Questions and Answers

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(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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Congratulations, Graduate!

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I’ve mentioned Coby Salazar on this blog before. He is a self-taught musician who leads worship in English at the Navajo-led church we attend. He has a heart for God and a talent for music.

koby senior pic

In a world where high school graduation is the exception rather than the norm, we are quite proud of Coby for persevering and getting his high school diploma.

koby grad

For the summer, Coby has moved to Albuquerque and is living with his grandma and his auntie. He is currently looking for a job so he can save money for when he attends community college in the fall. His goal is to finish two years at that school with solid grades. Then he hopes to transfer to a bible college in Colorado to finish a bachelors degree in leading worship music.

Please keep this young man in your prayers as he walks toward the plans God has for him.

 

 

8th Grade Graduates from Lybrook School

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Last Friday was the Promotion Ceremony for the 8th Grade students at Lybrook School. It was a bittersweet day for us—excited for the students who worked hard to reach this milestone at the same time as feeling sad to realize only 1-2 of these students will finish high school if they follow the typical pattern of students from this area.

graduation group

8th Grade Graduation for Lybrook Public School

Wesley Castillo, the pastor of the church we attend (Pine Hill Church) was the graduation speaker. Without knowing the focus of the Transition Retreat that the students attended a few weeks ago, he repeated some of the main points: Success is up to YOU, and the choices you make now will greatly affect what your life is like when you reach adulthood.

pastor wesley

Graduation Speaker — Wesley Castillo

The 8th Grade Teacher made special decorations in her room and ordered a fantastic cake for a reception for families after the Promotion Ceremonies.

decorations

Congratulations 8th Grade Class of 2012!

As they come to mind, please keep these students in your thoughts and prayers through the summer and into the fall as they transition to high school away from this community. We hope to keep regular contact with many of them; perhaps that continuity will help them stay in school…

audrey

Audrey

Audrey is planning to attend Bloomfield High School while living with her sister in town.

Bradley

Bradley

Bradley plans to attend a technical program at Cuba High School.

Brianna

Brianna

Brianna’s family will be moving to West Texas this summer, where her step dad works in the oil fields.

Brian & Isaac

Brian & Isaac

Brian’s family is moving to Cuba where he will attend Cuba High School in the fall.

Isaac is hoping to attend Bloomfield High School. We are hoping that this talented young man will get involved in cross country and in theater which might help him focus and have greater stability in his life.

celissia

Celissia

This has been a difficult year for Celissia with the tragic death of her mother in January. She will most likely attend Cuba High School.

Cherisse

Cherisse

Cherisse is determinedly leading the way with her peers to attend Bloomfield High School. She will be staying in Navajo dorms during the week…

Kevin

Kevin

Kevin is most likely following his friend Brian to Cuba High School in the fall.

Nicholle

Nicholle

Nicholle persevered in the application process and just received acceptance to Navajo Prep High School.

Paige

Paige

Paige is planning to work hard on academics at Cuba High School this fall. She also hopes to play sports at the school. She plans to apply to Navajo Prep to enter as a 10th grader in another year.

Peter

Peter

Peter is planning to attend Bloomfield High School. He should thrive with the academic challenges of that school, in addition to a wide variety of possible after school activities.

We will give occasional updates on how these students are doing throughout the coming year.

8th Grade Retreat: Transition to Adulthood

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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

…fizzle…

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I know I have talked before about the need for FLEXIBILITY out here in Navajoland. Time after time we make plans. Then we verify those plans with others. And we check again to make sure the planned event is still going to happen. And then the time comes…and…

…FIZZLE!

A few weeks ago I subbed a number of days for the 7th and 8thgrade class at the local school. Their teacher had worked hard with them on performing some of Poe’s stories as short plays. They had written parts, decorated a set, come up with special effects. They had practiced, then practiced some more.

the set for Poe's plays by the 7th & 8th graders at Lybrook School

The first date had to be cancelled—it had been planned for a day that was a teachers-only school day. The second date was cancelled by me—feeling that the students were no where near ready to perform. The third date looked like it would really happen. The dress rehearsals went okay—not stellar but workable. Then, less than 30 minutes from show-time, one of the lead actors was checked out of school early. The principal tried to talk Grandma out of doing this. She tried to convince Grandma that she could stay and celebrate her grandson’s acting talent. But no, the play was cancelled yet again. (Supposedly it will happen this coming Thursday afternoon—I’ll keep you posted!)

Another well-laid plan was recently cancelled as well. I have enjoyed two days this school year of doing art with the first-grade class. We read a book about a famous artist, study some of his paintings, then try a project of our own, in the style of that artist. The teacher and I were excited to plan another art day while we had a work-team visiting us recently. Two weeks in advance we set a time and day. A week in advance, I verified that the teacher had added the project to his lesson plans. On Monday and again on Tuesday I verified that the project was scheduled. And on the day itself?? …sigh… school was let out early for a pre-planned teacher work time that afternoon.

sometime soon the first-graders and I will make our own versions of Van Gogh's wild sunflowers...

I can hear you say—How Frustrating! Yes, that’s true. I felt terrible that the visiting college students wouldn’t have fun working with the cute little first graders. And then, I confess, I realized this would drive home the point we had made all week with that work-team:

Life out here in Navajoland requires FLEXIBILITY. It seems like NOTHING ever goes as planned!

Why Children Matter Most

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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.

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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