HAMPTON, Va. - Volunteers at the West Hampton Baptist Church looked forward to an annual trip to the standing rock reservation in North and South Dakota. That is, until COVID-19 hit.
“It's giving us a new vision for how to walk with people through things,” Sarah Wall, a minister at the West Hampton Baptist Church, explained, “for how to keep relationships alive and maybe things we need to reevaluate and change."
Each year the trip brought volunteers to the reservation -- who are hours and miles from the closest major town -- and are dealing with issues like unemployment and poverty. They were supposed to have been at the reservation next week from Sunday to Friday.
"It's hard. The time we're living through is very difficult,” Wall said.
The church and reservation have built a relationship where volunteers would guide the reservation natives on tackling issues through workshops and projects.
"You could certainly do those things over social media, but it's not the same,” Wall said.
This is the first year that that trip to Standing Rock had to be canceled in the three years the church went on the trip. The West Hampton Baptist Church sends its own group of people for a combined total of about 200 volunteers from other churches in Virginia.
When they got the news the trip was canceled, Wall explained how it was both devastating to the church and the people of Standing Rock.
"I think there's sort of a sense of loss with that,” She said. “Definitely a sense of disappointment, again, just not being able to see your friends for that year."
The church is determined to keep that relationship going and demonstrate it cares. One way it plans to do that is by sending face masks.
"I think here, we're hoping to be able to collect at least 300 to send to make sure that everybody who lives in that community has access to one,” Wall said.
The church is not at that number yet and are looking for more ways to continue their efforts.
"It's important to not stay stuck there and to try to find a way to move past it,” Wall said.
If you would like to help the church continue its efforts to support the people and reservation of Standing Rock, more information can be obtained by calling the church at (757) 826-5772 or by emailing the church at Office@whbcnow.org .