Saturday, June 19, 2010

Our last full day in Rapid City!!!

Well we have made it! After months of prayer, meetings, and a ton of planning our time here in Rapid City has come to the end. We had such a great time, the memories will last for a lifetime, and many new relationships began and will continue long after the trip is "over". Today as a fun day, we had planned a few activities to see another side of Rapid City and to have some fun. The first activity was to take a drive through Bear Country USA. This place was a big drive-thru zoo where the animals could come right up to your vehicles (pictures to come). They had a bunch of bears, elk, deer, wolves, rams, and buffalo. It is one thing to see some of these guys from a safe distance at a zoo like Brookfield, but to see them up close and personal in a much more lifelike habitat was another thing all together. After lunch we headed over to Watiki Waterpark (indoor waterpark) for a few hours of play time and water fun. We finished off the main part of our day with dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. We felt that if we were going to go out in style, why not do something that had Buffalo involved, right?

We want to thank each of you for your support through prayer, and even financially. We had a lot of fun, totally bonded as a group, and connected with another group here in Rapid City in a way that nobody would have predicted. The service projects we did will stand out for years and will hopefully stimulate a desire to continue serving the least and the lost back home in Illinois. My hope and prayer is that this is just the beginning for our students, that their heart began to melt so that it can be transformed by the Lord and be used for His purposes and his Glory in the days, weeks, and years to come! It was a great time and words can't describe everything, but I think we are all ready to come home, so we will see you then!!!

God Bless,

Day 6- Work in Rapid City Pt. 2

On Thursday we switched roles and group B headed to help with Cornerstone Rescue Mission for the day, and group A worked at a home work site in Box Elder (A city a few miles outside of Rapid City).

The group helping with Cornerstone was responsible for assisting with a fair that was set up dedicated to helping homeless and under privileged families. One room in the church was filled with organizations who were committed to helping individuals and families get back on their feet and get whatever assistance was needed in the meantime. Another portion of the fair was a donation center where individuals and families could come and get free clothes, toiletries, blankets, towels and food. The team on this project helped point people to the right booths in the main fair center and on the other side helped walk people through the donation center. It was amazing to see how much food, clothing, and other products we were able to give away. We heard the words "Thank You" over and over again- but the reality is that these people were just as much a blessing to us as we were able to serve Christ as we served them!

Team A worked with Habitat for Humanity on a local home (as mentioned above). The team helped level some of the uneven ground around the house, lay some stone and brick around the house, and still others helped install some insulation inside the house. Although they did not do a lot of work on the main "fixtures" of the home- the work done was just as important. Some day a family will move into that home and will have a nicely landscaped entry way to their home. They will also appreciate the hard work of the insulation installers when winter comes!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 5- Back to work in Rapid City!

Well we are back in Rapid City and began our first of two service days in the community. We split the entire group into two teams and ventured off to serve at two different ministries. Team A (Led by Kyle and Ashley) headed to Cornerstone Rescue Mission ( While they were there they helped sort and fold clothes to be used in a thrift store, helped clean the thrift store, took a tour of the men's homeless shelter, and served a meal for those who came for lunch. Group B (Led by Dan, Eric, and Adam) served with Habitat for Humanity at their ReStore Outlet center( This group helped install a drainage pipe that they had to dig a trench for, some helped unload a semi truck full of supplies so that they could reorganize the truck, while others helped clean overgrown grass and shrubs to tidy up the appearance of the Outlet center. The hardest project of the day was removing 14 tree stumps that were located just inside the retaining wall in the picture above. We dug, chopped, and used all the muscle we could muster up to conquer those stumps and we came out victorious. It was definitely the hardest physical project that group of students had seen so far this week. Tomorrow the plan is to switch locations and experience the other work site.

Team A consisted of Katerina Newman, Kayla Bass, Noah Switalski, Tyler Gabrielle, Tommy Mallow and Ashley Riemer
Team B consisted of Elise Almer, Julia Dennis, Austin Merritt, Jacob Van Dyke, Albert Reyes, Josh Granger, Kevin Esposito, and Dan Riemer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 3 & 4- Work on the Res.

Early Monday morning our group headed out for a two hour drive to Pine Ridge Native American Reservation. This was the beginning of the real "work" on our trip and an opportunity for our students to really have their eyes opened to another culture and lifestyle much different than the life we see day to day in DuPage County. While on the "Res" we did a number of projects (we cleaned up, repaired, and painted two parks, mowed some overgrown lawns, unload toys, furniture, and clothes for a flea market, picked up numerous bags of garbage that was scattered everywhere, and served lunch at a soup kitchen) Each project presented it's own unique challenges, but gave plenty of opportunities for us as a group to interact with the Lakota people. I wanted to give a few of our students an opportunity over the next few days to share from their heart what they saw, felt, and experienced during their time in Pine Ridge.

"I thought that when I was on Pine Ridge, when I saw all the poverty and at some of the houses we were at, I realized how privileged my life was. All of the garbage that we were picking up and seeing the condition of the houses made me really think of my house and all the stuff that I have. I really don't need all of the stuff that I have. When I really thought about it, all the stuff that I have really could be better used for people that don't have anything at all."
-Kevin Esposito-

"Wow! That's all that I can say. It is hard to describe in words all of the poverty and sadness in Pine Ridge. Yesterday we spent 6 hours cleaning up tons and tons of trash in only two small places. The little kids have no adequate places to play because the parks are all run down. One of the locations we helped clean was a tiny shack with one bedroom and an outhouse. Over in one of the corners was a bush full of used and unused beer bottles and liquor containers. But this reservation is supposed to be a "dry" place. Later that day we took a ride through the worst parts of Pine Ridge. There were gang signs graffitied all over the homes and signs. In this part of town the trash is piled so high everywhere. Everywhere we looked we saw homeless people, dogs, and children sitting in the street. I am very glad that we had a chance to serve on the reservation. It opened my eyes to the kind of poverty and the family issues that exist. I never thought that there would be this kind of poverty this close to home!"
-Josh Granger-

"While we were at one of the parks we were working on, we met a boy named Keonraad (pronounced like Conrad). He was talking about how he would come to Pine Ridge Baptist Church on Sundays. I asked him if he would come with his family and he responded that he would ride his bike there every Sunday by himself. He also asked me if it was a good thing that he went to church. I replied "Yes". He would come to the church because they gave out free snow cones each week. I asked him if he actually believed in God or if he had gone just for the snow cones. He said that he did indeed believe in God. I think that this showed me that one little boy taking the action of going to church, he could potentially bring his entire family to Christ. Whether he went for the snow cones or to learn about God, at least he was hearing and learning the truth about Jesus."
-Elise Almer- pictured with Keonraad and Julia Dennis

Crossroads students visits the famous heads

After a great church service at BFC, our group headed out with a few other BFC students to visit Mt. Rushmore. As you may be able to see from the picture, it was pretty cloudy and ended up raining for most of the afternoon. After touring Rushmore and learning a little bit about the history of the Black Hills, we headed to a small tourist town called Keystone for some souvenir shopping. By this time, the rain came a little bit harder and we did not end up spending much time outside for the rest of the day. When we returned back to BFC, their high school ministry joined us for a BBQ, games, worship, and some teaching. It has been a great time of connection between the two groups and we look forward to the days of service we had ahead of us!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 1- Rapid City Trip: Let's get to work!

After a late first night that consisted of delayed plane rides and a sack of 30 hamburgers from a Hardee's drive-thru, we were able to get a good night's sleep and start some work here at Bible Fellowship Church. After sleeping in for a little bit, we got up and had a service day around the church as a thank you for hosting us. A few of the guys mowed lawn, some helped move some large rocks from the front of the church, and helped set up chairs in the worship center for their church service. Our girls did some work preparing food and getting snacks organized for food and lunches in the days to come.After working for a few hours in the morning, we took a little break and played a rousing game of football! We spent the afternoon getting acquainted with Rapid City. To the left is a picture of our team sitting on a "Stegosaurus" at Dinosaur Park, a popular local landmark up on top of a hill. We got to see many of the president's in downtown Rapid City (statues on each street corner). Finally we stopped for a pizza dinner to cap our time out on the town. We have been spending the last few hours hanging out at the church with some of the JH students that call Bible Fellowship Church their home. We will probably make one more run out for Ice Cream before the night is over. So far I have been very encouraged by how the team has has connected with one another and how well they have listened and worked! I am super proud of them. I know that they will do great in the days to come and I look forward to see how God will continue to grow them as the week moves along. We'll be back on tomorrow to let you know about our experience at another church, another youth group, and an excursion to Mt. Rushmore. The hard work starts Monday!

We're here, but its been quite an adventure so far!

For those of you following us back home, we wanted to let you all know that we are here safe and sound here in Rapid City, South Dakota. Here's a picture of hail that had accumulated in Denver as part of a storm that hindered our arrival last night. We were diverted in route to Denver to Colorado Springs where we had to wait an additional 3 hours because of continuous severe weather in Denver. Eventually, we were able to take off from Colorado Springs and arrive in Denver around 10:30. When we finally got there we were sure we had missed our connecting flight to Rapid City but later found out that they were holding a flight for us. So of course, our gate was all the way on the opposite side of Denver's massive terminal, which required our team to sprint across the airport to catch our flight. We received many cheers from others in the airport along the way. We eventually landed in Rapid City and arrived at Bible Fellowship Church at about 1 a.m!! Thank you for your prayers for safety along the way, we are thankful for God's provision and excited to be here at our destination! We will post some pictures of our first day in Rapid City and some interesting things we have seen here.

Signing off for now,
Elise Almer as dictated from Daniel Riems