Thursday, August 31, 2017

Finishing Four

Today, we finish our fourth year in Dulce. Tomorrow starts our fifth year... hard to believe. After four years, some things are exactly as I expected them to be... and some things are very different from my expectations!

Sunday Services: Pretty much as I expected. My husband is turning out to be an excellent preacher! I help with Sunday school for a couple of months a year. Kathleen (10) is antsy during services and requires an occasional reminder to engage.

Day-to-Day Ministry: I fully expected to feed the random stranger, living next door to the church. We do do that, but we also give rides, send uncooked food home, and invite complete strangers to join us at the table. We have occasionally hosted an unknown overnight guest in our home... but just recently, a work group transformed one of the church classrooms into an emergency shelter! This will prove very worthwhile, I'm positive. We have also recently become involved in the informal distribution of surplus food from Farmington, NM.

Special Events: Being far from our families, I anticipated that we would spend Thanksgivings, Christmases, and other special events with our small family of three. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We have been graciously included in family celebrations of every holiday, and also of weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. We have camped with church families, eaten scrumptious holiday meals with 50 friends, enjoyed football rivalries, attended musicals with Christian sisters, and so much more! I do not hesitate to say that if I ever felt lonely in any way, I could easily reach out and find a supportive friend here.

And All Those Kids: I have been involved with children since I was one myself. My mom always called me "The Pied Piper" because of the number of children I had in my life. I knew that I would continue homeschooling our wee one, at least for a while, but I had no idea how many children would come into my life in Dulce!

First, there are the AWANA kids. We've had an AWANA children's ministry for three full years now. It has grown and developed, and I am one of the co-leaders. It is a joy to meet with those 5-18 year olds weekly and explore the Bible with them. It's such a blessing that the adult volunteers and the kids come from many different churches here in Dulce and beyond. We are incredibly blessed by the support of people here in Dulce and in far-flung parts of the United States! We are able to give every single child a brand new Bible and an AWANA shirt. The kids feel so supported and loved!

Second, there are the "science kids." From the beginning, I invited other homeschooled children we knew to attend a twice-weekly science class at our house. It grew from 2 children... to over a dozen!!! On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, from 1:30-3:00, our house and yard are overtaken by kids learning about science and having fun. Some wonderful friendships have been built with these families, and the kids have many terrific memories of our fun together.

And thirdly, there is the homeschooling crowd. I am now homeschooling six children full-time and another one part-time. These include children who have been expelled from one of the local schools, who have been bullied to the point of hating school in one of the local schools, who have never attended school at all, who have special needs that were absolutely overlooked in one of the local schools, and who are talented and gifted and under-served at one of the local schools. It has recently become very clear to me that this too is a ministry. 

I've always looked at the homeschooling as something I do for our daughter, but the need for a quality education is desperate here in Dulce. The local schools have difficulty hiring and retaining quality staff, and the committed long-term staff members cannot do it all. I know I could make an income teaching at the public school, and I have considered it for this reason, but God has made it clear to me that homeschooling is where my teaching talents need to be utilized. I am equipped to reach each of the children in my home, and each one needs me (sometimes for very different reasons!).

So, tomorrow is another day. I'm taking six kiddos in the "Chile Bus" to explore New Mexico history first-hand at the ruins of a pueblo and a 16th century Spanish church. We will study geography and math on the way, read some poetry, and generally have a great time. I'll take some more pictures to share with their families, and on Monday we will write an essay about what we learned on the trip.

May God work in your life just as powerfully. We are blessed. Four years blessed. And we pray that God would grant us many more years of service here in Dulce, whatever it looks like!

Thursday, August 17, 2017


I have tried to write about Charlottesville, VA, and the racial protests and violence there. I despise the hatred displayed by the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I hate the violence that stems from that hatred. I hate the fact that our president did not immediately, completely, or honestly condemn these groups.

I think of the world in which my biracial and multiracial grandchildren are growing up, and I dread seeing them face the racism so clearly displayed in Charlottesville and elsewhere. The faces I love come in all colors and shapes.

I have watched on social media as my loved ones shared their fear, their outrage, their worry, and their interpretation of events. I've also talked with my Native friends here locally. Many feel entirely unrepresented by the current government. They are angry that President Trump has not taken a firm stand against all forms of racism.

I'm heartened by the #resistance. Following the alt* accounts on Twitter has shown me an entire network of resistance workers fighting against the demands of Trump to be silent, to fall into line.

I take hope in much of the church's response, standing firmly with the oppressed. I pray that those who claim Christianity and hold that whites are supreme would wake up to Jesus' true message.

And tonight I saw a new hashtag on one of my Native friends' posts: #1680. If you do not know Southwest US history well, you probably won't recognize this, but it is a signal of strength. Strength of the Native peoples. A refusal to buckle under.

Educate yourself. On today's racism. On the year 1680 in New Mexico. On the lives of Americans of color in 2017.

This viral photo shows the moment a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Many have commented about the shoes in the road. Instead of looking at those shoes in the road, I am urging all of us who stand against racism to get our boots on the ground. Stand up and refuse to be silent! Do not sit back and wait for justice; get up and work for it!

When you hear a racist comment, call it out. When you see a person of color being unfairly treated, step forward and stand with them. When a policy targets a minority group, fight it. In Zechariah 7, the Bible tells us to resist oppression. Those using "faith" and the Bible to justify their hatred and violence have great need of actually reading the Bible!

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  Edmund Burke.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pow Wow Lullaby

photo from internet
Not too long ago, I fell asleep to a pow wow lullaby. It really struck me as I drifted off to sleep that nowhere else I've ever lived has had pow wow lullabies. Jamaica (where I served in the Peace Corps) had a constant reggae rhythm as background noise. The college dorm was just plain noisy, but that pow wow beat was unique and special. It reminds me that I live as a guest on the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

Our family moved here four years ago this month. Our wee one was 6. We had lived in the Midwest for most of our lives when God called us to be faithful strangers on the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Leaving our families and friends far behind, we drove a loaded Penske truck through the plains and over the mountains to Dulce, NM.

Sometimes it's difficult to remember what it was like to be a new arrival in Dulce among the Jicarilla Apache people. But when some friends arrived from the Midwest, their comments and questions brought back some of the wonder present at our arrival here. Things that seem normal now brought inquiries, and our attempts at explanations. It was great fun, and it has reminded me to treasure various traditions and experiences here.

For example, when people visit we usually have a bonfire and invite our Jicarilla friends. As we settled in to enjoy the fire, just chatting, our friends asked when people would arrive. I looked at my phone clock for the first time that evening and realized that our "starting time" (on the church calendar and Facebook announcements) had passed 30 minutes before. It brought a chuckle to me, remembering how we had had to adjust our sense of time when we joined this community. "Whenever," I said. "Time is different here."

Earlier this summer, we heard there was a keesta (coming of age feast for a young woman). We've been to many of these over the years, but always with some Jicarilla friends. The keesta is never advertised or the directions given... you just hear about it and go. This time, with no hesitation, Brad and I just went. We headed in the general direction we knew it was taking place, then spotted the small flags and freshly-graded road. When we arrived, we sat down to eat and chat among people we had never met. We were made very welcome, and it felt like we belonged.

Just yesterday, I was on my morning walk, and I heard a lot of barking and yipping. When I turned the corner, there was a high school aged student threatening three dogs with a stick. I  know these three dogs. They have chased me down several times in that area. I started carrying a pepper spray and have gotten them good a time or two. Three years ago, I would've been upset that the kid was threatening the dogs. Now I knew he was simply defending himself. I yelled at the dogs, "Hey! Go home!" They know my voice. They know my pepper spray. They all slunk back to their yard, and the kid looked up gratefully.

I said to the student, "They're bullies. They know my spray. Have a great day!" The kid never answered, but simply continued on to school. A couple of years ago, I would've wondered what I did to cause trouble. Now, I know that strangers just don't acknowledge each other here as they do in the Midwest.

One of the Midwestern visitors said to me yesterday, "Wow! You're really laid-back about this, aren't you?"

Yep. We are. Laid-back and happy. We love it here. The people and the place fit us well. We've changed a bit over the years, but God has prepared us well to fit in. We are blessed. Please join us in praying for the ministry of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church here on the Nation. Amen.