Delightful days of Mission Awareness

We finished several delightful days of a Mission Awareness exchange with our SCJ sister schools and programs located in Mississippi. Twelve adults and eight students from the South spent time touring and learning about South Dakota and sharing part of their culture and heritage with our students and staff. The group began their tour in the Black Hills and Rapid City, and made the pilgrimages to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse on Saturday. Driving here on Sunday they came via Wall Drug and the Badlands. More than anything else, the group was tickled by seeing prairie dogs scampering around the Badlands.

Monday and Tuesday the Mississippi youngsters rotated around our classrooms to present information about their part of the country. One group presented on famous Mississippians, like Brett Favre and Oprah Winfrey. One section was on entrepreneurs, like the founder of FedEx, Fred Smith. In the 2nd grade classroom Kathryn remarked,

“Entrepreneurs is a big word for second graders. Those are people who have a great idea, and make it into something important. Can you think of any entrepreneurs?”

While most were puzzled, one student’s hand shot right up. “God” he wisely said.

A second group put together a musical presentation that taught our Native American students about Blues and Gospel music. One of their eighth grade students sang beautifully for us. Our students made percussion instruments out of corn, rice and beans and shook them in time with the beat. One group showed our students about the agricultural products the Mississippi River Delta is famous for, and yet another introduced our students to famous people involved in the Civil Rights movement.

We split our staff into two groups, so that each morning half of them could attend presentations about the pastoral ministry, educational programs, housing efforts and social services that go on in their part of the country. I saw many of our staff nodding heads and agreeing that working in economically disadvantaged areas, many of the issues are the same. Our staff was impressed and appreciative of their efforts, and we got many compliments about what we are trying to accomplish here in South Dakota.

Both days our guests prepared regional foods for our students and staff to feast on at lunch time. Yesterday’s menu included turkey with cornbread dressing, yams and turnip greens. Today we had pulled pork BBQ. Our kids love it all, except maybe the greens, but a certain yuck factor at anything new, especially in the line of vegetables, is typical of school aged children.

Monday afternoon the group toured the nearby Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservations. The trip included stops at a reconstructed Earth Lodge, typical of a Mandan village, St. Mary’s Church in Lower Brule, and a guided tour of the Sundance grounds. This afternoon our students had a chance to host and present. Our drum group played traditional songs, and our third graders were dance ambassadors. They demonstrated different powwow dance styles and  got all the guests on their feet to try hoop dancing.

Our archery students demonstrated the skills they’ve learned. Irene impressed us all by showing that she could hit the center of the target even while shooting lying on her back. (the next Katniss Everdeen?!) Our visitors were tickled to be asked to try their hand, and Rob, one of theeighth grade visitors, even got a bullseye! Our students sat with the guests and taught them how to make dreamcatchers. The end of the school day brought time to tour the homes and Akta Lakota Museum. We shared a meal of Buffalo Burgers, and parted with many joyfully shared memories.