‘To love people, you have to know people’

College missionaries serve, learn on Crow Reservation
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Photo by Luella N. Brien

Hosanna Lutheran Church missionary John Terhurne, 21, holds up siding as Pretty Eagle teacher Jack Joyce secures it to the outdoor sports equipment shed at Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy last week. The group of 19 missionaries from Mankato, Minn. spent a week on the Crow Reservation, where they focused on connecting with community members and undertaking service projects in Lodge Grass, St. Xavier and Crow Agency.

Photo by Luella N. Brien

Most of the missionaries who spent the week on the Crow Reservation attend Minnesota State University, Makato, including exchange students from Pakistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Malaysia and Indonesia. From the left – back row: Adam Glade, Aaron Hansen, Praise Afolayan, Faraz Ali, Usama Pervac, Katelyn Dick, Sarah Bohrer and John Terhune; middle row: Ngang Eraou, Winston Coellins, Darren Scruggs, Linda Hoechst, Kennedy Day, Danielle Junker and Tino Tenda Mupanbo; front row: John Rettner, Irfana Babar, Brooke Bohnsack and Michael Williams.

Missionary Katelyn Dick, 27, has been traveling from her home in Minnesota to the Crow Reservation to complete service projects every other year since 2015.

“I feel it’s made me a better person,” she said. “I’m more well-rounded and a better member of the world community. The friendships I’ve made here have made me so happy.”

Nearly 20 people from the Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato, Minnesota made the trek to the reservation last week as part of an annual young adult missionary program out of Hosanna’s campus ministry at Minnesota State University, Mankato. About 120 young adults have gone on the mission in the last six years.

Dick, a senior majoring in painting and sculpting with a minor in art history, said her time on the reservation, primarily in the Lodge Grass community, has changed her in many ways.

“It’s difficult to put into words; I feel more love for the world and people,” she said. “I hope I get to come back again next year…it always makes me happy when I come out here.”

Originally from Port Washington, Wisconsin, Dick grew up near the Potawatomi tribe. She said coming to Lodge Grass has helped her – and, in turn, her family – understand their tribal neighbors and their history, which is not as simple as they thought.

“The history is more nuanced and complex than we are taught in school,” she said.

In addition to history, Dick said, she’s learned a lot about the Crow culture through lessons that taught her to be a better listener.

“I can sit and pause and take in a story, and I know it helps me understand the world around me,” she said. “I can take a step back, and listen and understand and have compassion.”

Pastor Dan Jacobs, who runs the Crow Lutheran Ministry – with churches in both Crow and Lodge Grass – was integral in bringing the Hosanna mission trip to the Crow Reservation.

Seven years ago, YouthWorks came to Lodge Grass and Jacobs met Hosanna congregant Cindi Jo Trahms. Since 1994, Youth-Works, a Minnesota nonprofit, has provided mission opportunities around the country, including many Indian Reservations.

Jacobs and Trahms began corresponding with each other and soon, Jacobs said, he invited the church to visit the reservation communities he serves – not simply to work on a project, but build relationships.

“If they were just going to come to do things so they could pat themselves on the back, it would be of no use,” Jacobs said. “The relationships are what matter. We were created to be in community with one another, to learn from one another,”

Hosanna Lutheran Church Campus Outreach Coordinator Sarah Bohrer first came to Lodge Grass as a YouthWorks missionary. The next year, she took up Jacobs’ challenge to connect with people.

“Doing stuff (in communities) is good, but relationships are better,” Bohrer said. “We are here building relationships.”

Bohrer leads the college ministry at Minnesota State University, Mankato. This trip, she said, takes six to eight weeks of planning and is partially funded by a grant; the church is dedicated to funding the rest with no charge to the participants.

Bohrer said some participants are students, while others are young adults in the workforce. Some, she added, are international students who are participating in the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program who want to see other parts of the United States.

This year, the mission group leveled a trailer and installed new doors in Lodge Grass, installed doors at St. Dennis Catholic Church in Crow Agency, and worked at Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy on the main campus in St. Xavier and at the Lodge Grass preschool. They slept at Pretty Eagle in the gymnasium and used the Lutheran church in Crow Agency as their base of operations, Bohrer said.

Bohrer, who has been here multiple times, is now comfortable knowing where things are and knowing people in the community.

“To love people, you have to know people,” she said. “I love seeing how all the students interact and seeing the relationships they build.”

John Terhurne, 21, has been on this mission three times. He said he comes back each year because he loves serving the community and working with Jacobs. He also is interested in the history and culture of the Crow people.

“I absolutely love it here,” he said after his team helped finish their project at Pretty Eagle.

Darren Scruggs, associate pastor at Hosanna Highland Lutheran Church, has gone on the mission every year since it started.

“I believe that everyone has something to teach us.” Scruggs said. “I come every year ready to learn.”

Scruggs initially came to Montana to meet Jacobs’ challenge to build connections with the community. The group didn’t do any service projects the first year, he said; they just met people, got to know them and tried to understand them.

“I was terrible at it,” Scruggs said. “The biggest challenge was getting over that, but every time we meet new people, they are so kind to us.”

It took the group about 15 hours to drive nearly 750 miles from Mankato, about four hours more than originally schedule due to a blizzard in South Dakota, first-time missionary John Rettmer said.

“While other kids go to Florida and party for spring break,” he said, “these kids give up their spring break to do this.”

Rettmer was asked to come on the trip by a fellow Hosanna congregant.

“I like learning about other cultures and my friend asked me because I had a truck, and I had the time to be able to go – I just felt I should,” he added. “It’s a beautiful place; I really enjoy the people. I enjoy making new friends, including the people who came on the trip.”

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