A “Typical Week” of Life In Navajoland

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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!

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Gathering “Woods”

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This weekend our church spent a day gathering “woods” for a community outreach later this fall. Out here, most families heat with wood. It takes 5-6 cords to make it through the winter. Families that have strong young men in the home do fine with this. However, it can be a difficult struggle for elderly folks and single moms to get enough wood to last through the winter. Even if they somehow get big logs, it is even more difficult to split and chop all that wood.

It has become a tradition at Pine Hill Church to gather wood early in the fall. The weekend before Thanksgiving, everyone helps to deliver wood, already split and chopped, to local families that need help. These families are then invited to join our church family in a huge Thanksgiving feast the following day. A partner church from Texas joins us for the outreach, including providing and cooking as many as 70 turkeys with all the fixings!

Before moving out here to Navajoland, we didn’t really understand what is involved in gathering wood for winter heating. Following is a photo-essay of the process:

Permits must be purchased to cut wood on federal land. There are often roving officers who strictly enforce the rules and regulations about wood-gathering. Fines are hefty for non-compliance.

Everyone gathers at a meeting point to caravan into remote canyons to find a good stand of timber in an area open for cutting:

gathering workers

time for a chat before starting

remote setting

Drive WAY back into remote canyons...

remote setting

...in the "middle of nowhere"...

remote setting

...beauty around many bends...

Line the trucks up along the side of the road. Spread out to find the best trees to cut. Use chainsaws to cut down dead trees. Use chainsaws to cut the trunks into more manageable chunks. Work on the chainsaws throughout the day…

Lined up Trucks

Trucks must stay by the road...

chainsaw usage

Cutting down trees...

chainsaw usage

Watch out!

chainsaw usage

Whew! Finally down...

chainsaw usage

Our "fearless leader" (Pastor Wesley) chopping up the trunk

chainsaw usage

it takes work to keep the chainsaws running

Others use axes to cut off branches and chop the trunk pieces even smaller. Then all the cut wood must be carried to the road and loaded into the trucks.

moving wood

chopping wood into manageable size to move

moving wood

communication is important

moving wood

All the wood must be carried to the road

moving wood

...and loaded into the trucks.

moving wood

kids at "work"!!

Once all 5 trucks are loaded, the group caravans back out of the canyons. Wood is unloaded at one family’s home for later splitting and chopping. And everyone can finally relax.

hauling wood

Driving back out of the canyons...

hauling wood

unloading the trucks..

hauling wood

...in a big messy pile.

Whew! A full day’s work by 16 people filled 5 pick-up truck beds with wood. That’s a good start. Everyone is tired today; but there’s more wood to cut another day.

end of day

Everyone's tired at the end of a good day.

 

Why Can’t We _________ ?

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The first reaction of many Anglos who visit us or who hear about what is going on with Lybrook Community Ministries here in Navajoland is often to ask “Why don’t you ______?”  or “Why can’t we _____?”

Why don’t you have a food bank? Why can’t we lead VBS here? Why don’t you run day camps for Navajo kids? Why can’t we go fix homes for Navajo families? Why don’t you lead a craft group or be the preacher for church? Why can’t we _____? (fill in with some type of doing for Navajo)

digging a "speed ditch"

It is hard to answer these questions in a way that makes sense to the asker. We know how enjoyable it is to teach Navajo children. We understand how doing such things makes the doer feel like what they are doing is significant. We empathize with the frustration of being asked to do mundane tasks that seemingly have no relevance to actual “ministry.”

Scraping off the "old" ... Prepping for the "new"

But…these mundane tasks (such as sorting out piles of accumulated “stuff” in the storage building or scraping and repainting the community building or, in our case, keeping the financial books and communicating with potential supporters) are a necessary part of keeping this place open and functioning. If no one does the boring, mundane, maintenance tasks, actual ministry will have no opportunity to occur.

Plus, true ministry takes time. It occurs in the context of relationship. True ministry must also look at the long-term good, not just immediate gratification—for either side.

Here in Navajoland there have been too many years of well-meaning outsiders doing things FOR the Navajo. It is time for Navajo to be doing things for each other; to be mutually serving each other. And, as I’ve said before, this same struggle to change the ministry paradigm is going on around the world right now.

Sometimes we begin to question ourselves. Are we being calloused? Are we blinded to the benefits of Anglos helping Navajo? But then, we hear from yet another strong, functional Navajo (Christian or secular) who vents frustration with both Anglos who continue to treat Navajo as children and with Navajo themselves who refuse to accept/take responsibility for themselves. These leaders envision the day when Navajo indeed are taking care of each other and taking care of themselves. What these leaders beg us is to stand beside our Navajo friends. They beg us to do the tough job of refraining from “helping” directly, but rather encourage our friends that they are, indeed, capable of doing these things for themselves.

So…

We will continue to ask visitors and work teams to help us with mundane tasks around this property. We will try to communicate clearly how that work frees us to spend more time on building relationships with local friends. And in those relationships we build, we will try to encourage independence and mutual support.

“Why Can’t We _____?” Because all of us are called to much harder work!

Here Comes the Rain…

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A few posts ago, I asked everyone to pray with us that this place and these people would be refreshed with heaven’s rain.

Last night dark clouds blew up, the wind started gusting harder and harder, and it definitely looked like rain. In this dry, arid land, we assumed it was just another “teaser.” We “knew” it wouldn’t really rain right here, right now. And then we had a wind-lashing, ground-beating physical rain. Ahhh…

I woke up this morning to a new world. It is crisp and cool. There is no dust—in the air or on the ground (or even on my pick-up truck!) All the trees and brush are glowing green, no longer hidden by dull dust. It is a glorious day!

In just a little while, I’m leaving for the airport in Albuquerque. I will be hauling most of the luggage for a large work team that is coming in for the week. This group of 20 (14 teens and 6 adults) will be sightseeing and will be doing projects on our grounds. At least one evening, they will attend a revival service just down the road. Another evening, they will enjoy a cookout with some of our Navajo friends, across the road on the “top of the world” mesa.

Physical rain came last night…please pray with us that some of heaven’s rain will fall this week. We are longing for a glorious renewal in the lives of these teens and chaperones. We want them to go home, tired in body, and refreshed in spirit. We hope they will spread the word about this place, these people, the need for heaven’s rain to quench the dry hearts and arid land.

(Keep an eye out this week, here and on the “Lybrook Community” Facebook page. I will post a few photos of the group…)

Raymond Quits: Work for Today, Pt 3

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Raymond is typical of many Navajo who live in this area. He used to work in the oil fields. He dropped out of highschool many years ago to start working to install and maintain the wells. It was good work at a good pay.

But then a few years ago, there were cutbacks. Ray lost his job. With no highschool diploma and limited job skills, it was hard to find other work. The long distance to possible jobs and Ray’s lack of transportation were additional hurdles. It was hard to not have ready-money, but Ray and his family did okay. Other extended family members still had work. They could be relied on to give a few dollars here and a more dollars there for food or gas when needed. Healthcare was covered by the Navajo nation, so that was no problem. If extra money was needed, there were always things to sell—family jewelry, horses, or other items collected and stored over the years.

Eventually, however, Raymond had nothing of value left to pawn or sell. His family tried to get food stamps but it was difficult to get to the appointments. He talked about applying for jobs when he heard about openings in town, but often didn’t get there until the positions had already been filled.

Finally, his uncle helped him get a job back on the oil fields again. Ray was still good at the jobs he had done for so many years. He had to get up before the sun rose to catch a ride to town for work. It was inconvenient when work was cancelled because of bad weather since he still had to wait around in town until his ride took him home in the evening. Raymond got his first paycheck in two years. Oh it was good to be able to pay off some debts and to go to the store and stock up on treats, not just beans and flour for fry bread.

Ray got a second pay check. Need for money was no longer a struggle. His family could once again buy the things they wanted. But Raymond missed being home. His time was no longer his to spend however he wanted. He was getting tired of leaving home before it was light and getting home after dark.

Then Raymond got sick. He couldn’t sleep well because of the cough. He didn’t feel well enough to go to work. So he stayed home. Day after day, the cough lingered on. And day after day, Ray didn’t make it to work.

Unfortunately, when Ray’s cough was finally gone two weeks later, he found out that he no longer had a job. To him, it was hard to understand why he was let go. When one lives from day to day, making decisions based on this day, not on the possibilities of tomorrow, consequences don’t make much sense. Eventually, Raymond will need to find work again. But for today he is happy. His family still has some money set aside and his time is his again.