Hannah Dean is causing a commotion in Huron, South Dakota.
It started because she loves kids.
But there’s more.
When kids hurt, Hannah hurts. When kids are hungry, Hannah takes stock of her fridge. When kids are scared and lonely, Hannah’s ready with hugs.
So Hannah had a problem. She was surrounded by hurting kids.
In the last decade or so, Huron has welcomed waves of immigrant families—many refugees from Myanmar and Thailand. These families come with kids. Kids born in refugee camps. Kids whose traumatized parents struggle to find their footing on foreign soil. Kids who want to be kids.
Those kids live, almost literally, in Hannah’s backyard.
But Hannah had another problem. She was just one person. Worse, she was one person recovering from a painful battle with Lyme disease. Fatigue, dietary restrictions, and infections often drained her of energy. Going to work and even to church had been almost more than she could handle. Still, there were those kids…
Hannah had to dig deep to find strength to fight for both her own health and a way to help those kids. That strength, she is quick to point out, is not her own willpower. “Youth can only carry you so far,” she says. Hannah’s compelling strength came from her desire to live for Jesus Christ.
As a child, Hannah had asked Jesus to save her. As an adult, life-sized problems drove her to find out just how far she could trust Him.
First a family move uprooted her from her comfy childhood home, forcing her to find her place in a new life. Her senior year was a difficult period of adjustments, loss, and tragedy in her community. When Hannah headed into college, her ability to trust people was faltering. Gradually, through her new friends and professors at Crown College in Minnesota, Hannah began to see that “God doesn’t want us to completely close off our hearts in order to stay safe. We still need to be okay with being vulnerable.” Even if people let her down, she discovered that she could trust God to be with her and to heal her wounded heart.
Then came the Lyme disease. “When I was fighting for my health and I felt like I was really failing, failing physically, I couldn’t function. I was panicky and anxious,” Hannah says. “Through that, I could sense God’s hand—that He was still there, even when everything was crazy.” She emerged from that period with this conviction: “No matter what is happening, no matter what the circumstances are, He’s constant. He’s always there, and He’s always good. He’s the hope and the constant.”
For Hannah, all her confidence is summed up in Psalm 16:8–
Then Hannah met the uprooted and hurting families in Huron. They needed that same hope and constancy. How could just one person offer it to them?
She had watched—and even helped—people offer God’s hope in some very difficult situations. Once, she worked alongside the late Harry Lehotsky in inner-city Winnipeg, long enough to be awed by his compassion and willingness to “give everything” to help his troubled neighbors. On another trip during college, Hannah worked in Hamtramck, Michigan, meeting practical needs in a neighborhood with areas too dangerous to visit at night.
In these dark places, Hannah grasped a deep reality: some people don’t think God loves them. And they’ll never believe He does until other people come and prove it.
He wanted to do this in Huron. Yet still she wondered how, when she was just one person. Then another teacher, Sara Waldner, expressed her own desire to “do something” for the kids of Huron. Suddenly, with two of them, the task didn’t seem so daunting. Adapting a quote she read online, Hannah told herself, “What a great mistake to do nothing because I can only do a little.”
“What a great mistake to do nothing because I can only do a little.”
So Hannah took a deep breath and told some folks at her church what she wanted to do: reach out to kids by holding a Kids Club in the park. Instantly, several more people signed on. Soon the group included members from four different churches. They decided to call their movement “K-Motion” because they were “in motion for the King,” unafraid to make a “commotion” for Jesus.
On a hot Tuesday evening in June they launched the Kids Club, full of games, songs, and snacks, along with a short lesson from the Bible. By simply putting up posters and then going and inviting kids from the apartments, they had twenty-two kids and 5 parents come to the park. The next week it rained. But Hannah insisted on getting ready anyway. “These kids need [reliable] adults in their life. That’s who we want to be… We at least have to set up, because I want them to know we’re going to be there every Tuesday and that they can count on that.
In the rain, 12 kids came and so did one parent. The next week, the headcount of kids and parents soared again. Now when kids see Hannah they ask, “Next Tuesday night?”
Score 1 for constancy.
K-Motion is relaying good news. For the kids and parents who come, Hannah says, “They are hearing the Gospel and they are hearing how much God loves them. They are also seeing that there are adults who genuinely care for them and are willing to invest in them. It is amazing to see connections and relationships being built within the neighborhood.”
K-Motion isn’t going to stop with Kids Club. The movement’s mission is “to be the active hands and feet of Christ in the city of Huron.” Like a sort of rapid response team, the twenty- and thirty-year-olds of K-Motion want to be ready to drop everything to go meet needs as they arise. Then there are the everyday acts of service: raking people’s leaves, visiting nursing homes . . . Hannah’s list of ideas goes on. She’s up for anything that will open doors to building relationships with the people of Huron, so that she can share the hope she’s found in a God who is “always constant, and always good.”
Want to keep up with Hannah Dean’s latest news? Read Hannah’s blog at: http://talestricksandtennies.weebly.com/blog
What need have you felt compelled to help meet?
How does Hannah’s story encourage you to try?
Tell us about it in the comments below.