Tree of Life
Tree of Life is a relief agency, located in Mission, South Dakota on the Rosebud Reservation, serving several of the poorest counties in the United States. The reservation has an 80% unemployment rate. The ministries of Tree of Life include: The Warm Welcome-feeding program and food pantry, Tree of Life Boutique-thrift store and a construction ministry.
Tree of Life has made great strides in developing respect and understanding between cultures, helping to breaking down racial prejudice and distrust. This is accomplished by providing cultural presentations to volunteers, working together with tribal agencies, and being involved in meeting daily needs.
The Warm Welcome
Current census data shows that over 50% of the Lakota people live under the poverty level and cannot afford necessities. Tree of Life distributes over 1,500,000 pounds of groceries each year, and provides about 52,000 free meals. One teacher at the local school stated that when families cannot drive to the food pantry at “The Tree” then the children must skip meals because of the lack of groceries. The “Warm Welcome” feeding program and pantry serves over 200 families a day, four days a week.
Tree of Life Boutique
Tree of Life provides a “Thrift Shop Boutique.”The average household income is under $8,000. Many households have 10 or more family members living in one residence. Seldom can families afford decent clothing. New and used clothing and small household items are avaialble to buy at a very low cost in a “shopping experience”. There is a mobile thrift store that goes out twice a month to one of the 20 communities..
Tree of Life makes free repairs to about 50 dwellings and community buildings each year. The need is so great that a family may have to have their name on a waiting list wait for five years before tribal housing can make general repairs to a home. There are families that have not had water in their homes for years and use a garden hose to bring in water from a neighbor. Construction projects are contracted out. Tree of Life has adopted into the construction ministry, the Habitat for Humanity's model of sweat equity. A mobile construction trailer fully equipped for volunteer teams to provide professional service to the most remote communities.
One of the important tasks undertaken by Tree of Life is to show Native Americans what Christians are like. Teams working together cheerfully, showing Christ-like compassion, and offering respect and love to all people demonstrate our Chirstian witness. Volunteers in Mission (VIM) teams come to Tree of Life throughout the year to work in the various components of the ministry. Housing is available for teams that travel to Mission.