(Disclaimer: This post and all future posts are written personally by Jill Emmelhainz and do NOT necessarily represent the beliefs or positions of the overseeing board of Lybrook Community Ministries.)

There have been some big changes for our family and for Lybrook Community Ministries in the past few months. Here is a summary in Q&A format:

Q:        We hear rumors that your family is leaving?

A:        Yes, that is unfortunately true. As of Christmas, our family has moved back to Ohio to live with family while we figure out what is next for us.

Q:        Why did you leave?

A:        This is complicated to answer. The simple version is that there hasn’t been enough money for many months to cover the expenses for an “anglo” family to live in this remote location. Beyond that, for this or any other ministry to make a significant difference in local lives, we are convinced that a much larger program carried out in partnership with local Navajo leadership would be needed which would take significantly higher amounts of support. This did not seem feasible when basic support levels were not being met.

Q:        Are you just “abandoning” the Navajo?

A:        We hope not! We are trying to maintain contact with friends and Christian leaders via calls and texts. The Navajo-led church we attended made it clear that they were sending us back to Ohio as part of their Navajo family, to represent them and their needs to the outside world.

Q:        But don’t the Navajo need people there to help them?

A:        The Navajo in the Lybrook area certainly need help as many families are being ripped apart by alcohol, abuse, and suicide. However, during our time there, and in conversation with many Christian and secular leaders, we realized that outsiders often do more harm than actual good. Change in the community can only come when their own leaders step up to challenging the status quo, something that doesn’t bring change when done by “Anglos” who can be ignored as not really understanding what is going on.

Q:        What about the young people who attended that “Transition to Adulthood” retreat last spring? What’s happening with them?

A:        We are quite happy to share that (so far) all 12 of those students are still attending classes for 9th grade. (By this time in past years there have usually been a few students who have already dropped out of high school.) They are spread among three different high schools with some living at home and some in weekday boarding situations. They appear to be keeping in contact with each other and encouraging each other to continue on. They have asked for a follow-up retreat. We are hoping to gather them together for a day-long event when we travel back to New Mexico sometime in the spring.

Q:        What about the work you were doing at the local public school?

A:        We miss the contact with “our” kids. We miss the opportunities to encourage them, challenge them, and speak hope into their lives. However, the school district is facing financial crisis. Even if we had stayed in the area, there was not enough money to renew our contract through the end of the school year. (And that income was a significant part of covering living expenses that were not covered by donations.)

Q:        What’s happening at the school now?

A:        Both of us worked hard to transition our responsibilities to the other teachers. We believe that through example and conversations, we gave those teachers additional “tools” to better meet the challenges of teaching such at-risk children in ways the traditional teacher-training programs never equipped them for.

Q:        What’s happening with Lybrook Community Ministries now?

A:        The overseeing board is evaluating that question. They are looking for a long-term way to keep the mission open, perhaps with a retired couple as caretakers. If you want updates, you could contact Ken Frantz at frantz@haxtuntel.net As stated above, both we and this blog will continue to communicate, but will be independent from the mission.

Q:        What’s happening with this blog?

A:        We still have a few more guest posts. In addition, Jill plans to continue writing about our family’s experiences living and working in Navajoland. Beyond personal reflections, as we keep contact with our friends in the area, we will share new stories and new insights.

Q:        What’s happening with your family?

A:        We don’t have a clue! As mentioned at the beginning, we have moved back to Ohio to live with family until we figure that out. Jill and Anna are currently living in Germany for a few months, to help friends with their new baby and their active family. We continue to look for the “open door” that God has next for our family.

Q:        What can we do to help during this transition?

A:        Please keep reading this blog (and let me know what topics you would like to know more about!) Keep praying for the Navajo people in the Lybrook area. We know God has good things for them. And, we greatly appreciate continued prayers for our family during this time. Transitions are filled with uncertainty!

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