The Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church has been in Dulce for 100 years. One hundred years on the Rez. One hundred years of serving the Jicarilla people, sometimes serving well... sometimes not so much.
We hear stories about the history of our church regularly. This was the only church on the reservation for 50 of its 100 years. Almost everyone in the Jicarilla Nation has connections to the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church. We've heard about how the church maintained a sanatorium during a TB outbreak. We've also heard about how the church started the first school on the Rez.
And about how the male students were forced, sometimes physically, to have their braids shorn...
About how the youngsters were punished for speaking Jicarilla... which has led to a crisis for the tribe: almost no one under 50 can speak the language. The public schools are trying to revive the language, but it's difficult to maintain when there are so few native speakers.
And roller-skating! Almost everyone recalls roller-skating at the gym.
And about how the students were required to attend church every Sunday, marched down the hill from the residences to the church building. Some remember this rather fondly, others are still injured by the coercion.
Some members of our church recall the faith of their parents and grandparents. These are very personal reflections: memories of a father's advice, being taught to sing hymns with feeling, a sense of the sure, strong faith of parents, coming to church with a beloved grandmother...
So far, our memories are mostly pleasant, fun, and friendly. This is the place God has called us to. This is the work He has given us to do in His kingdom. His yoke is easy, and His burden light. (Matthew 11:30)
There have been some tough times too: early deaths, suicides, struggles with alcohol and drugs in the community, orphaned children, disease, and hardship.
I think our one year has been much like the past 99: a mix of good and bad, anchored in the faith that God has gifted. Our 1% of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church's history has enriched us immensely. Brad is flourishing as a pastor, and Robin has continued to work with the children of the church. Our seven-year-old frequently has guests to play after services on Sundays, in addition to playing soccer and roller-skating every Friday night at the church gym. She also has an Apache dress, sewn by one of our members, and she loves to dance the intertribal dances at pow wows.
And what of the future?
We plan to be here for nine to fourteen more years. We seek to bring hope to God's people here in the Jicarilla Nation. To serve the people here, in God's name.
God has recently called the people of our church to open the doors for a multi-church AWANA ministry to the children and youth of Dulce. The future of the Jicarilla rests on these young people finding hope in their lives. And the very best hope available is the hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us, for His church in Dulce, and for the Jicarilla Apache people. Please pray for this ministry!