Another School Shooting?

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This is something that has infuriated me over the years. When something tragic happens in a suburban school, people from around the country rally in support of the community. At the time of the Columbine shooting, young Cambodian friends of ours had not-too-long-earlier had to deal with shootings in their neighborhood which killed friends and family with no acknowledgement or support from the outside world.

Working with families and students in the Lybrook area of Navajoland was devastating at times. Far too often we saw first-hand the results of beatings, of abandonment, of neglect, of abuse. I’ve written occasionally on this blog about some of the bigger tragedies in the community. But where is the outpouring of support? Where is the free counseling? Where is the money and the prayers and the encouraging notes…for the adults choosing to work with these families and for the children themselves?

There was another school shooting this week. But it hardly merited comment. Perhaps that was because it might have been gang related. Perhaps it is because it happened in a school that has metal detectors at the doors. Perhaps it is because we can’t acknowledge the violence faced by thousands upon thousands of children every day in this country. Perhaps that is just too hard to think about when it makes us feel too helpless.

Discussing and debating laws and regulations won’t change lives.

Our family is no longer living and working in Navajoland. But a piece of our hearts is still there, suffering and celebrating with our friends. Concerned for the children we know who are trying to raise themselves and their siblings with no stable adults around them.

I wish I knew what WE could do about such callousness in our country. And I wish there was some way to set hearts on fire so that each and every one of us would rise up in outrage at these tragedies, insisting that things MUST change for the “least of these,” for children who are precious in the sight of our Saviour…

I read a few blogs written by families who are doing what they can to stand in the gap for needy children. One of these summarized that life well today:

And the truth of the matter is that the cracks aren’t very comfortable. They’re dark, and kind of squishy, and supremely lonely. We’ve been having trouble recruiting mentors, which has given me a bad attitude and made me feel a little despondent and frustrated. Like why in the world are we the only ones here? Where are all the other people who love Jesus?

But when I get in that place, when I get overwhelmed by the darkness, by the storm that so often surrounds us here, it usually means I have taken my eyes off of Jesus. Because here’s the thing about cracks: they let the light shine through. So even when they feel broken, and dark, and even a little scary, I am learning that standing in the gap for “the least of these” means we bear the great privilege and responsibility of being a fissure for Christ’s love to seep through.

I challenge each one of us to step outside our comfort zone. To reach out and help someone who is in a difficult situation. To speak up for the children. Discussing and debating laws and regulations won’t change lives. Making time to spend regularly with one or two of these children could make a huge difference. Jumping into the “trenches” with a family who is working with little ones in tragic situations, trying hard to understand what that life is really like, and encouraging those workers can make a difference.

The real question is: are we willing to wrestle with the uncomfortable? Are we willing to be stretched outside our “normal”? When will we react with as much shock and horror to the devastating lives of the poor as we do to tragedies among the well-to-do?

(If you are interested, you can read more from the above blogger HERE)

How to Get Professional Licensure in “The Land of Enchantment”

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1.  Try to ignore all the doom-and-gloom nay-sayers who claim this is an impossible task.

2.   Search on-line for downloadable application forms.

Don't waste time on websites...just CALL.


3.   Give up trying to navigate poorly designed websites and pick up the telephone. Request forms be mailed to your home.

4.   A few weeks later, call (again) and request (again) that application forms be mailed to your home.

5.   Once you receive the forms, begin gathering the necessary documentation of previous education and experience.



Don't forget to get TWO sets of fingerprint cards!

6.   Make a trip to town to be fingerprinted. Stop by the gas station to get a money order.

7.   No one certified to do fingerprinting was at the police station. And the money order machine was down. Go to another gas station and at least get the money order you need.

8.  Grumble, mumble, and whine to everyone around you. They will all commiserate about the challenges of dealing with government offices.

9.   Call ahead to verify when someone can do the finger printing. Repeat this step until the receptionist finally gets an answer from the Police Chief.

10.  Three days later, finally head to town again to complete the finger printing. Also stop at the bank to get one form notarized.


Wait a week or two before checking your mailbox...

11.  Mail off the forms. Double check the packet. Do you have everything? Forms; notarized statement that you are not a felon; two (not one but TWO) fingerprint cards, properly filled in; money order for a background check (to verify if you told the truth about not being a felon); money order for license; copies of transcripts, CPR card, National Registry card, etc.

12.  Wonder what is happening with your application. Just when you are thinking of calling for a status update, open your mailbox and find the packet in your mailbox. Sigh with relief.

13.  No, you do not yet have your license. There is an unwritten law, hidden somewhere in the books, that all applications (no matter what state department you are dealing with) MUST be returned at least once for additional information.

14.  Grumble, mumble, and whine to everyone around you. They will all commiserate about the challenges of dealing with government offices.

15.  Jump through the hoops and track down the requested information—even though it was not part of the original instructions for the application packet.

16.  Re-submit the application packet. (Don’t think about how much postage this is costing you…or how much of your tax money is wasted on unnecessary postage by government offices.)

17.   Wait a few more weeks, or even a month.

18.  Finally receive another large envelope from the state office. Sigh with relief and rip it open.

19.  Stare in disbelief that they sent you a license for something you did not apply for. Sigh (again) in disbelief.

20.  Grumble, mumble and whine to everyone around you. They will all commiserate about the challenges of dealing with government offices.

21.  Decide if it is worth arguing, appealing, and/or going through the process another time to get the appropriate license you originally requested. (Perhaps the organization you want to work with would be willing to accept the lesser license you received?)

22.  Join the gloom-and-doom nay-sayers who claim dealing with New Mexico’s government offices is an impossible task.


…and just to make it clear…these “how-tos” are not exaggerated! This really is what happened with licensure from the education department. Similar steps were required regarding the mission’s tax-exempt status, although that was finally granted correctly. Currently, I am at Step 17 with the public safety department about transferring my EMT certification to this state. (IF that is finally granted, there are still more training classes, pencil and paper tests, and practical tests that I must go through…but that is an other story for another day!)

Living in a “Black Hole”

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We live in a "black hole"

Black holes are part of big adventures. They are a significant plot-devise in sci-fi movies and books. They add an element of uncertainty and tension—will the main characters survive a trip through a black hole? Or can they avoid being sucked into the black hole, to disappear forever?

We are discovering that we live in a “black hole.” Yes, there is plenty of adventure here. But we are trying to avoid getting sucked in to the dark nothingness of working-hard-but-getting-nowhere. Looking back at the history of this location in remote New Mexico, it seems that no matter how many resources are poured into the area, they are absorbed, and families continue to live on the edge of crisis.

There is a significant lack of economic opportunity in the area. Other than a very small number of jobs at the local school and at the few carryout stories nearby, the closest jobs are at least 45 miles away. The distance plus a lack of licenses and reliable transportation means that earning a regular income is difficult for those living here. Expenses are high out here as well. Groceries are quite expensive at the carryout stores and other consumer goods are not available unless one travels “to town,” 45-60 miles away. In addition, a “survival mentality” makes it difficult to develop local jobs with local employees. The current pattern tends to be that people work very hard for a few hours or a few days, just enough to earn what they need in the moment. They often see no need to work more consistently if they have no immediate need for the income.

This area tends to be a challenge for providing or receiving social services. To obtain financial assistance such as food stamps, families are often asked to show up for appointments at offices that are many miles away from here. Again, transportation becomes an issue. Many local people also struggle with the idea of using calendars to keep track of days and weeks. Many friends have failed to show up for appointments and are baffled that they can’t just meet whenever they happen to arrive. Being some place at a specific time on a specific date is not part of their typical cultural patterns. Even showing up for the weekly food pantry hours at a nearby mission can be a challenge!

This is a very remote area, with most people living back on dirt roads. They may live 20 or more miles off the main highway, which often means they lack electricity and running water. These families rarely see a need for gaining those utilities. (If it was important to them, they would just move to town…) On the other hand, hauling water and gathering wood for heating can take a significant amount of time for daily living.

Because of the mix of land ownership in the area (private, Navajo nation, and federal lands), law enforcement can also feel like a “black hole.” Unless there is life-and-death violence involved, there is often little or no response to a call for assistance. Even when officers respond to a call, they often argue over whose jurisdiction it really is, trying to avoid having to do unnecessary paper work. Even when jurisdiction appears to be clear, cases can later be taken over by the federal government or by the Navajo Nation, regardless of who initially took control.

Finally, this area is a “black hole” when it comes to emergency services. If there is a significant injury with a call to 911, it can take over an hour for emergency personnel to arrive because of the distances involved. Local families often have no knowledge of first-aid, so are unable to do much treatment or stabilization before the ambulance or life-flight arrives. Again, remoteness and life choices contribute to a lack of resources in this area.

How can we bring "light" to the darkness here?

We haven’t quite figured out what our response should be to dealing with this “black hole.” We do know that we see no reason to just continue dumping resources (time or money) into this sucking pit. We are looking for ways to make a significant long-term difference. For now, we are talking with a few Navajo friends who are looking for changes. Jill is getting involved with the volunteer fire department 45 miles away to become a first, first-responder for local emergency situations. We are beginning the work to develop a specific plan and financial backing to focus on helping at-risk local young people who rarely finish school.

Pray with us as we look for ways to bring “light” into this area, ways to help individuals and families find healthy ways to stay living in this area, ways to close the “black hole.”