Highlands Youth Group Heads to Pine Ridge Reservation; Volunteers to Speak November 8

Here is a press release we received from the Melrose Highlands Congregational Church.

The Melrose Highlands Church, UCC, 355 Franklin Street, invites local residents to the Sunday, November 8th worship service. Why? Read on.

The church’s Senior Youth Group has tackled challenging mission trips in the past: helping with rebuilding in New Orleans after Katrina, and supporting the homeless and food insecure in New York City and Washington, DC. But in June 2016, these committed young people will set out on perhaps the most challenging trip yet, to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota Sioux since the late nineteenth century.

Why “most challenging”? Because the counties that comprise the reservation are among the very poorest in the nation. Unemployment is between 80% and 90%. The health disparities are stunning, Pine Ridge life expectancy is the lowest in the USA, and the suicide rate is more than twice the national average. This is where 17 teens, ages 14- 18, in the Senior Youth Group, 11 of them from church families, and three adults will travel next June to help in any way they can. They will work under the auspices of Re-Member (www.re-member.org), a nonprofit organization founded nearly 20 years ago by Protestant ministers but not directed or controlled by any denomination. Annually, 1000 volunteers from churches, high schools, colleges and corporations participate in Re-Member’s program, which combines home repair projects, community outreach, cultural presenters, as well as visits to such nearby sites as that of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Re-Member says of its work: We are not repairing a natural disaster that happened in minutes. We are working in the midst of a manmade disaster that has existed for generations. Their goal for the thousands of volunteers who have participated in the site visits and cultural immersion is that they will join a “growing circle of advocates standing in solidarity” with the Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge.

For the November 8th service, the church will welcome several members of Sanctuary UCC in Medford. These veteran Pine Ridge volunteers will participate in the service. Joy Harris and Bruce Roberts co-led three trips to Pine Ridge; Kathy Williams, who will preach, was a trip leader/volunteer; Elizabeth Binckes, a BU student, participated in the 2015 trip. They’ll be joined by Tosa Two Heart, an Oglala Lakota woman pursuing an advanced degree at Bentley. They will do a detailed presentation for the SYG after worship.

The Senior Youth Group has always done its own hands-on fundraising for mission trips, as they will for this one. But this trip will cost about $1250 per person, or $25,000, so a go-fund-me site has also been set up: https://www.gofundme.com/southdakotamission. These young people hope you’ll consider supporting their trip and are grateful for any assistance.

Join with the Highlands Church community for this service. It has lessons for all of us.

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