Tonia Vanlandingham, a veterinary technician from Wisconson, was given the opportunity to serve on her third short-term mission trip with CVM to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Tonia and her team of 22 spent a week in South Dakota where they partnered with the Wounded Knee Church of God.
Tonia was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
Q: What did you learn about missions during your time of short-term service? What did you learn about your hosts’ ministry in particular?
Tonia: I came to a new respect for folks serving long-term. When we go somewhere short-term it’s easy to be wary of the pitfalls of ministry of specific cultures. But to be continually immersed to the point where your ministry is everyday life is something different all together. I was privileged to have a conversation with Emily this year that really gave me new perspective on what she provides for the Lakota people on a daily basis. She is an incredible, Godly servant.
Q: What was encouraging and/or surprising to you about short-term missions service?
Tonia: It is tremendously encouraging to go back yearly to the reservation because we really do get to see how our ministry encourages those we help. The bonds that are built with the folks on the rez and how much they appreciate what we do for them is evident in those that come to see us annually.
Q: What was particularly challenging to you during this time of service?
Tonia: I met a young, single mother who was so longing for truth. She asked me many questions about what I believe about God and why. We are not the only missions group to visit the rez, and she was very confused by the things she heard from Jehovah’s witnesses versus our group. I am not someone who normally is comfortable talking with folks but recent bible studies have really helped me be more prepared for these types of questions. I know I can lean on Gods truth and that He would give me the right words to help reveal His truth to this young lady. It was definitely out of my comfort zone but at the same time, it was exactly what the Lord had been preparing my heart for.
Q: What did you learn about the particular challenges facing the local community in which you served?
Tonia: It seems every time we go to the Rez hunger is such an issue. I know our group is there to provide Veterinary services, which is definitely a needed service, but it seems we reach more folks for Christ when we feed them. They enjoy a meal and are more open to talking about their own lives and struggles they face when we share a meal together.
Q: How was the local community impacted as a result of CVM’s service in this area?
Tonia: This year we did not see nearly the quantity of patients as we have in years past. I hope this is because our spay/neuter efforts are having an impact on the number of strays on the Rez. But also, the people there seems to grow in their trust of our group more every year. When familiar faces return year after year, I believe they see our hearts and know we are there for them, not just to provide free services, but that we have a vested interest in them and their community.
Q: How was your faith impacted as a result of your short-term missions service?
Tonia: So often we do not get to see the fruits of our labors doing the work the Lord calls us too. This year, several rez folks verbally expressed their gratitude for not only the service we provide but for the way they see our hearts truly do care for them. How wonderful to actually hear that!
Q: What next steps of faith is God calling you to as a result of this trip? How can CVM support, encourage, and equip you for these next steps?
Tonia: I’m not sure, yet, where God is calling me too in life. I continue to be in prayer about my current life and work situations. Right now I am just leaning on Him to keep me grounded and try to be the best version of myself He calls me to be. And since my return home He has provided an incredible opportunity to strengthen my marriage that I may not have had the courage to take were it not for the council and prayers of my CVM Pine Ridge team family. But I’m so glad I did! Being unevenly yolked has been a struggle ever since I became a christian. However, God continually shows me His heart for my marriage at the most needed times. I’m so thankful for those that have prayed for and with me over this!
A special thank you to Tonia Vanlandingham for allowing us to share in a little piece of her journey to the Pine Ridge reservation! May the Lord continue to use this experience to touch the lives of others.
Not able to participate in a short-term trip but have a heart for what God is doing through them? Support CVM’s short-term missions by giving to our short-term missions program!