Ministry takes Bible school to reservation
By Linda Braden Albert | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eddy and Kathy Dye didn’t intend to end up living on an Indian reservation for four years. In fact, Kathy said in no uncertain terms she wouldn’t do it — until God changed her mind.
The Dyes recently spoke of their experiences while living on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in the north central part of South Dakota. Eddy, a dentist, provided dental services to the residents and at the same time, he and Kathy shared their faith in Jesus Christ. They returned to their home in Walland in July 2011.
Eddy said the Indian reservation encompasses 3.2 million acres, where much of the movie “Dances with Wolves” was filmed.
The adventure had its beginnings 25 years ago.
“I was watching the news one night and saw a story about the need for health professionals to come to Indian reservations in the United States because there was a shortage of them. I was in private practice, and I watched that and wondered if they had a need for volunteers. The next day, I called the head of the Indian Health Service, and if they did, I was willing to go anywhere in the United States for one week and work. They called me back a week later and said the greatest need at that time was at the Cheyenne River Reservation in Eagle Butte, S.D.”
There were no hotels or restaurants at the reservation then, so the Dyes spent the week camping.
“We camped in a place where Lewis and Clark had been,” Eddy said. “They didn’t have anything 25 years ago. There was nothing except the post office and a bar.”
Eddy worked at the two clinics there.
“I was smitten with it from then on,” he said. “The Lakota offered me a job, and my wife told me, ‘I will never move to that place that had no trees whatsoever. We will never go there.’”
Change of heart
In 2007, Eddy went “kicking and screaming” on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. When he returned, he told Kathy it was time for them to do something different.
“I started praying about what we felt like the Lord was leading us to do,” Eddy said. “We wanted to be productive for the Lord in our old age.”
That road to missions led back to South Dakota.
“For the 20 years prior to that, every two to four years, I would call the Lakota up there for no particular reason other than to see how they were doing,” Eddy said. “My wife had already told me she was not going back, so I knew that was a dead end. So I called back and the lady who had been my assistant there 20 years before said ‘Dr. Dye, there is a critical need here now for a dentist. Can you come and help us?’ I hung up the phone and told Kathy what she’d said, and Kathy said, ‘Let’s go.’”
Kathy said, “It was just a God thing. Honestly, I had no desire to go there after that one week. But we ended up staying four years.”
While the Dyes were there, fellow Sevier Heights Baptist Church members visited and brought Blessing Boxes, similar to Samaritan’s Purse’s Shoebox Ministry, at Christmas. Amy Higdon and her children, Jacob, now 17, and Maggie, now 19, participated.
Amy said, “We would go out into these places in the middle of nowhere, and as soon as we got out of the truck, children would come literally flying out of the houses.”
The outlying areas — Red Scaffold, Iron Lightning, Thunder Butte — rarely receive missionary visits because they are so far from Eagle Butte, the main area. This, however, is where the greatest need lies, Dye said. These towns lie in the two poorest counties in the United States, Dewey and Ziebach counties, where alcoholism is at 75 percent, unemployment at 80 percent, and Dye said, “Hopelessness is 100 percent.”
Bible school in a box
The Higdons visited at Christmas time in 2008 and 2009, and while still on the reservation, Maggie Higdon suggested returning in the summer for a Bible school. The youth brainstormed, and came up with the idea of Bible School in a Box. A team returned in the summer of 2010 and 2011 and are planning a return trip in July this year. Fundraisers include bake sales, car washes and rummage sales such as one coming up Thursday through Saturday at Millers Cove Baptist Church in Walland. There will be furniture, clothing, household goods, baked goods and more.
The most important ministry of the group is bringing hope to the Lakota children, who are normally left to their own devices and get little attention from adults. Kathy said the fathers are non-existent, and the majority of the mothers are drunk or on drugs.
Jacob Higdon said, “There’s always a kid on your shoulders, on your back, all the time. It’s the most exhausting week but a good kind of exhaustion.”
The society has an innate distrust of everyone, Eddy said. The only way to break the cycle of hatred, alcoholism, drugs and gangs is for the Lakota “to turn to the Lord,” he believes. He said the spiritual and physical nourishment provided by people who care enough to minister to the residents has already been showing results.
“They need a heart change, and that’s why we’re doing this,” Eddy said.