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The first time Cindy and I traveled to the Badlands it earned its
reputation. It was B-A-D. We were headed from Mt Rushmore to
Yellowstone via Devils Tower. It was going to be a long day. Then we
decided to add a side trip to quickly see the Badlands National Park.
We got up very early, packed up the tent and drove the opposite
direction of our destination of the day. The miles and prairie slid
past the window. What we saw was underwhelming. We turned around and
headed back the other direction. The three-hour side trip made a full
day overflow with tension and frustration when the gate of Yellowstone
was closed and we had to add another two hours to our trip. I was
uncertain if we would ever go back to the park. It was low on my
This week we went back. Our mission trip lead us through the park and
we stayed just on the southern edge of the park. Somehow the park had
been transformed. Rangers explained to us that the sweet clover was
blooming. This happens on a three-year cycle when enough rain has
fallen. Enough rain had fallen and the prairie is ablaze in yellow.
The canyons were hued with reds and browns. It was beautiful. We saw
buffalo, prairie dogs, big-horn sheep, and birds galore. The sunrise
comes early and the last light of day happens at nearly ten at night.
We drove to overlooks and watched lightning storms. I got up early to
film sunrise at 5 am. The rains would come and clean the air.
We stopped by Wall Drug and were inspired by the story of one family
who began offering free iced water to people coming out of the
Badlands and turned it into a huge successful business (Buckees before
Buckees). We had two great visits to the place. I would call the area
Goodlands after our visit. I cannot imagine two completely different
Have you ever had two different experiences at the same place?
Sometimes a place can be great. Sometimes it can be disappointing.
Church can be that way. Sometimes we don’t get our needs met and we
decide never to return or to turn off or to lower our involvement.
However, giving a place a second chance might be what is necessary. On
my second visit, I came with a different attitude and I got a
different result.
We saw this empty and abandoned church on the prairie. I wondered what
had happened that emptied the place. I wonder if it was disappointment
with church because Jesus has not changed. I wonder, if we all had more
grace for each other, would we get a different result? Why not give
church a second chance?