Saturday, July 27, 2013

When I look at them, I see me

There's Tom, a young 30 something, wandering. Abandoned by his father and orphaned by his mother who died too soon from a game of Russian Roulette, he is searching. Will he ever find what he's looking for?

There's Martha, a grandmother of many precious babies. Her neighbors are her relatives and they are persistent in giving her grief. Taking her to court, arguing over the property line, and even losing 40 baby chickens to their dog. When will it end?

There's Charley, a pastor of the local church. He's caught between serving God and maintaining some of the Navajo tradition. He is faced with opposition for his position. He is looked down upon and  people have left his church. What did he do wrong?

There's me, a young woman attempting to serve God each day. I'm out of my comfort zone most days, struggling with my insecurities. Am I sure I can do this?

Today marks three weeks I have spent on the reservation. Each week has been full of its own surprises, its challenges, its joys. Some days I don't know how I'll survive with the heat, the sand covering what seems to be every inch of my body. Showers turned into quick rinses by the garden hose. And how about that dirt between my toes that I can't seem to get rid of. Might as well forget about the smell of my feet too because it isn't going to get better any time soon.

That's when I meet people like Tom, Martha, and Charley. They struggle every day too. They wonder about how they will survive, how they will make ends meet, how to face the difficult challenges that come their way.

I have realized that there truly are no differences between them and me. In fact, when I look at them, I see me. I see a heart that just wants peace. I see a heart that just wants love. I see a soul yearning for understanding and meaning. Navajo or white, we're all the same. 

This past week was a challenge. Our pace turned from teaching and talking to physical labor: remudding an adobe, taking everything out of a incredibly dusty and cough inducing shed just to put it back in, rebuilding an entire fence, digging a 5 ft deep hole for an outhouse, and rebuilding a sheep corral. We spent our nights sleeping on the cement floor of a hogan, where we had a few 'visitors' overnight. 

There were a few moments when I felt like quitting or at least crying. But God reminded me of a few things.

"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." 
-Hebrews 10:35-36

Whether it's me, Charley, Tom, or Martha, we will all face days where we feel like giving up and letting go. But God has called us to holdfast, to not let go but to remember his faithfulness and love. Instead of letting challenges separate me from others, they can be used to bring us together. They can be used to let someone know that I hurt too, and that I'm not the strongest person. Although maybe the Navajo and I come from two different worlds, we both come from the same Creator. Through him, we can be whole again.

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Off-Roading Can Teach You

There we were, sitting in the desert as the sun beat upon us from high in the sky. We gazed over at the massive puddle the heavy rain from the night before had brought. It was so heavy that it was called a 'once in a 5 year' rain. It had washed away many of the "roads" in Bisti. The roads are not as you would imagine. Rather than paved roads, we traveled upon dirt trails, sometimes only big enough for one vehicle. The reservation is known for its windy, bumpy, and most definitely adventurous, dirt roads. Our attempt to avoid the deep puddle was successful, but getting back onto the dirt path did not turn out as well. We had taken our only other option: off-roading. Although it had started out as a fun and bumpy ride, it soon ended in our Ford Escape stuck deep in the thick mud with a back tire up in the air. Oops! We quickly jumped out and attempted pushing the car, but we quickly found out that our man power was not going to get us out of our dilemma.

In fact, earlier that day we had found ourselves in another dilemma. Our team had been putting on a VBS and adult Bible study at a sweet little church called White Rock Baptist Church. 

It was located in another town on the res near Bisti. It was our second day and although the Bible study led by Rachel and I (Rachel squared as they say :)) was going well, VBS had presented the other team members with many obstacles. It seemed like the odds were against our team. The number of children had doubled since the day before, adding up to nearly 40 children. Although having more kids come was exciting, it was also difficult feeling like there wasn't enough of us to lead and help in certain areas. In addition, some kids didn't want to be there, they weren't having it, which was followed by a bit of disrespect and lack of participation. Despite not being a leader for the VBS, the stress and frustration other team members were feeling affected all of us. We were all discouraged. All we wanted was for them to enjoy this week, to have fun and learn more about Jesus. What could we possibly do to fix the situation? 

That was the same question we began asking ourselves as we viewed our only form of transportation stuck deep in the muddy road. 

It was then, sitting in the hot sun, waiting for our other friends from Bisti to rescue us, that it all came together.

No matter how hard we pushed the car, all we were doing was digging it deeper into the mud. It was the same with the kids at VBS, no matter how hard my team tried to have them cooperate, we were only digging ourselves deeper. 

What we needed was God's help. We had been searching in ourselves for the answer, for the perfect solution. Our Ford didn't get stuck for no reason. It was God saying "Hello! I am the answer! You need ME!" We quickly realized that it was God who would change the hearts of the children, not any of us. 

It was something I needed to hear too. Co-leading an adult Bible study for the first time, in a new place with new people, was intimidating. I kept wondering how I would seem well organized and prepared. What if I didn't know what to say? How would I handle those foreseen awkward moments? What if I didn't have the answer? I found myself seeking to find the answer within myself rather than God. Instead of trying to go in all put together, I realized that God is the only one who can truly work through the Bible study and people there.  Letting go of the control I had, (as if I had any), allowed God to use me in better ways than I could have on my own. 

Thankfully Rachel had experience and I was able to learn so much from her. I am also thankful to say that the awkward moments were few and the meaningful moments were plentiful.

Eventually, an hour and a half later, we were rescued by some friends from Roger Deal Memorial Baptist Church, which is where we had helped out the previous weekend. The EM Staff there served us a delicious dinner. 

That's not where it ended though. As we finished up dinner, I walked outside to feel rain sprinkling on my arms. Looking up, I saw a beautiful rainbow. God's presence was there with us and I was reminded of his faithfulness once again. 

Some photos from the past week (cuz everybody loves those!):

They were having a dance off! 

A yummy Navajo Taco! Included fried bread, beans+meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa and sour cream! NOM NOM!
My team at the Badlands :)
My team with the amazing Rhonda from Roger Deal Memorial Baptist Church
Can I get a holla for a sillhoutte!? 
Some of our awesome Bible study! I will miss them so much! <3 On the top right is Ethel and Nancy.  Bottom right is Esther, Rachel, and Mary. On the left is Bernice, Felix and me. :)

All of us on our last day! I love this little church.. And I will miss it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Big News!

My team and I were informed of some pretty significant news during our training yesterday. Due to some complications, we are unable to go to Mozambique. That's right. Mozambique is now out of the plan and instead we will most likely travel to Namibia. Namibia is a country northwest of South Africa on the coast. It is essentially opposite of Mozambique. 

Although we were all a bit disappointed in the news, we are also very excited to know that God desires for us to be somewhere else instead. Please continue to pray for this new update as plans and opportunities for us to serve in the community are being worked out. Hein, EM's community partner/leader for all of our work in Africa, lives in South Africa but is originally from Namibia. Not only is it exciting for us to see what God has in store but it is exciting for Hein as well knowing that we are going to experience his homeland. 

As for the team, we are spending a lot of time in training. Yesterday we spent a total of 8-9 hours together discussing various topics such as doctrine, approaching other cultures, our worldview, and so much more. There is so much preparation happening as we approach diving into the Navajo Reservation as well as Africa in the upcoming weeks. Please pray for our team as God works to prepare us to go into these new places with open hearts, ears, and minds so that we may love deeply, listen well, and understand greater.

Lastly, I have really enjoyed getting to spend so much time with my teammates. I feel that God has definitely handcrafted this team and although we will experience this journey together, He also has many things to teach us individually. Please pray for my teammates and I as God reveals these things to us.

With love,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Beginning


... to New Mexico that is. :)

After an early morning flight and three hour layover in Chicago plus a four hour drive from Albuquerque, my team and I have arrived at Many Waters Mission. We are located near a town called Farmington, with the Navajo Res. only a few miles away.
We are spending the next few days training with our leader Lindsey, Heather (part of EM Staff and she also went on the first Africa Immersion trip with Lindsey last year) as well as Chris Clum, the director of EM. 

Pretty awesome stuff thus far! We have begun talking about what our part in this six month journey looks like. A huge part of EM is not going into cultures and communities with an agenda as the in charge white Americans. Instead it's about entering communities and joining along side of projects already in motion. Consequently, a lot of our days aren't scheduled with a structured plan from 9-5. Instead, we are able to be open and flexible to not only the people's needs but wherever God may be calling us to serve. 

I am excited to see the next few days of training unfold, as well as spending more time with my team and appreciating the beautiful New Mexico landscape.

New [Mexico] Experiences:
-Everything is mostly dirt and desert. Forget green grass and trees.
-Beautiful mountains surround me and amaze me constantly, the hills of PA got nothing on these beauties.
-IT'S HAWWWWT. But it's a dry heat, so although I sweat, at least I don't melt like in the humidity of PA.

With love,