May 2, 2022
Dear Members and Friends of Dakotas United Methodist Churches,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
We are only four weeks from the 29th session of the Dakotas Annual Conference. Our theme for this conference session is Jesus: Healer. We will learn from four engaging speakers on healing about: Healing our Discord (consensus building), Healing our Loss of Direction (discipleship-Do/Know/Be), Healing our Racial Divides (building bridges), and Healing our Sense of Scarcity (rural ministry). Our speakers will help us explore how to live more fully – more profoundly – into Jesus’ missional imperatives to reach new people, love God and neighbor, and heal a broken world.
One of the most meaningful ways we express our love of God and grow in faith is through our gifts. Each year, United Methodists across the Dakotas share their gifts through the Miracle Offering, and I am calling on you to uphold this expression of faith and love. The offering will be received on Friday morning, June 10, during our opening worship. I invite each of our congregations to begin praying and preparing to participate in yet another miraculous expression of God’s love in action.
In the United States, Native American communities experience higher rates of suicide than any other ethnic group. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native American youth ages 10-24, and Native youth teen suicide rates are nearly 3.5 times higher than the national average.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in Todd County, South Dakota, the home of the Rosebud Reservation, 48% of the youth report feeling helpless, being depressed, or having thoughts of harming themselves or someone else. In Benson County, North Dakota, the home of Spirit Lake Nation and where Four Winds School is located, 44% of the youth report feeling helpless, being depressed, or having thoughts of harming themselves or someone else.
When you are in the valley, what do you need? Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me. (Psalm 23: 4, NRSV). Friends, our Native American neighbors, especially the youth in North and South Dakota, need us to be like Jesus the Healer.
The 2022 Miracle Offering: Wings for Wellness is a hope-bringing, spirit-fueled activity that will have a lasting impact on Native American youth served by Tree of Life Ministry and Spirit Lake Ministry of the Dakotas Conference.
Our goal for the 2022 Miracle Offering is $50,000 to be shared with the counseling department at Four Winds School, a partner with Spirit Lake Ministry Center in North Dakota, and the counseling department at Todd County Schools, a partner with Tree of Life Ministry Center in South Dakota.
As you prepare for the 2022 Annual Conference, I ask you to be in prayer for all the people in the world facing mental illness, especially our Native American youth living in Todd County, South Dakota, and Benson County, North Dakota.
Additional information about the 2022 Miracle Offering is available on the Dakotas Conference website at www.dakotasumc.org. Please invite your congregational members and friends to experience the joy of participating in this miraculous expression of Christ’s light in the world. Jesus sent the twelve out “to proclaim God’s Kingdom and heal …” (Luke 9:2).
Thank you for being a generous fruit-bearer and desiring to live profoundly and joyfully as stewards of the Gospel and God’s good gifts.
Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey