Sunday, June 11, 2017

An AWANA Camp Miracle

We just finished our first ever AWANA Camp in Dulce! AWANA is our children/youth ministry; it focuses on memorization of God's Word. We've had a Monday night AWANA program for three years, and this year we expanded to include a week-long VBS-style day camp. It was amazing! 
We served 62 children and youth from the community. We closed registration after Monday, unfortunately turning away another 20 or so kids because we didn't have the staff or supplies for so many. The students studied the Bible, using the theme "Grace." We had powerful teachers and preachers. The praise and worship time was filled with songs and antics. The children recited their memory verses and performed skits to illustrate God's Grace. Truly amazing!

But my biggest joy came during drop-off time, about mid-week. And it came so unexpectedly, it almost bowled me over. I have to back up a bit to explain...

When we arrived, almost four years ago, we took our then-six-year-old skating every Friday night. The church has had skating on Friday nights for decades, maybe almost a century! We have church members in their 70s and 80s who remember skating at church as kids.

Our daughter made friends at skating with a little girl (We'll call her Debbie). Debbie and our daughter played and skated together every Friday for a couple of years, at least. Debbie's family was hard to get to know. Her grandmother brought her and her siblings each week, and despite my attempts at friendliness, was not interested in interacting with me. At first, the adults even turned their heads away from me when I greeted them. After about a year, they would just look at me. We never progressed to nods or smiles. 

I understand this unfriendliness. It is steeped in generations of abuse of the Jicarilla Apache people by outsiders. It is grounded in the fact that the White Americans slaughtered many of the Jicarilla in attempts to "civilize" the Natives. It is present due to the forced sterilization of many Jicarilla women through the 1970s. (Yes, the 1970s!) I never took it personally, and I believe it would've been a mistake to do so. 

But...

BUT...

Debbie and her siblings came to AWANA Camp! They were there every single day. They were happy to be there. And every day at drop-off, I was there in the parking lot to welcome them to AWANA Camp. Every day, I greeted them with a smile and a wave to Grandma's vehicle.
And one morning, mid-week-ish, the driver's window rolled down and a hand stuck out to return my wave.  Read that again; it's exciting! Grandma waved at me! At White, outsider, me. 

That is God's work. That is what ministry on the rez looks like. Four years of smiling, waving, quiet relationship work. And it is worth every second.

Thank you for your support of the ministry here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Slippery Slope


 Our family just returned from an adventure in the Grand Canyon. 42 years ago, my stepdad took me on my first vacation... to the Grand Canyon. I'd never been much of anywhere, and this trip opened the world to me!

So when we had the opportunity to hike to the bottom of the Canyon with my stepdad, stay two nights at Phantom Ranch, and climb back out of the Canyon, I jumped on it. Our 10-year-old hikes a lot with me, and my husband runs marathons, so I wasn't too worried about our ability to make the hike. My stepdad had just done it in March, so we knew he was able to make it. I thought we were golden...

We got up very early on the day of our trek down, grabbed an expensive McDonald's breakfast, and got to the trailhead. We were "all optimism" at this point, looking forward to the 7-mile hike to Phantom Ranch. The beginning of the trip was cool, quick, and fun.

It got hotter, of course, as the sun rose in the sky. It also gets hotter as you descend the canyon. In some places, the rock walls are darker in color and radiate heat in addition to the sun's. We got a bit tired, rested regularly, and continued down. About 4.5 miles down, I began to feel exhausted. I slowed everyone down. Finally, my stepdad took off to drop his backpack at the bottom, planning to return to carry my backpack for me.

The footing was very rough along the South Kaibab trail. I began to have difficulty staying steady. I was drinking regularly and eating as much as I could. I didn't feel sick or cold, both signs of heat exhaustion. I was just exhausted, I thought. My husband lagged behind a bit because of the unsteady footing, as my daughter and I struggled down the canyon. We were getting low on water and were trying to conserve.

About 5.5 miles down the trail, I was suddenly and completely unable to breathe. I gasped in, trying to get air, and made a whistling squeak. My daughter laughed and said, "Who's making that funny sound?" I collapsed on the trail, grabbing for my inhaler as I realized I was in the midst of the worst asthma attack I'd ever had. I couldn't even breathe in enough air to breathe in the medicine. It was terrifying for both of us!

I continued to try to inhale the medicine, getting a little improvement each time. I was able to avoid totally blacking out, but only barely. By this time, I had crawled into a small piece of shade, and my husband had caught up with us. He told me to stay in the shade while he took our daughter to Grandpa, dropped his pack, and came back for me. I had to promise that I wouldn't try to stand up, not that I felt capable of such a thing.

I crawled a little farther down the trail to some deeper shade, leaving my pack behind. There were three people in the small circle of shade, but they welcomed me. In fact, they brought my pack down and arranged it so I could put my feet up on it. I immediately fell asleep or passed out; I honestly don't know which. The people were still there when I woke up. They said they were staying with me until my husband arrived. I thanked them and we prayed together. We all rested for another stretch of time, with time being so distorted for me that I don't have any idea of how long.

Eventually, they saw my husband down the trail, running our way. They took off, saying they would give three whistles when they met him so I would know how long it would be. Hearing those three whistles was awesome! My husband had brought water with him, which I drank thirstily. He had left our daughter with Grandpa, who had also gotten exhausted.

It took me two hours, ten doses of medicine, and a lot of assistance to reach the bottom of the canyon. I wheezed the entire way and collapsed into the creek to cool off. The trip, which was supposed to have taken 4-6 hours, had taken a total of more than 10 hours for me.

I had learned a lot: First, I did have exercise-induced asthma, even though I'd always thought I only had allergy-induced asthma. Second, the first symptom of my exercise-induced asthma seemed to be a feeling of complete exhaustion. If I used my rescue inhaler at that point, I could probably avoid the extreme asthma attack. Third, this was my first and last hiking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I had spent a lot of time praying during that hike. I had spent a lot of time thinking while I sat in the shady space with my helpers. It seemed to me like this hike was a lot like the slippery slope of being captured by sin. The place I had found myself, completely at the mercy of my asthma, had seemed like such a surprise. I had no idea why my body was struggling so, just like we often have no idea why our lives are becoming increasingly difficult as we slip into sin. It's only when our whole lives collapse that we recognize the signs that marked our sin problem.

There are signs, both of asthma and of being overtaken by sin. We have to watch for them! We must stay awake and be ready! (Luke 12:35) For me, knowing the signs of my exercise-induced asthma opened my eyes to many times when I had been experiencing asthma symptoms without realizing it (over the course of several years). As Christians, we must pray that God will open our eyes to the signs of  our slippery slide into sinfulness. We must be diligent in our examination of our lives. And we must act when we see signs of sin.

Because I was aware of the asthma signs, I was able to hike out of the Canyon after a day of planned rest. It took a long time, 14 doses of medication, and some help with my pack, but I made it without any collapses or acute asthma symptoms. Even though it rained for about 3 miles, making us really cold, and the trail was almost twice as long (but mostly less steep and more shaded), we all did it!

God is good.

PS I will be seeing my doctor in about a week to discuss managing my asthma better.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rez Reality

Image result for silhouettes of sad childrenIn the past 48 hours, at least nine children (two sibling groups) here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation have lost a parent. We know and love many of these children, and listening to them sob at their devastating loss is heartbreaking.

The saddest thing is that this isn't anything unusual, really. The number of children here who have lost a parent is staggering. Most of these deaths involve alcohol. That's a grim reality here. Suicide is another main cause of death among young adults. We know a number of children who have been with their parent when s/he died or have found their parent dead.

The pain is cumulative. I know I've said this before, but it's so deeply true. There is a family we know who has lost 4 close relatives in less than 2 years, not all to substance abuse. We know children who have lost both parents to alcohol abuse. We know grandparents who are raising grandchildren from 2 or 3 of their incapacitated or deceased adult children. A young-thirties mom recently told me that 12 of her graduating class from high school had passed away. 12 out of 52! More than 20% of those graduates have already passed away, many with young children.

There comes a point when these children and youth give up hope of anything better. They become resigned to grief and loss. Their prayers reflect their fears: "Please, God, watch over my mom because she's gone away, and I know she's drinking." "Heavenly Father, keep my dad from doing something bad and going to jail again."

We try to teach them that God will always be with them. That they are never alone. That Jesus loves them, and so do we. I've hugged kids who were sobbing about the death of their beloved uncle. I've comforted kids because their intoxicated father had kept them up all night. I've watched kids carry around a big backpack of stuff because someone at home might sell it to get money for alcohol.

These are the kids in AWANA and Sunday School and who play at the parsonage with our daughter. These are the kids to whom we try to show the hope of Jesus Christ and the love of God. These are the kids who receive the Bibles that are donated to AWANA. These are the kids you support when you pray, donate, or volunteer to serve.

If you would like to understand more of what happens on the reservation, read Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues. It fits with our experiences in many ways.

If you would like to help us serve these children and youth, contact me on email at robinlynnekautz@gmail.com

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A New Season

You may have  noticed that I have written less in the past few months. You may also have noticed that I have written almost nothing about stained glass in the past couple of years. Life has changed quite a bit; I think of it as a new season of my life.

This season has little time for glass. I've been homeschooling our 10 yr old since she was four. As she has gotten older, it takes more and more time to get through all the subjects she needs to get learn. In addition, I'm helping with the ministry here in Dulce. Each week, I mow for about 6 hours, spend 2-4 hours in our children's ministry, and teach 11 students science for 4 hours.

This coming summer, we are hosting at least four mission groups for about a week each. We love mission groups and are deeply grateful for the work they accomplish; it's just busy! And it seems the longer we're here in Dulce, the more groups we host. This is awesome and positive, but busy.

In addition, I am now full-time homeschooling four Jicarilla children in addition to our own daughter. It's good. It's meaningful. It's important, and I love it. And it's busy.

A few months back, our family was preparing to adopt three of our daughter's birth siblings. It looked like they were in need of a permanent home, and we were adjusting our lives to include a 4 1/2 year old, a 3 1/2 year old, and a 10 month old. It turned out that they were able to return home safely, and we are delighted about that. But while we were in the process of preparing for them, I decided that my glass studio, which wasn't being used much at all, could be given to someone to make room for extra children.

I asked some friends if they knew of anyone who wanted to do stained glass, especially someone who would honor God in their work, and I met a man who wanted to expand his wood-working to include glass-work. He is a Christian, and he was ecstatic to have a ready-made glass studio. So, when we realized we weren't going to expand our family, I prayed about it and decided to go ahead with the bequeathing of the studio. My new friend insisted on paying me, and it turned out that my daughter and I needed to make an emergency trip to Minnesota to help my parents after surgeries. Without that money, we couldn't have afforded to make the trip. God provides.

So, the bottom line is: I am no longer a glass artist. And that's more than okay with me. I have many, many other interests and pulls on my time. I loved being a glass artist in its season, but I am very excited to have the space for a reading nook. My students and I need a little more space for our daily silent reading!

I have already legally closed my glass business and taken down my website. I will be closing my Facebook page for A Glimpse of Grace within the week. If you want to follow my life as a missionary, teacher, kayaker, Christian, mom... Please "Follow" me on my blog if you're not my FB friend. I will continue to blog!

I thank you for your loving support and interest in this blog and my glass work. I look forward to this season of my life, too. May God bless you in every way.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ministry on the Rez

Did you ever wonder what ministry looks like in Dulce, NM?

I can guarantee that it often doesn't look much like ministry in many places I've attended church. Sure, some things are the same: Sunday services, children's programs, the occasional wedding, hospital visitations, and funerals. My role, as pastor's wife, includes parts in some of those events. I help lead the children's programs and sometimes read Scripture or greet on Sundays.

However, much of what happens in Dulce is quite different from how I've seen ministry in other places. A good example of this kind of ministry happened a few weeks ago. It started with a knock on the back door while my husband was away...

I stopped my lesson plan preparations and went to the door. Seeing a man who occasionally stops by for some food, often while intoxicated, I grabbed my house keys and told my 10 year old, "I'm going out to talk to someone. I'm locking the door." I didn't lock the door because I'm afraid of this man; I locked the door because I am protective of our daughter. Alcohol affects decision-making, and I never want her to pay the price for my choices.

The man did want something to eat, so I left him on our comfortable patio with shade and a bench and came back inside to make some sandwiches. I told my daughter that I was making a lunch for this man, and she pitched in to peel some carrots. I left her back inside while I took a plate out to our visitor.

I pulled out a lawn chair and sat opposite the man after I handed him the plate. He said, "You're going to sit here with me? You don't have to." After reassuring him that I indeed wanted to sit with him, he made comments about how nice I was. I tried turned his thoughts to why I chose to sit with him: This is what Jesus tells us to do in the Bible. Feed the hungry. Visit the prisoner. Touch the untouchable. I sat with him because it is what Jesus wants me to do, and I am being changed by Jesus every day. It was not a burden to sit with the man and talk to him while he ate.

And that is the biggest experience I've had with ministry on the Rez:  I  am being changed. I didn't begrudge the two hours I spent talking with this man. I don't sit with my lonely elderly friend wishing I were somewhere else or that I could extract myself quickly. I don't bemoan my commitment to the time our children's program fills.  Jesus is changing my heart, opening my life to service that I never expected.

During those two hours on the back patio with this intoxicated man, we spoke of the Bible (He knows a lot about Scripture!), his life choices (He knows that he could do so much more.), and death (He was grieving the loss of a friend.). I don't know if those two hours made any difference to his eternal state, but I know they made a difference to mine. Christ used my humble sandwiches and time to serve the needs of another, and blessed me in the process. I pray that He will continue to work in my life to serve others here in Dulce.

Praise God!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fear Not.

I haven't written much in the past 6 weeks. I have thought very much, but I haven't written much. That's because I haven't had a clue of what to say. What do you say about a government that invents "alternative facts"? What do you say to a populace in which many believe those facts? What do you say when you're a Christian, one of the categories of people counted upon as supporters of this crazy, press-blocking, twittering government?

It's mucky out there these days!
I realize one of the problems I have in responding is that I have two lenses to look through that affect what I think and want to say: I am a proud American citizen, and I am a Bible-believing Christian. Sometimes, the two lenses are in alignment; sometimes they're not. In this particular case, there is no conflict for me: Donald Trump's America offends me as an American and as a Christian.

As an American, I agree with Rep. Darrell Issa in calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the Trump Administration's ties to, and vulnerability to, Russia. I cry out, as an American, about the blocking of certain credentialed reporters' access to a presidential news conference, seemingly because of their criticism of President Trump.

America has long been a land of immigrants. In light of the humanitarian crises in several Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, my American roots demand the acceptance and succor of refugees. Certainly, we want security vetting of those we accept, but accept them we should.

I believe that President Trump must account for his potential conflicts of interest. Nothing in his past or his present ethics makes me trust that he will act for the benefit of the American people instead of his own economic gain, and there are clearly perceived conflicts of interest to account for. He should be transparent and open, releasing his tax returns, creating a blind trust, and purposefully distancing himself from his business empire.

And as a Christian? How do I speak as a Christian?

In favor of the refugee and the oppressed, because Christ calls us to care for "the least of these."

In favor of praying for our government, even if it was not our preference at the election, because we are called to pray for our leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

And, as I was reminded of this morning by a lifelong Christian friend, I need to remember to "Fear Not."

All is in God's hands. Even Trump and his twisted presidency. Over 360 times in the Bible, God reassures us that we need not fear. No matter what the circumstances of our lives. In good times and bad. In security and insecurity.

Fear Not, America. Resist, yes. But don't be afraid. This is in God's hands. Fight for truth. Fight for the refugee and the oppressed. Stand up for Right. But do not be afraid.



P.S. On a totally different piece of this puzzle, I urge you to inform yourself regarding the current events in our country. Read from the Right. Read from the Left. Don't believe the veracity of anything until you have confirmed the facts. Go to the primary sources, as I have told my students for 3 decades. Read what the people involved are saying, on both sides. Try to find objective news sources, which is extremely difficult right now. But inform yourself.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Representative Sean Duffy

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wis) was interviewed by CNN's Alisyn Camerota. The subject of the interview was the White House's claim that the media were intentionally refusing to cover terrorist attacks. The interview can be watched in part here. I watched the video because I was interested in hearing the Republican view on this topic. I'd already read an article from the Left. I am intentionally trying to listen to "both sides" of issues, and I'm finding it very interesting.

This interview, though, took a turn that horrified me. Representative Duffy insisted that Islamic Extremist Terrorism was more valid, more important, more real than any other threat we Americans face. He argued this despite the interviewer's attempts to bring his attention to White Supremacist Terrorism, like the attack on a mosque in Quebec City last week.

Rep Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) actually said (at 1:44 on the video, about the attack on the Charleston church that left 6 Black men and women dead), “Look at the good things that came from it! Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag; that was great!”

Seriously, Rep Duffy? You can look at the taking down of the Confederate flag like the attack and the 9 deaths were worth it?  I can’t begin to fathom the depth of callous disregard for the life of African Americans that it takes to think that.


“There’s no constant threat that goes through these attacks (attacks from White Extremists)," Rep. Duffy insisted.

Um… no constant threat if you’re White. I am appalled at the White Privilege Duffy enjoys and ignores to be able to say there is no constant threat from White Supremacists’ attacks. Ask my African American daughter if she feels a constant threat. Ask her friend Phil Castillo… Oh, but you can’t because he’s dead. Ask his girlfriend. Ask his children. Ask any parent of a Black teenage male. Ask the congregation of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Mississippi. Ask the families of the nine victims in Charleston, WV.

It is nearly impossible to find unbiased news right now, so I am trying to read and listen to and watch primary sources. This is what I encourage my students to do in order to discern what is true; take the filters away and try to interpret the events themselves. So I watched the interview myself. I urge you to do the same. 

For me, the bottom line in this interview was that Representative Sean Duffy (R) from Wisconsin, clearly established that he has no understanding of the threat of White Supremacy, that he holds no affinity for his African American neighbors, and that he does not recognize his own White Privilege.

Wake up, Rep. Duffy. We, the People, are watching. Listening. Evaluating. And we will be voting.