don’t have closed membership. The church is open to everyone who proclaims Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many of the people who come to worship at our church come from different backgrounds, including Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist, and Presbyterian. We are open to all of them.”
The daily grind is challenging, but Wounded Knee Church of God has been encouraged by seeing God’s hand at work in miraculous ways. “One thing I know is that the Bible talks about discouragement and it teaches that I am not alone in this work,” Stanley explains. “God teaches me that he is with me. God is handling this work. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to develop the church; we wouldn’t have our fellowship hall or have Emily here or the future Place of Promise. The Church of God has become a real focal point for the community.”
Pastor Stanley speaks of Emily Clark, who serves as associate pastor at Wounded Knee and Church of God home missionary. She was recently guided by the “Jesus is the subject” principle when the church hosted a work team from a Southern Baptist church. “The male youth pastor told me his male students had questions about me being a female pastor,” she recalls. “I told him what the Church of God believes about women in ministry. The male youth pastor and I agreed that we didn’t need to agree on that subject theologically, but that he could respect the position I held at the church.”
It’s not always easy to work with those who disagree on matters that charge our batteries as Church of God men and women, but it practically demonstrates the unifying power of Jesus Christ to a lost and hurting world. “We don’t believe in competition in the kingdom of God,” Emily explains. “We are all working toward the same purpose to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people so that they can experience the transforming love and compassion of God through Jesus Christ.”
To support the home missions work on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, consider the following options: Project #43.44357, Wounded Knee, South Dakota; Project # 43.54363, Emily Clark. Donate online at https://cgm.formstack.com/forms/nam_one_time_gift_copy, call Church of God Ministries at 800-848-2464 to make your donation, or mail your donation to Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018; for checks, please note the project number on the memo line. Thank you!