Monday, December 05, 2016
Morning Thanks--Vets at Standing Rock
It was an unusual prayer request. Most all of the members of the little church up the road are steadily getting up there in age, so requests almost always have hospital settings. Most people know other people who are dying, often relatives. It's fair to say, that political consciousness isn't high, in part because life itself is the major concern.
So yesterday when the widow a pew over raised her hand and said what she did, her prayer request was unusual, but understandable too. It had to do with the veterans on their way to North Dakota, a couple thousand of them, she reminded us, to protect the protesters. "We should be praying for them," she said, robustly, holding a little lapful of attentive grandson who seemed greatly satisfied with his binkie.
The standoff at Standing Rock started months and months ago. There's nothing new about it. Yesterday, after church, the whole congregation could have got into cars and taken a gravel road three miles north to see the swath where the black snake has been already laid beneath precious Iowa topsoil thoughtfully returned to the corn and soybean fields the pipeline transgressed late summer.
I'd wondered about the news story of the veterans. I'd wondered what locals might think about 2000 vets heading up to all those protesters thereby giving the whole movement a cutting edge it hadn't had as long as it was only a bunch of Indians. In our church, I didn't remember anyone asking for prayers for the Lakota people. After all, right here, a block from church, dozens of travel trailers belonging to the Dakota Access pipe crew inhabited downtown for months. The workers were honored guests.
What changed up north was the attention of "the veterans," a couple thousand of them, due to arrive yesterday in North Dakota. What charged that grandma's passion was safety for "the veterans." She didn't mention the protesters. She wanted the Lord to look out for the veterans.
Just so happens that I know a veteran who's been there more than once in the last several months, one of the protesters, in fact. I rather doubt local law enforcement fears her much, nor did she go up to Standing Rock simply to protect peace-loving protesters. She's no strong arm, after all. She's 96 years old, a protester herself.
She's Lakota, from the Cheyenne River Reservation, just south of Standing Rock. She's a highly decorated vet who served with Allied forces once a beachhead was established at Normandy, once it was safe enough for her and her unit of army nurses to put up a makeshift hospital on ground only recently freed from the Nazis. The French people rewarded her with a medal for her heroism a few years ago, flew her to Normandy to pin that medal on her.
That vet's been to Standing Rock before.
I think it's wonderful that the grandma with the toddler asked for the prayers she did. It wasn't all that much later yesterday when my phone lit up with news service headlines about the Corps of Engineers determining the time had come to search out alternative routes. Reportedly, great rejoicing erupted at the protesters' camp.
Maybe it was that grandma's request that registered with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Or else it may have been the rabbi from Oregon, who told the protesters yesterday that what was happening right there before their eyes was a "battle in a greater war. It’s a war for the hearts of humanity. And the only way to win that war is through prayer," she said. "You can’t win by fighting. They can take away your gun. But they can’t take away prayer."
Today, it's still Obama; tomorrow it'll be Trump. Who knows what'll happen? After all, you can bet Trump's got money in oil.
Just the same, what happened yesterday in North Dakota was an answer to prayer. I don't know if the Army nurse was out there yesterday in the cold--I don't think so. But I do know her well enough to know that today she's rejoicing.
And so am I. This morning's thanks is simple: peace.