First Baptist Church of Eagle Butte
P.O. Box 170, Eagle Butte, SD 57625
(605) 964-3617 (Office) / (502) 216-3782 (Pastor’s Cell)
November 6, 2020
It is to my shame that I have let so much time pass since I have written to you. Like all of America, First Baptist Church has undergone considerable changes in the last several months, and I need to let you know all about them.
Our Tribe has been particularly concerned about the onset of the Coronavirus, and so the Tribal Council has seen fit to heavily restrict traffic on and off the reservation. To their credit, the restrictions have greatly slowed the spread of the virus, and we started getting cases well after the other reservations. But the pandemic has now reached us, all the same.
At present, anyone who leaves and returns is requested to confine themselves to their homes for a period of time, so as to avoid spreading the virus. I myself have been quarantined, after I baptized a man whose mother had the Coronavirus. I developed no symptoms, but those 10 days were not exciting!
This Halloween, trick-or-treating was canceled. My wife and I had stockpiled a good many candy bars to give away to the children, but alas, we were able to give away almost none.
In the early days of the lockdown, all businesses and institutions were heavily restricted. Even the grocery store was limited to 10 customers at a time, and those who waited to get inside had to wait 6 feet apart.
Our church was asked to shut down its in-person services, and we did so for about four months. During all that time, I felt like a hermit. My wife acted as a cameraperson and filmed me in our house every Sunday. I delivered the sermon, which we posted on Facebook Live. Then we uploaded the sermon to our website at www.fbceaglebutte.com, as we usually do. Finally, we sent the sermon off to KIPI, our local radio station, to transmit the message to all parts of the reservation. And all of this was done with little indication of whether we were even being heard. For those of you who did listen, and let let us know, thank you!
In time, a church member came up with a brilliant idea for having church outside. I spoke with the civil and Tribal authorities, and they were on board with the idea. So we set out chairs on the sidewalk for several weeks, and had services under a spreading tree. But soon, the viral restrictions became more severe, and we were forced to move things entirely online again. I was determined to follow the law. I wanted our church to be one that played by the rules. In fact, we continued to keep our services online, even after the other churches had chosen to ignore the guidelines and go back to meeting in person.
But there comes a moment when one must break the rules in order to do what is right. For our church, that time came when the tribal government said that all non-essential meetings must stay closed, but that bars and restaurants would be allowed to stay open. I was not willing to shut down worship services every Sunday morning, when people were allowed to go out and drink every Saturday night. And so, in our church’s first act of civil disobedience, we began to meet in person once more. We held to very strict safety standards, and continue to do so.
This November 3 was election day, as you know. Unfortunately, South Dakota had more on the ballot than the usual political candidates. Two resolutions were considered, which would legalize marijuana, for both medical and recreational purposes. Sadly, the vote wasn’t even close. Marijuana is now entirely legal in this state, and I am afraid that this reservation is about to suffer because of it.
Indian reservations were invented for the purpose of pacifying native people-making them sit in one place and placidly wait for the Federal government to do with them whatever they wished. Now, marijuana is here to chemically bring about that exact goal. I am furious about it. Please pray for this reservation. It is harmful to this people that marijuana is legal, but this is not the end of the fight. From here on, every person represents a separate battle.
The Great Cleaning of 2020
When life gives you lemons, you should make lemon pudding. I’m pretty sure the phrase goes something like that. So that being the case, I decided to use the extra time I had this year to clean the church. Some of you who have organized things in the past know that whenever you organize something, you have to make it messier first, so you can see your work. Before the pandemic, I could never do this, because there was always something going on in the church building. But lately, I’ve been able to do a lot of cleaning, and the results have been impressive. I sorted over 10,000 pieces of paper, discovered letters written by our founder, and ran across 8-cent stamps with Eisenhower’s picture on them!
I moved on from there to clean out our church storage pod, together with our shed, so that I am now able to access all kinds of space that I wasn’t able to see before.
As an extra project, I even stained the railing in the front of the church. It looks much better now.
Our New Library!
By the time I was done, I had cleared out an entire room. But now that we had an empty room, what to do with it? I had an idea. For years, I had dreamed of having a fully-functional church library. So we had some bookshelves built. Then I stained them. Then I sorted our various books-more than 500-which had been sitting in boxes up until this point. I sorted them by relevance, by category, and by alphabetical order, then I put them on the shelves. I even fitted each individual book with a barcode, and entered the barcode into an online database-together with the book’s author and title. We now have a fully-functional lending library, complete with an online catalogue. I am so happy about being able to make this dream a reality at last.
Communion During a Pandemic
Easter was one of the holidays that took place when we were entirely locked down. This is a holiday that we typically celebrate through Communion. But we had to do any and all celebration while linked only through the internet, or over the radio. This was problematic, but Christians have faced greater challenges to their creativity than this. With a little imagination, we found a way to do communion over a long distance.
Fortunately, we are Baptists. So communion does not need to be personally blessed by me. Instead, communion symbolically represents the body and blood of Christ. So I instructed everyone who was watching from home to get some crackers or bread from the cupboard, along with something to drink. Then, using these elements, we conducted the communion as normal. The pandemic places limitations on us, but God provides a way.
I am happy to report that we have had two baptisms since the last newsletter. One of them, Brandon Hawk Eagle, works for the tribe, helping them enforce quarantines on COVID-postive patients. He is actively participating in discipleship classes with me. The other, Delanie McLeod, is a little girl who goes to Kindergarten at Windswept Academy. She loves Jesus, and her mother has observed a visible change in her since she gave her life to the Lord. Please pray for the spiritual growth and development of both of these two.
So perhaps you are wondering how you can become a partner with us in our ministry here in Eagle Butte? If so, then we are happy to tell you, since we welcome assistance from the body of Christ. Here is what we need the most:
Prayer. It may be true that our church is getting along very well at the moment, and that God is doing great things here. But it is precisely when a church is being used by God that Satan does all in his power to destroy it. So please pray, my brothers and sisters. Pray that our leadership will keep their hearts pure and humble, and that we will live at peace with each other. Pray that we will be protected from the power of the enemy, and that God’s Holy Spirit will shine through in our lives. Pray that the Lakotas in the community will come to know the Lord, and that the commitment they make will not be a superficial group of words, but a real change in their Spirits that will alter the course of their lives for eternity.
Pray, also, for our volunteers, that their strength will be renewed, and that the they will not be overwhelmed by the many tasks that are involved in ministry.
E-mail addresses. For those of you who have e-mail addresses, please send them to me. That way, these monthly newsletters can be forwarded to everyone in your church who wants one! Just send your name and e-mail address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll make sure you receive this newsletter as often as it comes out.
Financial Assistance. Our church is fortunate to have members who are generous in their giving. But some of our most generous members are, nevertheless, very poor. We have long been blessed with assistance from outside churches and individuals, and we try to use those gifts wisely and well.
If any one of you wishes to bless the church with a financial gift, you may send it to:
First Baptist Church of Eagle Butte
P.O. Box 170
Eagle Butte, SD 57625
May God bless you all, and draw you closer to Himself each and every day.
Yours in Christ,
First Baptist Church of Eagle Butte