Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Our names are Jason and Sarah Whalley. We are writing because the Lord has recently put it on our hearts to start a long-term ministry on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to minister and help the Lakota tribe that lives there.
To give you some background: Pine Ridge is home to the Oglala Lakota Sioux nation, which has a total tribal membership of approximately 40,000. The reservation’s history includes the victory at the Battle of Little Big Horn, and the devastating massacre at Wounded Knee. The land is the economic base of the reservation, as the major occupation is cattle ranching, hunting, and fishing. The Lakota people, however, are in dire straits.
The unemployment rate is currently around 85 percent. Pine Ridge is one of the poorest communities in the country, with 97 percent living below the federal poverty level, and an average family income of just $3,700 per year. Further struggles in this community include an adolescent suicide rate that is four times the national average, and high rates of alcoholism, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. An average of twenty two people are sharing a 2-bedroom house, the houses themselves are in need of repair, and more than half of the homes on this reservation are without electricity. Overall, the living conditions there are nearly as dismal as in Haiti. In addition, the school dropout rate is astronomical.
Our goal in Pine Ridge is to start a ministry that we hope will accomplish the following:
- Establish a church that will teach the Lakota people the love of Christ
- Establish a Christian school that will give them a proper foundation to rebuild their community.
- Establish a series of businesses on the reservation (not just gas stations and smoke shops) that will greatly reduce the unemployment rate and generate income for the Lakota people
- Make any and all necessary repairs to the existing houses on the reservation, and build additional houses to accommodate more families
- Instruct them in other farming and gardening methods – they currently do not know much about farming other than cattle ranching, as they are primarily hunters and fishers
- Purchase and erect solar collectors to provide electricity as space permits. The Lakota nation already own Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE). For more information, visit their website: http://www.lakotasolarenterprises.com One idea we had for how to use the donated funds is after building or repairing the houses on the reservation, solar panels would be installed on every roof. This would allow the people to sell the energy they collect to LSE. As we have mentioned earlier, though, many of the homes on the Pine Ridge reservation are without power, since the people there cannot afford to pay their electric bill. A way around this could be to buy a few shares of LSE stock for each tribe member. This would legally make each tribe member a partial owner of the company, and the solar panels installed on their houses would be LSE property. This would allow each member of the tribe to produce energy, and thus would make it more affordable for tribe members to power their homes. There is also the option of installing high-efficiency, lower cost, and more environmentally friendly wind turbines. Our personal preference is the WindTamer brand turbines (see their website: http://www.windtamerturbines.com ).
As you can see, our goals for Pine Ridge are high. However, we have faith that the Lord would never ask us to do anything that we were not able to accomplish, provided that we follow His lead. We are aware that we are almost rebuilding a community from scratch. This will not be a short-term mission, but we are in this for the long haul. Ultimately, we hope that the Lakota people will be able to take over the majority of the ministry and businesses themselves, and that the Lakota people will eventually reach a point where they no longer need us there on a full time basis. In fact, the idea behind the businesses is to help fund the church, the school, and the building and repair of houses on the reservation.
Starting a long-term full time ministry can be a costly venture in terms of financial resources and manpower. We are confident, however, that the Lord has blessed this venture, and that it will be well worth the effort. We are asking you to take this into prayer, and to ask your congregation to do the same. If the Lord has put it on anyone’s heart to give to this long-term mission – either in the way of funds or helping with some of the work – we would be very grateful.
If you have any questions regarding the nature of our mission, please feel free to contact us:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (585) 331-6194
Thank you very much for your time and consideration on this mission. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Yours in Christ,
Jason and Sarah Whalley