Short Creek Dream Center Missions Internship
For two months this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to be a missionary and intern at the Short Creek Dream Center, a Christian non-profit organization on the border of Arizona and Utah. It operates out of a polygamist prophet’s old compound that God has turned into a place of healing and redemption. It is in a unique community that has a special mission field most would not imagine being in our “back yard”. To understand why it is an important mission field, I need to share a little history. Short Creek is where the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) settled when they broke off of the mainstream Mormon religion, wanting to continue practicing things the church reformed away from; the biggest being polygamy. The FLDS religion and their prophet Warren Jeffs are patriarchal, controlling, coercive, manipulative, brainwashing, and abusive to members. This has caused generations of trauma and issues in Short Creek.
The prophet of the religion gives all orders and controls all aspects of life. Warren Jeffs demanded complete obedience, called himself God, implemented strict rules, and took drastic measures to discipline for the smallest infraction of them. He separated children from families, sent wives away or traded them to a more “worthy” husband, kicked people out of the religion (and their homes and the town), put people in empty rooms for days, and more. He had complete control of followers with a 100% tithe, tapped homes and phone lines, had closed all schools, and said “fun” was spelled w-o-r-k. He had over 80 wives and encouraged followers to have at least 3 to be holy. Warren was caught and put in jail in 2011 for life for sexual assault of girls, though there were many other illegal acts he committed. He still runs the FLDS from prison through phone calls to his wives and visits. A good number of people have left the religion since this, but there are still many in Short Creek and surrounding areas who are involved. Because of this, the community was left without the structure and control of before and have had to rebuild themselves while dealing with pain and trauma.
In FLDS, women are treated as property and given in marriage at very young ages, often teenagers and as young as 12. They were coerced to believe having a child every year would get them to heaven. With so many children from multiple wives, the older children often care for the younger ones and many are left to fend for themselves frequently. There is a lot of poverty in this community, physically and spiritually. Overall, Short Creek has faced generational trauma due to physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse. Because of all this, there is a huge lack of compassionate love, meaningful connection, positive male influence, opportunity, and understanding of the true God. People have turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms for the pain and emptiness. I interacted with so many people starving for kindness, connection, love, and a listening ear.
The Short Creek Dream Center (SCDC) exists to serve this community in any way they can with the mission “Find a need and fill it, find a hurt, and heal it.” They recognize the need for four main areas of healing: revive, replenish, restore and reconnect, and re-establish. They offer residential living programs for mothers and children, classes for residents and community members, counseling for individuals and families, assistance through troubles people face, and many “behind the scenes” things while building relationships with the community. SCDC owns and runs a food bank in town every Friday and Saturday to provide food for the many living in poverty. They also do lots of community outreach.
As a missionary, I had the blessing of serving this special community and sharing Jesus’ love in word and deed. As an intern, I got to work with the leaders of the ministry to learn about how and why they serve, learn some ins and outs of running an organization like this, and see what they’ve done to build community trust. I also had the opportunity to run a few programs myself. I ran a summer lunch program during the week to provide drive-through meals (for COVID-19 safety) to kids who rely on their meals at school to feed them. I loved talking with the families who came through and building relationships with the regulars. The other thing I ran was outreaches at the park twice a week. We did outside games, brought snacks and water, and really connected with the kids. This missions internship was such a blessing to me; God worked in and through me, and I learned and grew a lot from it!
There are many needs in Short Creek and lots of impactful opportunities to serve at SCDC! Anyone is welcome to go up and serve, it is about 6.5 hours from San Tan Valley. Here are a few practical ideas from what I have seen and mentioned above. There are so many kids and teens, so youth groups are great to do community outreach events for youth. Moms always need a break, so a women’s group could do a “mom’s night out” to connect with them. Positive male influences are rare, so supportive Christian males always draw people; men’s group trips would be impactful as well. There are also rooms that need to be adopted and projects that need to be done around the Dream Center, so work teams are also needed. You can go to their website to sign up for a short-term mission trip or contact them. https://www.shortcreekdreamcenter.org/