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.
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.