When asked to think about cultural diversity, most people understandably think about urban communities with people from all sorts of different backgrounds. But increasingly, this same diversity can be found in the rural communities out on the northern plains as well. Many of our neighbors come from Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, and they bring with them a wealth of diversity, cultural strengths and Kingdom cooperation.
The native people settled here because they loved, even worshipped, the sun. They took advantage of the natural resources the land provided. Today, the descendants of these people are still here wrestling with the challenges brought on by the near destruction of their way of life. European settlers came here in the 1800’s and established communities grounded in farming and faith. Today, people still come from around the globe in search of opportunity.
While there is much about rural life that is good, as with every other place in the world there are significant issues and problems to overcome. There are kids who go hungry, and there are men and women without good jobs. These people, our neighbors and family members, struggle with disabilities, extended sickness, addictions and all the financial, emotional, and relational needs that go along with that.
While urban and global poverty get much of the attention, rural poverty represents a unique challenge. It is pervasive and destructive to families and communities, and yet many of the resources and networks needed to address the significant issues associated with rural poverty (physical and emotional abuse, substance abuse, etc.) are under-developed, under-funded, or non-existent.
What’s unique about the rural setting is that there’s often a stoic pride and stubbornness that masks how significant these needs can be. Some small communities don’t have all the resources they need, while many of the people who could benefit from the resources either aren’t sure how to ask or aren’t willing to.
The Prairie Project is a four-day Serve project at Dordt College in which students will immerse themselves in the issues facing rural America.
When you come you’ll meet some of our hardworking, wise neighbors. You’ll experience the issues and struggles that are unique to this people and this region. You will also find that many of these problems affect us all regardless of where we live. We invite you to come, not just to give, but to receive. We invite you to open yourself up in generosity and love to the people and the land and see what happens. Hear God speak to you in the wind and the blue sky, and let Jesus meet you in the people you encounter.
You’ll experience both diversity and poverty here along with the rolling hills, big skies, river valleys and vistas that allow you to see for miles—all part of the beauty of the plains. You’ll also experience a Divine Normal that followers of Jesus Christ are ushering in by his grace.