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Gratitude Moment by Jennifer Huffman--Bridger South Dakota

Gratitude Moment

by Jennifer Mazi Huffman

Something happens when we step outside of our lives and into new lands, as if God gives us a fresh set of eyes and says, “See me? I’ve been here all along.”

My family discovered this last summer, when we drove 674 miles fast miles--my husband has a lead foot--north and west up into the Cheyenne River Reservation to visit the Lakota people in Bridger, South Dakota.

We were not sure what to expect; what we hoped for was an opportunity to serve with our children, to take them far away from places where the struggle was to find wifi access and suitable snacks and adventurous playdates…for my husband and I believe that it is through serving others that we can most easily find God. 


When we arrived, the land itself struck us: abandoned, desolate, arid, barren. The wind itself is a vicious, perpetual presence strong enough to bend the trees and whip up storms in a flash. The people there are kind, curious, hungry, so are their horses. Though they love these animals, the land is not plentiful enough to provide green pastures, and keeping the horses alive is a struggle. (The Lakota people have an ancestral relationship with horses, a history of raising them. They call them “brothers.”) I discovered this through meeting a new friend, Eric, a horse whisperer who can see into animals and people in an instant. He saw straight into my heart during our conversation, sharing some revelations about me no one had ever before acknowledge. In that moment, a trust grew between us, and he allowed me to take this photograph.





Just down the road from the 20 or so trailers that make up Bridger is a chapel, a yard where visitors sleep under the stars, a newly constructed bunk house and deck that will be a comfortable place to fellowship on warm summer nights.

In “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith”, Barbara Brown Taylor writes: “People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness. God shows up in whirlwinds, starry skies, burning bushes, and perfect strangers.

When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay… (we can) could learn as much about the ways of God from paying attention to the world as they could from paying attention to scripture.

In Bridger, SD, we found space to pay attention, a place where the Lakota allowed us to fill with food and people, friendship and fellowship and holy moments, where our children learned to love and find joy in others who are very different than them, but also very much the same in our humanity.

And it is a place where our family found that perhaps we were served by God through this experience more than we served, as we walked with other families teaching their children the joys of holy observation, holy moments of connection with others for which we will be forever grateful.




























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