Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” ( Luke 9:35-38)
The Haskell LIGHT House sits on the edge of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. The college is home to just over 800 Native students from around the country, and just like, Jesus, Bob Prue (Rosebud Sioux) has looked onto this crowd and had compassion. As the ministry leader for the Haskell LIGHT Campus Ministry, Bob's job is to reach out to the students - the "harassed and helpless," the "sheep without a shepherd."
Before you make assumptions, Haskell LIGHT is not your typical campus ministry. One hundred percent of the student body is Native and if we were to take those 800 students and compare them to national statistics*:
- 32% (256 students) grew up in poverty
- 22% (176 students) came from a home on a reservation
- 22% of the females (176) and 12% of males (96) have attempted or planned their own suicide; nearly all of them have been affected by the suicide of a friend or family member
- 84% of the women (336 students) have experienced violence at the hands of a family member or boyfriend; 225 of those (67%) experienced sexual violence
- 15% (120 students) have some sort of substance dependence
- only 5% (24 students) call themselves Christians
- and according to graduation rates, only 112 (14%) of them will eventually receive a bachelors degree
*These are not exact numbers of students on campus but numbers based on national averages
Even with help, Bob has two full-time people working with him and numerous volunteers, the harvest is too big to tackle alone.
Thankfully, Bob isn't alone.
Located in Anchorage, Alaska, are two amazing people ready to help in this situation - reaching out to hurting souls with the love of grace of Jesus Christ - Rick McCafferty (Inupiaq) and Clair Kee (Navajo).
When the workers are few, Lutheran Indian Ministries calls for backup.
In March, Rick and Clair brought LIM's Sacred Grounds program, a Biblical-based group counseling program created specifically for Native peoples, to the Haskell campus and reached almost 200 people over the course of the week.
The core method of Sacred Grounds is simple: telling your story starts the healing journey.
After a large group presentation, where Rick, Bob, and Clair shared their stories of abuse and trauma, participants were separated into small groups and given the opportunity to share their own stories in a safe setting.
"I would say this event was the start of something great on the campus," Bob explained. "I believe it really sparked something in peoples' hearts and made many of them realize that it's okay to talk about issues of abuse. We were there and available to talk about a lot of the tough issues we face as Natives, and the students really responded!"
Rick reiterated Bob's feelings. "Clair and I spoke with some students about some really intense issues, and they were really attentive and listening to what we had to say. So often abuse is kept a secret in Native families, and this was the first time many of them were ever given a chance to speak up. It was really productive and rewarding!"
Beyond the sharing experience, the students were encouraged to express themselves through a drum circle and karaoke.
Bill Paris, fulltime volunteer and Bob's assistant was especially moved by the musical portions of the week.
"I loved seeing the students share their musical talents!" he said. "Some young men accepted Bob's invitation to play the drum and sing for the group, and they asked if they could come to the LIGHT House to play our drum after the program was over! One came in the next day and spent some time talking with Bob, so it has opened up a new door for inviting students into our space! Not to mention, the karaoke was just plain fun. We had everything from 50's crooners to rap!"
Alongside the students, a number of faculty and staff from Haskell participated in the program.
"The staff was really touched that we came in and did this whole program for the students," Rick explained. "A number even stated that they were interested in being trained to further help those they come in contact with every day. I think we really set the stage for healing to happen on campus which is really exciting, especially since Bob is here to help them as they move forward in their healing journey."
The Harvest is Ready
Our workers are still few, but the harvest is ready. If we saw one thing through this week-long program, it was that many students at Haskell want, and need, the healing that comes only through the Holy Spirit, and Sacred Grounds is the door through which we can lead them there.
As we have stated before:
BEFORE NATIVE PEOPLES CAN PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF CHRIST (EPHESIANS 6:11-17), THEY MUST FIRST TAKE OFF THE CLOAK THEY HAVE BEEN WEARING—THE CLOAK OF PAIN AND DISTRUST THEY PUT ON TO SHIELD THEMSELVES FROM HURT AND HAS COVERED THEIR LIVES AND THEIR SECRETS IN DARKNESS.
As we move forward with Sacred Grounds at Haskell and our other ministry sites, we will continue to help bring Native peoples out of the darkness and into His glorious light through the work of the Holy Spirit!
To God Be The Glory
When we look at the way the pieces have come together to make such a profound impact in one week, we can only give glory to God.
God gave Rick and Clair the ability to lead and teach the Sacred Grounds program and the willingness to travel long distances to do so. God gave Bob the heart and experience to connect with the students. God opened the door at Haskell and let us in.
Bob asked the group at the end of the program, "Was Jesus exalted to his rightful place this week? Yes, He was. We put him first, and He showed up! I'm excited to see what God has planned next!"