It’s not every day that you get a phone call that changes the course of your life, but a few weeks ago, we did.
Let me back up a bit. A few years ago we began attending a church in Colonial Heights, VA. Shortly after we began attending, I heard Mike Brennan talk about the Oglala-Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota.
- Unemployment rate of 80-90%
- Per capita income of $7,880.00
- Twice the rate of heart disease
- Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
- 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
- Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
- Teen suicide rate four times the national rate
- Infant mortality is three times the national rate
Additionally, the school dropout rate is around 70%. While these statistics are sad and startling to think of here in our country, Josh did not feel that same tug at the time. Still, I cut out the name of the reservation from the church bulletin and stuck it to the fridge to remember them for prayer. Mike and his wife, Monica, started Youth Evangelism Strategies, a program that focuses on academics, computer comprehension, performing arts, and counseling for the youth on the reservation.
We heard Mike talk again a couple more times during the past few years. Each time, I would ask Josh about it, and still the answer was no. A couple months ago, that changed. When Mike came to visit our church earlier this year, it was visible that God was speaking to Josh during the message and I told Josh that he needed to talk with Mike after the service. So I left him in the church building and took the kids out to the van to get their lunch. Josh came out a bit later and I could tell it had been a good chat. He and Mike had talked about us joining their mission work on the reservation, not just as a short trip, but as a move. Mike initially suggested that Josh come up with one of our church’s summer missions trips, and so Josh signed up to go. We both agreed that it would be difficult to sell the house for this upcoming school year and try to find a new home in the middle of nowhere. Literally. There isn’t much around. The reservation is 2.7 million acres and home to roughly 40,000 people.
In the meantime, Josh has spent the past year feeling like his time working for Surry County Schools was coming to a close. For the first time since beginning work there, he started feeling antsy, and by December, it had become a full case of pursuing other avenues. Even as we talked about the possibility of God calling us to work in South Dakota in the future, he began putting out job applications around VA and PA, seeing if that was a direction we were supposed to go for now. When you are in the middle of something without a clear answer, it can be hard to determine where exactly God is leading and what He is up to.
Here comes that phone call that I mentioned at the beginning. Josh was in the process of starting an application to a job in Richmond when Mike called. There was an opening at an elementary school on the reservation, and one of the other mission families was leaving to work on a reservation in New Mexico, leaving the parsonage open. Josh put in an application and an interview was set up with the principal. At the end of the interview, when Josh inquired about when he would hear back, the principal stated that as long as his background check went through, she planned to offer him the position.
Since that time, we have been in frequent prayer, asking for direction. At this time, we are very sure that God is asking us to go to South Dakota now, instead of waiting as we had initially discussed. We plan to leave Virginia during the first days of August and set up a new home on the Pine Ridge Reservation. As our friends and family, we are asking for your prayers. We have many considerations as we prepare for this journey. Some are logistical for now and some are for our future ministry.
For this summer, please pray for:
- Moving details. We need roughly $4,000 to move our family to South Dakota
- Vehicle. Josh's vehicle is 18+ years old and won't make the trip, and additionally, many roads are unpaved and we need something with 4 wheel drive.
- Selling our house. We put our home on the market on June 22nd and are praying to find to right person/family to fill our home.
For the future ministry, please pray for:
- A smooth transition for Josh into the school at the reservation. As a teacher, he will have a point for breaking into a culture that is generally closed off to the outside world.
- Chanku Waste Ranch. This is the summer ministry we will be heavily involved in.
- Our precious daughters. Shannan, Amberlyn, and Elizabeth are about to experience a drastic change in their surroundings. Please pray that God will give them a love for the Oglala-Lakota people as well.
- Funding for health insurance.
If you would like to be a part of this mission through financial support, checks can be mailed to
Y.E.S. (Youth Evangelical Strategies)
H C R 49 Box 242
Porcupine, SD 57772
Please note “Homer support” in the memo line.
We are excited as we move forward and see where God is leading us!
The Homer Family