Thursday, July 9, 2020

throwback Thursday~Navajo Reservation family mission trip

Hello, friends! I'm writing about a different trip this week~the family mission trip we went on a few years ago. We went the summer of 2016 as a whole family; the next year Graham and Drew went without the four of us and in 2018 Drew went back without anyone else from our home.

We went to a Navajo reservation somewhere in Arizona. I've never been to that part of the country while driving, so it was a beautifully scenic drive heading west on I40. We started at six o'clock one morning and ended that night in Amarillo, Texas. I never knew how far that place was...and how hot it truly was. We were on a church bus with faulty air and had to stop somewhere in Oklahoma to get it repaired. We ate Mexican food for dinner and slept soundly in a hotel that night and hit the road early the next morning. Before we left, I asked if we could make an unscheduled stop first. It was right there in Amarillo, so it was perfect timing.

It was a bucket list item to see Cadillac Ranch, where cars are buried just like this one pictured above.

We drove all day and finally made it to our destination late in the afternoon.

I was totally unprepared in ways I never imagined I would be...but when we got there, I had an anxiety attack when I saw all the dirt and dust and what we lovingly started calling Tent City. We were split up as a family and Alex my bonus son was with us, so Graham and Drew were in a tent with another couple of guys, then Todd, Jonah, Noah, Alex and I were all in one tent. With all our "luggage", which happened to consist of giant Rubbermaid tubs. We had clothes in those tubs and we had two tubs of snacks and waters. When I saw the sleeping conditions and how small our tents were going to be with the five of us crammed into one, I started wondering if I could just fly back home. The closest airport was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that same moment my friend Cathy came over to me and told me she had an extra bed in the camper she was sleeping in with her husband, and did one of us want to sleep there. I immediately said that I would. She and Carl were at one end of the camper with a little kitchenette thing in the middle and I was on the other end. We had privacy curtains, and never in my entire life have I ever been so grateful for a friend like her. After that trip, we were the new kind of friends.

I later learned that at the same time I had my anxiety attack, my dad felt an overwhelming urge to stop and pray for me. Do you want to know what he prayed? He asked the Lord to work out the sleeping arrangements and to give me a "special" and safe place to sleep every night. I promise you, this is true. I talked to him several times while we were there because he wanted to know how to pray for us each day.

We ate three meals at the camp each day: breakfast was huge, lunch was huge, and dinner was minimal. That's why we relied heavily on the snacks we brought, which had been strongly encouraged.

We arrived on Saturday, later in the day. On Sunday we had "church" there at the campsite and later on went to canvas the neighboring areas.

That shade was glorious.

(This picture above was one area we canvassed.)

The weather was so strange~we would be cold in the shade and hot in the sun. There was one tree for shade that was so cooling that I had to wear a sweatshirt. We were there for a Bible club type event for everyone in the area. The Bible club was for everyone of all ages~babies to older people. We went out after lunch that day and invited everyone we could find. We had Bible club at three sites~we stayed at Cornfields which is pictured above, and there were two other sites that were a good little distance away. This Navajo mission trip has been going on for over twenty years...and I am sad to say that now it no longer exists in this same capacity. This area was taken over by the NAMB (North American Mission Board) and NAMB missionaries now live there and operate from nearby. This is a great thing! It's just sad that for so many people who made this trip each year part of their lives, that it will never be again. My own son Drew was so disappointed when this trip ended. Every summer teams would come from  our area in Memphis with several different churches meeting here and participating in this together.

Each day we would wake up and have breakfast, then we would have a "camp meeting" type meeting with worship and a devotion.

Check out the backdrop! There were guitars, a cajon drum that Graham was sitting on in this above picture, and singers. Keith there in the front with the Polo type shirt was our leader, along with his wife Kim. They prepared all of the curriculum for us to be able to do this, and it was no small task. They'd taken it over from another man (Gene) and his wife, when they'd had to stop because of her health. After morning worship we had a bit of free time, then lunch, then we'd split off into the groups and sites we were assigned and get to work. Teams would leave in vans and the vans in our area for Cornfields left to begin picking everyone up.

My job was twofold while we were on this trip: I was the assembly leader for the five days of Bible club and I was the main preschool teacher and had two assistants. (I also helped with worship each morning.) The teams would arrive with the people in buses and vans, and opening assembly would begin. (Never have I been more out of my comfort zone than when I was on this trip.) We kept the kids occuppied until everyone arrived and we would all go inside the church.

My bestie Abbey was there to help me with this and we partnered in assembly times everyday. We would open up with worship and fun songs, complete with motions and words written big on posterboard. I had tons of helpers helping me with this and before we left, one night several of us met in my kitchen to learn all the songs and make all the posters. We would always have games, skits with puppets, more songs, and we'd end in prayer. This was all opening assembly.

From there we were given a schedule to follow. I had curriculum I'd been given to follow and I always started with a lesson, and we'd follow that immediately with a craft. I tried to incorporate the lessons and crafts and while they worked on crafts, they would repeat the Bible verse of the day over and over again. After craft, we'd take a bathroom break (our bathrooms were porta-potties!) and wash our hands, then we would go to recreation. They would have this time of recreation with a lesson for that day that went along with it, and my husband did this with another team member that was there. My younger boys helped in this area. After this time, it was time for lunch so we'd wash up and eat with them and this was our dinner each night. We had either hot dogs or bologna sandwiches each night, with chips and dip and a cookie. We would go back to our "classroom" and have one last lesson, one last craft, then we'd let them swing on the swingset. Closing assembly started right after this, so we'd meet back in the church and sing a couple of songs and we'd have them answer questions about what they'd learned that day. We would play one more fun game with them and sing one last song and either Abbey or I would end in prayer.

The buses and vans would leave to take everyone back home and we'd clean up and have free time. Every other day I got to take a shower (we had shower assignments and our nights to shower were GLORIOUS) and we'd snack and talk and just sit around enjoying all the stars and the cool weather. I was up so early everyday for my personal quiet time that by eight thirty everynight I was BEAT, so I always went to bed early. I laugh because Cathy told me she'd never known someone like me who would fall asleep while someone was talking to them. (I did that multiple times throughout the week.) We were at Cornfields from Saturday afternoon until the following Saturday morning and Bible club was from Monday through Friday from about 2:00-6:00 each night. On the last day of Bible club when the last van returned, we packed it all up into a Penske truck. We left early Saturday morning and headed back to Amarillo to spend another night and we were home by Sunday afternoon. It was a LONG nine days.

Here are some really interesting things that happened while we were there and some things I learned:

The first or second night we were there, Keith our leader and some other men went into the nearest town for supplies and while they were walking in, a man approached them and started telling them to get out of their town, they didn't want that "Spirit" that was with us. (Insert bug-eyed emoji here.)

The night after that a lunatic type person tried to start a fight with some people that were on our team and tried to jump into the van with them.

The wind had never before and was never again so bad as it was while we were there. My friend Barbee that was there had a page ripped clear out of her Bible by the strong gusts of wind.

I learned that I am a very dependent person, as in I depended wholly and completely on the Lord that entire week. I never could have done "my jobs" without His help and without the two sweet ladies that assisted me. I hate being in front of people, and never before had I been more "up front" than I was that week as the assembly leader. Keith and Kim prayed about putting people in each position, and I know they prayed for me, along with countless others here that were praying while we were gone, like all our parents and my best friends.

I loved those Navajo babies.

Each day I had about four to seven kiddos. The youngest was three, but they went up to about nine years old. Noah helped me a lot, because the three year old was a handful and Noah was so good with him.

Noah loves to pray. He was fearless on this trip and was always offering to pray over anything/everything.

I am never too old for altitude sickness. I couldn't walk long distances here, because it was about six thousand something feet above sea level and it messed with my breathing.

Water never tasted so good and I never knew how much I'd miss ice. So many people became severely dehydrated while we were there and were so sick as a result. At one point, they were dropping like flies and you never knew who the next victim was.

Porta-potties for a bathroom for the week wasn't as horrid as it sounds. I learned to adapt quickly.

I love running water and missed it while I didn't have any readily available. Showers never felt so incredible, even when the water was frigid. I've never been so dirty in all of my life. The minute I stepped foot back onto the campgrounds, I was dusty again.

Red dirt stains.

I can stomach terrible food when I have to do so. Keith told us to eat with them each day~if we didn't we would be acting like we were better than the Navajo people and they would no longer trust us.

The entire Navajo nation is similar to a third world country. No real walls, no running water, no indoor plumbing, and food wasn't readily accessible~except for a Burger King a few miles away that the teenagers hit up every night.

The last thing that was by far the most interesting and terrifying is what I'll leave you with. I mentioned we had no running water, but there was a water drum we had at the kitchen sink for cleanup after each meal. When that was turned on, it made a tom-tom-tom sound. You need to know this, so remember that little tidbit. Every night when I fell asleep I'd stay asleep until three a.m., and I'd have to get up to make a trek to the porta-potty to use the restroom...but on this particular night, I slept all night for the only time that week.

While I was sleeping, I remember waking up to a drumming sound. I wondered to myself why in the world someone would be in the kitchen washing dishes in the middle of the night, but I didn't think much about it and fell to sleep again. When I woke up the next morning, I learned that during the night while we were sleeping, AROUND 3 A.M., a group of men with drums in a pickup truck arrived at the gate (a horse gate type gate that anyone could climb over easily) to our campsite and started beating on their drums and chanting something unintelligible. I have to stop right there, because can you imagine me running into them at that time at the porta-potties? Those were set up right inside of that horse gate and to the left. I would have been face to face with them!

Only a few people woke up to this: I was one, but I fell to sleep again and never got up. A couple of men woke up and peeked out their tents and one said he'd never felt such evil in all of his life. My own son Jonah woke up, as did Alex, and Alex tried stepping outside of the tent to see what was going on, but Jonah yanked him back down to the ground and wouldn't let him move. Everyone else slept through it all. Remember how I posted about Psalm 91 yesterday? That part where it says that He gives His angels orders concerning us? I am pretty sure those angels were busy guarding us on that night because of the praying people here at home.

I told my dad this story the next morning because I almost couldn't believe it had happened. Are you ready for what he told me? He told me that as he'd been sleeping that night, he woke up and again felt an overwhelming urge to pray for us. He woke up at one a.m., which is that exact time all this went on because Arizona is two hours time difference. He stayed awake for about a half hour praying, then he went back to sleep. (Insert bug-eyed emoji here.)

Can you believe that? Things happened on that trip that had never happened before, and it never happened again after that trip. The next summer my oldest sons went back, and the following summer in 2018, Drew went back. That was the last year of the trip and then NAMB took over.

We enjoyed a free day while we were there and went to Canyon De Chilly, which is what they call the mini Grand Canyon. All our boys hiked down it and back up, but Todd and I stayed at the top.

Emma and I, she was one of the teenagers on the trip. Her mom and brother were so sick on this day and couldn't come with us. Look how young they were! This was in 2016. That was our first and last year to do this. It was a hard trip, and never have I worked and labored so hard as I did for this trip and in the prepping for it all. I've never felt closer to the Lord, either, because I had to rely on Him to help me through. Graham helped teach youth that year, and Drew helped teach 2nd-4th grade. Jonah helped Todd with recreation, as did Noah, but I ended up snagging Noah for most of the week for help with my little preschoolers.

On Saturday when we left, we stopped at Window Rock.

And we made another stop to shop for Navajo blankets, which we still use and love.

I stayed on the bus with this sickie, BK. She was so pitiful. She was the last victim of dehydration.

Bless it. She had to sleep on the floor, she was so sick. Excuse my face in this picture, I never wore makeup the whole week and I was sunburned and had sores on my nose from wearing my sunglasses so much. Also, fun fact: this trip was the first time I ever had gel polish put on my nails. I knew I'd want them to stay polished all week, otherwise they break and peel and would be short.

I mentioned my friend Abbey on this trip...she had started dating a man named Steve in February of this same year. The night before he left, he flew in and surprised her by showing up at the campground at midnight! We thought for sure he was going to propose, but he didn't, he just wanted to come and surprise her and to see her. She rode part of the way back home with him, until Albuquerque, where he had to return his rental. They rode home in another of the vans that was part of our caravan. We had several vans, a Penske truck and a church bus. Todd did most of the driving and I did a little of it myself.

We made one last detour that next day.

We stopped in Shamrock, Texas to see one of the town that inspired the movie Cars. We saw the inspiration for Mater and the gas station where the two Italian brothers worked at.

It was so cool!

It was an amazing trip. I'm glad that we got to do this together as a family, we will never forget one moment of that trip.

Thanks for coming along with me! Love to all.

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