Driving 1,200 miles one way to give up a week of vacation and help people in a part of the country most people have never heard of isn’t easy, but the rewards are out of this world.

A group of 15 adults, youth and kids drove to Lower Brule, South Dakota earlier this summer to take part in a mission trip to the Sioux Indian Nation. They were sponsored by Oak Crest Baptist Church of Midlothian and worked in conjunction with Hilltop Baptist Church of West, S.D.

“The drive about killed us but we were so excited to get there,” said Cindy Wesch, who helped coordinate the trip. “It was really out in the middle of no-where, but we got to make friends and minister to the needs of so many good people - it was worth it.”

Wesch talked of the people she worked with, the people on the mission team and the way the group was constantly faced with obstacles, only to see them melt away.

“We collected hundreds of coats and shoes, boxed them up and carried them to South Dakota,” said Wesch. “The day before we left we had someone give us a box of sheets and blankets. We really didn’t have room but we didn’t know what to do with them — we just threw them in the truck and forgot about it.”

But Wesch said that is where the Lord came in to bring things together.

“We go to Lower Brule and there was a family who had just moved into the area and didn’t have very much,” said Wesch. “When we asked them what they needed, they thought for a minute and said, ‘sheets and blankets.’”

Wesch also told about the semi-truck that pulled onto the church parking lot Tuesday morning full of canned food and clothes.

“They didn’t know we were going to be there and we didn’t know they were coming,” said Wesch. “If our team hadn’t been there, it would probably have taken them two days to unload all that stuff. It only took us a morning.

“And did I tell you it rained that day and our work crew was sitting around with not much to do?” she added with a smile.

Lower Brule is located on the Missouri River in south central South Dakota. It is roughly 30 miles north of U.S. Interstate 90. The population is 94 percent Native American, four percent White, with African American, Hispanic and Asian American rounding out the community.

Lower Brule has 165 houses according to the 2000 census and a population of about 600.

The community is located smack dab in the middle of the Black Hills of South Dakota and surrounded by green wheat fields and pastures full of horses, beef cattle and buffalo.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs and so there is a lot of unemployment or only seasonal agricultural work,” said Rev. Carl Roach, who once served as Director of Missions for several Baptist churches in the area. “The winters are bitter cold and it gets hot in the summer. The people in South Dakota are friendly, but between the weather and work, or lack of work, life can be hard.”

The mission team worked out of Hilltop Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. Steve Osage and his wife Rita.

The mission was to build a storage building at the church, perform some much-needed maintenance on the church, renovate a bathroom of a home in Lower Brule and hold a Vacation Bible School at the church.

“As with any small church there is never a lot of money for maintenance,” said Osage. “We’ve wanted to do some things around here for a long time. Thanks to this mission team, they finally got done.”

The construction crew framed up the storage building in a day and had it finished out in three. The week wound up with renovating the bathroom of a church member in Lower Brule and building her cabinets to boot.

And while construction work was going on outside, another team was holding Vacation Bible School for the kids inside the church.

Last but not least a cooking crew was serving up breakfast, lunch and supper to hungry workers and anyone else who happened to be near the church when the dinner bell rang.

“We found out a long time ago that you can load up the car every summer, drive a long way, spend your time and your money and then come home exhausted and a little unsatisfied with your trip,” said Wesch. “Or you can load up the car, drive a long way, spend your time and money helping others and still come home exhausted — but satisfied with your trip.

“All you have to do is go on a mission trip once and you’re hooked,” she added.

Members of the Oak Crest Baptist Church mission trip to South Dakota include Les and Cindy Wesch, Sonia Brumbeloe, Ralph and Betty Golden, Josh Golden and Vanissa Golden, Myrtice Phears, Rev. Carl Roach and Veneta Roach and Floyd and Sara Ingram, Jacob Ingram, Daniel Ingram and James Ingram.