Notes from Nettie — Guest Post

Leave a comment

Our middle daughter, Janetta Emmelhainz, is currently in China, helping to teach English to 4-6th grade students. She made the following observations in a recent email:

I had an interesting conversation with one of the internationals that’s been here for more than a decade about Native American connections to China.  Apparently there is a specific cultural group of Tibetans (I don’t know which one) that have some very close cultural similarities to the Hopi in the US.  So close that there is actually a matching set of prophecies between the two groups.  In general there are a lot of similarities between Native Americans and native people here, possibly just due to the fact that indigenous people often have similarities in outlook, etc.  There are also theories that the connections come from the migration of native people from Asia to the Americas over the Bering Land Bridge however many centuries ago.  I was amused at how comfortable it was to have so many native looking people around me as I walked down the street.  The Tibetans, especially the more elderly ones, look very similar to the Navajo and other groups that I saw a lot around New Mexico and Arizona in the last few years.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time with the Navajo as my parents have but I have still apparently grown used to being surrounded by more than just white people!

"Cousin-Brothers" -- Kevin (on the left) is fully part of the Salazar Family, but not by birth

“Cousin-Brothers” — Kevin (on the left) is fully part of the Salazar Family, but not by birth

The other random thing that connected the Navajo to the Chinese was the idea of Cousin-brothers!  For the Navajo cousin-brothers comes mostly out of the matrilineal structure to their families–cousins on the mother’s side are connected because of the matriarch and matter more because of it.  Often cousins are even raised together.  The Navajo don’t differentiate between first and second cousins, or even cousins and brothers, because the distance really doesn’t matter as long as you are still considered in the same family group.  The reasoning is different in China, but here cousins are called brothers as well.  Because of the one-child rule there have been very few siblings in Han Chinese families in the last 50 years.  Therefore cousins were often as close as siblings.  So, they’re cousin-brothers.

Questions and Answers

Leave a comment

(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!

Scholarly Research on Navajo People (Guest Post #9)

Leave a comment

This is the Ninth in a series of Guest Posts written by Jianping (Corey) Yang. You can read an introduction to these posts HERE.

Having collected several dozen  scholarly articles on Navajo people, I am trying to find what the focuses of these studies are. The following categorization certainly cannot capture all the themes. However, it gives a general idea what social science studies are concerned with relating to the Navajo people. These focuses are education, health, identity, adolescence, and way of thinking.

The cultural aspect is emphasized in the studies on education. Studies on education involve not only students but also the superintendent and school administrators. Examples of these studies are the effects of bilingual education, superintendent turnover, and the cultural impact on school administrators’ career, etc. Although these studies were not conducted in New Mexico alone, they certainly provide insights into the education and administration of Lybrook Elementary/Middle School. Health is another major theme, which deals with obesity, drinking, mental health, and so on. Other articles look at Navajo adolescence focusing on cultural identity, pregnancy, etc.; and Navajo way of thinking, such as in terms of wellness.

These studies involve both urban and rural areas. They particularly emphasize the influence of Navajo culture on people’s lives. Jill, Randy and I already talked a lot about these topics which also apply to the area where we live. I believe they are valuable in providing insights into the transformation of Navajo community in this area.

8th Grade Retreat: Transition to Adulthood

Leave a comment

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do,

and liking how you do it.

–Maya Angelou

We had the privilege of spending 3 ½ days with the 8thgrade class from the local school to help them gain the skills they need to succeed in high school. Finishing high school can be a challenge for many young people. For students in this area, it is an almost insurmountable challenge: only 15% will finish high school due to cultural stresses, peer pressure, and lack of perceived usefulness of a diploma.

guys

Fearless (giggly) Guys

girls

Brave (talkative) Girls

Each day of the retreat, we focused on a different part of the above quote. We used a variety of outdoors activities, art projects, large group discussions, and small group discovery projects to help students actively engage with each day’s focus.

Mr E teaching outdoors

Group Discussions…indoors and out

Day one helped students define who THEY are as individuals. There is a high priority on group settings in Navajo culture: time is spent with close friends and family and identity is found in relationship with those people. Little emphasis is put on the individual in any setting.

poster

Making “This is ME” posters

We did target shooting with no target identified and had the students run a race with no marked finish line. This helped them to understand it is hard to “win” if you don’t know what you are shooting for. They also experienced first hand that merely following what others were doing wasn’t an indicator of success.

target

Target Shooting…

target spears

…with pool-noodle “spears”

They decided on a personal definition of “success.” They identified their strengths and their personality types. They worked to figure out what gives meaning to their lives and what makes each one of them unique in their world. They learned about cultural differences, as we stressed that we were NOT asking them to give up their Navajo culture but were challenging them to become proficient in both Navajo and Anglo cultures. Finally, they began to identify a personal vision of what they want their lives to look like 10 years from now: housing, transportation, family, hobbies, etc.

comfy couches

…lots of writing about individual ideas in Student Portfolios

Day Two started with a timed obstacle course. First, the “resources” they needed were hidden and they had to go on a search to find the items they needed to complete each task: water guns, pool-noodle “spears,” a jump rope, a basketball, and more. When they re-ran the obstacle course with all resources right beside the task locations, they finished the race in less than half the time it took for the first attempt. This introduced the students to the daily theme of defining what they want in life, and identifying what resources they need to get there.

obstacle course run

Running to get to the next “task” in the Obstacle Course

obstacle course water guns

Water guns are useful for more than “tasks” in the Obstacle Course!

A main focus of Day Two was setting a realistic budget for their personal lifestyle choices. Some students had modest wants, needing $20-25 per hour to meet their vision. Other students wanted to live in large cities, drive fancy cars, and spend time traveling for pleasure. They were shocked to find out they would need $50-60 per hour to pay for their chosen lifestyles! This project was followed by identifying what types of jobs might meet these financial goals, including a look at what level of schooling would be required to get those jobs. Rather than “preaching” at them, this discovery-based project helped students come to their own conclusions about what they really want out of life.

setting budgets

Setting Individual Budgets for their Ideal Lifestyles

Day Three helped students identify what they needed to do to live the life they envisioned. We introduced them to more jobs than they were originally aware of. We looked at how to make good decisions, how to avoid making excuses, and how to take responsibility for your own decisions and actions. We finished with some practical tips on how to quiet fears and overcome obstacles.

closing program

The closing program reminded students that, although they must make individual choices, they are not alone in facing challenges.

Finally, on Day Four the students wrote a resume, gathered information for job applications, and completed a mock-interview with Mr. Emmelhainz. After returning to the school, they made a presentation about the retreat to the 7thgraders. They also showed their portfolios to the school principal and other adults.

job interview

Mock Job Interview with Mr. E — can you hear the students’ knees knocking?!

reports

Reporting back to adults at school…

The week was not, of course, all work. There was free time to explore the rocks, play on the playground, and hang out listening to music.

rock play

Playing on the rock wall at the back of the Lybrook property

video games

Video gaming was popular

We also had a campfire one evening, complete with S’mores.

campfire

Campfire with s’mores…yum!

The following night, we had Game Night. Randy treated them to the junk food they had been craving all week. Students played poker, wii, and watched a movie. Staying in a “dorm” was a novel experience for most of the students, something we hadn’t thought about in advance, but good practice for those planning to stay in dorms for high school.

junk food

Junk Food “heaven” 🙂

poker night

Game Night included a competitive round of Poker

All-in-all this was an excellent experience for everyone involved. Hopefully the students are better prepared to make choices about their futures, not just follow the crowd into oblivion. It also helped us build closer relationships with many of the students which should make it easier to keep connection with them as they move out of this area for their high school years. We hope to be able to spend mentoring-time with many of them on a weekly basis as they transition to ninth grade.

 Go confidently in the direction of your dreams;

Live the life you have imagined!

–Thoreau

Why Children Matter Most

Leave a comment

As we set a vision for where we should focus our efforts for ministry among Navajo in the Lybrook area, we come back over and over again to the importance of reaching out to young people. Far too often, even those in their twenties are already set in their ways, already living out the results of values and decisions set in place during middle school or earlier. It is increasingly clear that for God to transform this community, He must first transform the lives of the children here. We are privileged to walk this out in practical ways.

let the little children...As we get more involved in the local school, we see children in the youngest grades who get excited, who have bright smiles and sparkling eyes, who live life loudly and with openness. By the middle school years, far too many of the students have become guarded. They have seen too much tragedy and lived with too much abuse and dysfunction. Unless something or someONE intervenes, many of them will slide downwards into despair and hopelessness.

let the middle children...I recently discovered an excellent book by Dr. Wess Stafford, President & CEO of Compassion International: Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most. In this book, Dr. Stafford shares the heartbreaking story of abuse he received as a child, intertwining victories and tragedies of his life story with the stories of children around the world.recommended book

Dr. Stafford challenges every Christian to consider what the Bible has to say about children and to look around them to see how Satan is too often winning the war for the hearts of children. Throughout this book, Dr. Stafford lays out a clear and compelling argument for the responsibility of those who love God to speak up for the needs of children, locally and around the world.

In the first few chapters, Dr. Stafford includes the following statements:

“Jesus uttered a powerful and terrifying warning to protect little ones from the kind of stumbling and abuse that humanity can impose upon them if they are not treasured, nurtured, and respected enough. His disciples never got a more enraged tongue-lashing than when they tried to keep children away from the Master.”

“Who are these individuals who stretch across Asia and Africa, knowing nothing of Christ’s atoning work and needing to hear the message of salvation? If, in your mental image of that vast sea of humanity every other person is not a child, you don’t know what the harvest looks like!”

“Fully half of the world, and especially the developing world, are children and teenagers.”

“What portion of your church budget is dedicated to children’s ministry? If it is more than 15 percent, yours is an exceptional church. What portion of your denomination’s mission budget is spent on worldwide children’s ministry? Again, if it is more than 10 percent, that is very rare.”

“What makes all this so urgent is that missiological research indicates that almost two-thirds of the people who give their lives to Christ do so before the age of eighteen. In other words, line up any twenty Christians, and thirteen of them will have accepted Christ as their Savior while a child or youth. In fact, researchers tell us that if people have not accepted Christ by age twenty-one, the probability that they ever will is only 23 percent. Yet we spend a pittance on the more open and strategic part of the harvest.”

Reading this book was a confirmation to me that working with and for the children in this hurting community is a way of sharing God’s heart. I urge you to get a copy of this book to learn more about this imperative need in today’s broken world.

We appreciate the faithful support, encouragement, and prayers of those who partner with us from afar to touch the lives of children here in Navajoland.

Announcing Lybrook Science Fair Winners…(finally!)

Leave a comment

We finally have the results for the school-district-wide Science Fair. If you remember, in an earlier post I talked about some of our Lybrook students who did well with their projects and advanced to the district level.

judging science fair

Interactive Judging of Projects

I was quite proud of all of the students who competed on this level. They often find it difficult to talk with strangers, ducking their heads, speaking hardly above a whisper. I challenged them to at least look at their display boards, even if they couldn’t manage to look directly at the judges.

Most of them were quite nervous, but when it was their time to be interviewed, each of them moved out of their comfort zones and stepped up to the challenge. They talked clearly about what they had done in their projects. They answered questions quickly, without long silences. Some were even animated, looking at the judges, pointing to their displays, gesturing with their hands as they explained their ideas.

Unfortunately, only 7th and 8th grade students can progress to the Regional Science Fair. None of our students at that level won at the district competition. However, we have three beautiful big rosette ribbons in the display case at Lybrook School.

Maurice won 3rd place in the Middle School competition (6thgrade) for his project on AIR.

maurice

maurice

Anna won 3rd place in the Elementary School division (4thgrade) for her project on G-FORCE and centripetal force on merry-go-rounds.

anna

anna

Noah won 1st place in the Elementary School competition (4thgrade) for his project on identifying different  types of FINGERPRINTS.

noah

noah

A big CONGRATULATIONS to all of the Lybrook Students who participated in the Science Fair competitions this year!

(And here is a little more information about Noah’s project for readers who would like more details…

On the day before Lybrook School’s science fair, one student was excited about the previous day’s fieldtrip to Sandia Labs in Albuquerque.  At this by-invitation-only event, students had solved a mystery using a variety of forensic techniques. Noah was fascinated by the fingerprinting process. He had previously shown little interest in completing a science project. But now he wondered if he could do something with fingerprinting.

His teacher asked if I had time to help him. I was happy to do so. We talked about what he had learned, made some plans, and ran around the school collecting fingerprints from a variety of teachers, staff, and students. “I promise I won’t use this for anything bad…really…”

Noah then analyzed the fingerprints, decoding which type of print each one was: loop, double loop, tented arch, whirl, and more. He spent a long time making a bar graph of the results and carefully coloring the bars to make it more visible. He gathered his thoughts and made a report, summarizing what he had learned. He put together a nice-looking display. He interviewed well, not too shy to tell the judges what he had learned.

Noah was quite excited to be chosen as one of the students representing the fourth grade class of Lybrook School for the district-wide event. Again, he talked excitedly with the judges about what he had learned. At the end of the day, he was pleased to find that a number of spectators had noticed his invitation and had added their own fingerprints to his collection sheet. More prints to analyze…heaven!

It took a few weeks for the results…but you should have seen Noah’s grin from ear to ear when he was given his big, blue, rosette ribbon for 1st place at the Elementary Science Fair District Competition! Way to go, Noah!)

A “Typical Week” of Life In Navajoland

2 Comments

We have heard that a number of people can’t “see” what we do with our time as we live and work out here in Navajoland. It is difficult to explain exactly since we have few things that are scheduled tightly. We have discovered that one of the most important attributes needed here is *FLEXIBILITY* as community and Navajo family crises erupt and take extra time. The following calendar is an estimate of a “typical” week. The hours listed are how much time each of us spends on ministry and LCM organizational tasks. These numbers are sometimes averages, especially in the case of items such as property repairs which tend to be very time intensive when something breaks then use little or no time for weeks following.

 

SUNDAY: (2 hours each)

Church (9-2 including travel time): includes individual deeper conversations and providing our share of food for potluck dinners 1-2 /month

Drop-in Visitors: 2-3 hours of conversation and possibly a shared meal with community individuals or couples; occurs 1-2 x/month

 

MONDAY: (Randy 7 hours; Jill 12 hours)

Randy: Teach Algebra 8:30-10am

4-5 hours of Technology Consulting work at school

1 hour relationship investment time (school)

Jill: Substitute Teaching (often one day/week, includes grades 1-8)

Tutoring students 2:30-6:00

2 hours Communications (blog posts, facebook updates, emails, newsletters)

 

TUESDAY: (9 hours each)

Randy: Teach Algebra 8:30-10am

4-5 hours of Technology Consulting work at school

1 hour relationship investment time (school)

1 hour mentoring young people

Jill: 1 hour relationship investment time (supporters)

2 Hours EITHER Emergency Medical time (meetings, training, phone calls, etc) OR mentoring young people and investing in community relationships

Trip to Town (6 hours including 2 ½ hours travel time): buy groceries, banking, errands, library, faster internet, etc.

 

WEDNESDAY: (Randy 9 hours; Jill 5 hours)

Randy: Teach Algebra 8:30-10am

Trip to Town (includes 2 ½ hours travel time): 3  hours LCM paperwork, 1 hour LCM errands, returning phone calls and emails, hospital visitation 1-2 times/month  (Jakob attends a large youth group in town from 6:30-8:00pm each week.)

Jill: 1 hour relationship investment time (supporters)

1 hour mentoring young people

Tutoring 2:30-5:30

 

THURSDAY: (Randy 9 hours; Jill 3 hours)

Randy: Teach Algebra 8:30-10am

Technology Consulting work at school 10am-5pm

Jill: 2 hours relationship investment time (community and school)

1 hour mentoring young people

**Jakob tutors chess from 2-3:30pm**

 

 

FRIDAY: (9 hours each)

4 hours developing, preparing for, and trying new programs in the community

Randy: 3 hours property maintenance and repair

2 hours relationship investment time (community)

Jill: 2 hours Communications (see Monday for details)

3 hours relationship investment time (supporters and community)

 

SATURDAY: (Randy 8 hours; Jill 6 hours)

3-4 hours of Strategizing and Discussion time related to Ministry issues

3-4 hours preparing for special activities (such as preaching, funerals, teaching Sunday School, preparing for Board Meetings, preparing for work teams, writing academic papers for publication, etc.)

Randy: 2 hours relationship investment time (supporters)

 

SUMMARY:

During this “typical week,” Randy spends 53 hours and Jill spends 46 hours on ministry and LCM organization activities. This is, of course, in addition to personal, family, and household responsibilities. For these hours, 39 of them are paid by the local school (covering our family expenses) and 60 hours are paid by LCM/supporters providing room, board and health insurance for our family.

We have found that living here as a family gives us significant opportunities to build relationships with local families. Anna’s attendance at the local school and also her participation in Sunday School at the Navajo church we attend, has led to a number of incidents and discussions about racism, integration, “building bridges” in relationships, etc. This has sometimes been a painful process, but has resulted in stronger relationships both for Anna and her peers and among the concerned adults. Jakob is involved in tutoring at the local school. He has the opportunity to build relationships and give some sense of stability to a number of struggling students.

In addition to the activities represented in this “typical week,” we have made 8 extended trips this past year (individually or as a family). During the time one of us is away, the other fills in as needed for ministry responsibilities. It is important for supporters to understand that (1) this ministry and concurrent need to develop a strong outside support base requires travel; and, (2) as Ohioans living in New Mexico personal issues require long-distance travel.

 

MINISTRY “by the numbers”:

Some have wondered how much impact we are having on the local community. Building relationships, mentoring young people and sharing God’s transforming love within the context of such relationships can be very difficult to measure.

Rather than looking at ministry here in terms of hours spent on various tasks (as seen in the above schedule), here is a brief breakdown of the number of people with whom we had significant interactions during this past week alone:

32 students

12 school staff members

12 church leaders and members

  9 local community members

We hope this gives you a better “picture” of how we spend our time and who we are impacting as we live and work here in Navajoland with Lybrook Community Ministries!

Older Entries