Flyover country

When I was assigned to serve in South Dakota back in 2007, the first images that floated through my mind as I sat in the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary gymnasium were from the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Cue the theme song and little Laura Ingalls running through the grasses. That’s where I was about to go . . . somewhere in South Dakota. People came up to me afterward and said, “Oh, you are going to love it there!” Little did they know how much their words were fighting with the stereotype in my head. But, I do love it here! I love serving God’s people here, raising my family here, and reaching the lost here. I love seeing the people he continues to send here from all over the country.

I am blessed to serve on the Dakota-Montana District Mission Board, and when I travel for meetings and visits, I can’t help but stare out the window during take off and landing and think of my old silly stereotype.

Many people consider this district flyover country. How much mission work is there really to do in Montana and the Dakotas? There are rural areas that are losing population. But I have only seen the population of towns and cities grow in my 17 years here, and I don’t see any end to the mission work that needs to be done. What seems like rural America is growing. Families are moving here from all over the country looking for something better. Praise God that he would include the gospel among those better things to be found! Praise God that he would not just fly over “flyover” country, but use his people here to know the names of those living and moving here. There is just as much sin-brokenness and need for the gospel here as anywhere else. People moving here are coming along with the same hurts and burdens that weighed heavily on their hearts while living on either coast. If they were worth reaching there, they are most certainly worth reaching here.

Maybe the biggest difference is that you can see more of the sky while talking with someone about the God who created it for them. You can feel more grass under your feet when you talk with someone about the one who took on human flesh and felt the grass under his feet as he made his way to the cross for them. And you probably hear more wind while the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens faith through the same means of grace that are needed everywhere.

Who knows, maybe you and your family might even consider moving to Montana or the Dakotas to reach these people, too.

We are excited to welcome Joshua Schroeder as our missionary to Kalispell, Mont., this year. Our new mission in Williston, N.D., will begin calling from the field this summer, too.

We are so thankful to be a part of a synod that sees the value in reaching the lost, wherever they may be!

Written by Rev. Mark Schutz, District Mission Board (DMB) chairman of the Dakota-Montana district and pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Spearfish, S.D. 

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