Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's Next...

Since coming back from Arizona in October, I've felt a pull to figure out some way to work with Native American populations full time. I was blessed to be introduced to Dr. Judy Thierry, the national Maternal and Child Health director for the Indian Health Service (IHS). While she was a wonderful person to contact and meet in person, she told me there are very few non-clinical jobs available at IHS. So, I came away from that encounter encouraged but discouraged at the same time.

Well, fast-foward a few months and lo and behold, I get an announcement about an Emerging Leaders Program at IHS. They are looking for people interested in public health (hey, that's me), possessing a bachelor's or masters' degree (hey, me again!) to apply for a two-year program in Rockville, MD. Could this possibly be God opening the door for me? Well, I read through the application and it looks doable. So, over the objections of my advisor (he really doesn't understand callings), I have applied. The application went off yesterday (2/27) and I hope to hear something positive back from them. While it won't be Sells, it will get me into the system and who knows what else God might have planned.

Pictures from Arizona

This is the view from a ranch one of the church members owns.

One of the gazillion cacti in the state of Arizona. This one is actually federally protected

This is what Sunday School looks like

This is Elijah, Andrew and Ashley. Three of the kids from the neighborhood surrounding the church.

First Papago Baptist Church

Nursing Home Visit

View from Kitt Peak National Observatory (7500 feet above sea level)

Update Part 5

This should pretty much catch things up from the old blog. Well, except for pictures...

Post from 10/27:

Okay, it's been a few days. Sorry about that. By Wednesday of the trip, we had all gotten into the swing of things and the way life in Arizona works. It was such a God thing to watch how well our team blended together and accomplished what God wanted us to accomplish. There was no "Brook Hills" or "FBC Alpharetta" or "Owensboro", we were all part of God's team there to minister to the lost. So neat to watch God at work.

I think I've mentioned most of the people or events that really impressed me. What I'm left remembering most of all other than the people is the stark beauty of that part of the country. I had such a "Hollywood" view of what Arizona looked like. Part of that was changed when my mom and I drove through AZ in 2003 but Southern Arizona is so different than Northern Arizona so the impressions were changed all over again. The contrast between flatness of desert and mountains rising up out of the desert is amazing to see. Looking down on the valleys from 7,000 feet at the Kitt Peak Observatory was awesome! It was like you could see for miles. Actually, the air is so clear, you could see for miles. Probably the coolest thing was getting to see the Milky Way with my own eyes, no telescope needed! The night we saw that, I felt God's presence in a way I've never felt before. How anyone can look at that and not believe in a divine creator blows my mind.

Since getting back, there have been ups and downs (as expected). But, the ups have far outweighed the downs. I still get so excited about sharing and that just fuels the ups. I did hear from the IHS official and she was very positive about my getting more experience and working to see if life in Indian Health Service is for me. Unfortunately, most of the jobs are clinical in nature (as opposed to public health in nature) so it'll be a God thing if a job develops in Sells. But, I'm continuing my faith journey to see what God has in store for me. I'm working with a discipler to work through what God is teaching me and to help me process the journey. It's always good to have accountability from a sister in Christ.

One huge blessing since of the women from FBC Alpharetta has sent several e-mails detailing her experiences as well as useful teaching she's run across since returning. Those stories have been such an encouragement for me and always seem to say exactly what I need to hear/read at that moment. Ain't it great how God has this whole thing rigged? :-)

Update Part 4

Post from 10/17:

I think one of the biggest blessings on this trip (aside from the people I met) was the amount of sleep JT allowed us to get. His summer trips are notorious for the lack of sleep workers get. We were fortunate to be finished most nights by 10 and able to sleep until 6 or so. For me, that made a huge difference. Thanks JT!!

The mornings of our first three days we went to the local nursing home on the reservation. This was a beautiful facility that had wonderful staff who truly cared for the residents. We as "white people" could take a serious lesson from the way Native Americans treat their elders. Our nicest nursing home facilities don't look like this one. Our elders have given us so much, we should do the same for them in the final years. The residents were wonderful people who loved to visit. Of coure, some only spoke O'Odham, the native language, so communication was left to smiles and miming gestures. One lady I sat with the first day, Rosita, was hard of hearing but was determined to teach me (and those around me) O'Odham. We were playing a version on bingo with English and O'Odham words and she would make me repeat the O'Odham words each time she said one. It was really a cool experience for a few reasons: first of all, I was told Rosita didn't talk to white people because a white person stole something from her shop years ago and she distrusted all of them. Secondly, most elders don't teach the language to white people and she had no reservations about it. We also spent time painting, playing "real" Bingo and wheelchair basketball. These were such sweet people who wanted nothing more than to visit with anyone who was willing to sit and listen.

Most of my afternoons were spent working with the children on their homework and then playing on the playground while the men worked on fence and construction. One sweet child, Ashley, came by everyday and I think she created homework so she could get some specific attention from us. Since they are so far behind academically, any extra work was a blessing for her. The kids are at least 2 years behind other kids off the reservation. They get even further behind because education is not always valued by their parents. If they don't want to go to school, they don't. Plus, their school year is only 145 days compared to 180+ in most areas. Teachers with a love of children are desperately needed at all levels on the reservation.

One afternoon, the girls were given the task of doing some serious demo. There was a ceiling that had to be "de-constructed" so the team this week could rebuild that room. So, we donned masks and begin pulling sheetrock down. Talk about fun! Who knew demo could be so much fun. I now know why the Extreme Home Makeover people enjoy demo day so much. :-) We also carted off old pews, demolished an old, non-functioning organ and anything else we could find. I'd love to see pictures of the "after" process.

Update Part 3

Post from 10/16:

There are way too many highlights to share in one post so I'll probably do two or three to give the full picture of what really went down last week. The first thing I noticed was that I had absolutely no fear flying. Sure the valium helped and I wasn't the best flyer in the world but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I was COVERED in prayer and it made a huge difference.

Coming into the Tuscon airport, the first thing I noticed was how flat everything was. That and we came into Gate 4. Not Gate B4 or A4 or T4, Gate 4. Talk about a small airport. :-) There were also cacti in the parking lot. The drive to Sells was starkly beautiful. I'd been to Northern Arizona before but the landscape here was so different. (As an aside, isn't it neat how God designed His earth; He knew we would bore easily so He gave us lots to appreciate.) There were cactus everywhere. And no, there was no tumbleweed; that's Northern AZ. As we got closer to Sells, you could see very few signs that we were approaching civilization. Sells is a town established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1909 and it doesn't seem like it's changed too much since then. It is very small and we saw the town in about 10 minutes.

It was amazing how quickly the children appeared once they discovered we were there. The needs were evident the minute they opened their mouths to giggle or ask us to help them across the monkey bars. The black spots on their teeth were evidence of poor dental care and a lack of attention from mom and/or dad. But, the sounds of their giggles melted my heart immediately. These kids couldn't get enough closeness. They didn't want to just sit next to us, they wanted to sit on us. They craved the attention and we craved giving it to them.

I think the first couple of days taught me flexibility. The TO have their own timetable. Church started at 11:00ish. The schedule for us was constantly changing and the answer to "what's next" was usually "I don't know." For control freaks like me, it was a lesson in letting God work and backing off my agenda. I also had to get used to the wild dogs that appeared any time the kids did or it was meal time. I'm used to nice, clean Barney. These dogs were nasty to say the least.

We did see some awesome displays of God's glory. At Brook Hills, we've been praying for things to happen in such a way that only God could get the glory. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a handle on what that looks like. Well, God showed me almost immediately. Saturday night, JT had us pray for the men of the nation and for God to send men to church on Sunday even if they didn't know why they were coming. Usually, First Papago Baptist has 2-3 men in attendance. This past Sunday, there were 7! One of whom Jay (the TO pastor) didn't even know. Jay knows EVERYONE so for him not to know this guy just proved God was moving in an awesome way. I was privileged to be a part of that. I guess that should be all for this post since it's already so long.

Update Part 2

Post from 10/15

Man the enemy is swift. We all knew coming back from the trip that the enemy would attack and he didn't wait long. I found out last night that the church isn't hiring a singles' minister any time soon and the explanation isn't really clear. It's an area that I've had to work on for 2.5 years and I thought the church administration knew that this is an important area but I guess not. It's frustrating that we as a group of singles are tithing, serving, missions-minded members and our needs for leadership are continually ignored. Oh well, I'll keep working on what God calls me to do and tell the enemy to stuff it. :-)

The additional frustration came today. None of my research assistants were able to collect data last week and one of them has had to back out to work on her own project. A second one is dealing with some health issues and can't collect data this week either. This dissertation is getting more frustrating by the day, especially since I want to be finished so badly so I can move on to an area where I can actually help people instead of writing over and over. Can I go back to Arizona? Life's much simpler there. :-)

Where the Journey Started

Since I had an old blog, I decided to transfer those posts into this blog so new people could see where I've come from and how this journey all got started...

Post from 10/14:
Wow, how can one week (2% of a year) make SO much difference in my life? I just got back from Southern Arizona and I cannot begin to adequately express all that God did in my life. I feel such a pull to that part of the world and the TO people that my heart actually hurts and longs for them. It's amazing how quickly the sweet women and children can wrap themselves around your heart in a way that probably won't ever come unwrapped.

I saw so many instances this week of things that happened in ways that only God can get the glory. From men coming to church (doesn't happen there often) to women coming in droves for a woman's conference, to seeing the Milky Way with my own eyes, the list could go on for days!

I will be spending the next few weeks processing all that I learned and developing ways that needs can be met. The needs are so many and the workers are so few. I'm obviously praying that God will show me a way to help meet those needs utilizing people here and people on the ground there. I am asking for prayers as I seek to do what God desires for me to do in the timing He desires. Please join me in praying for the TO Nation and for Pastor Jay Juan. The enemy is at work on the reservation and our prayers can help support Jay and his ministry and defeat the enemy!

New Blog Location

I didn't really like the livejournal format so I decided to go with one that many of my friends had used successfully. Hopefully with an easier format, I'll post more often. :-) I really want to keep posting so everyone can follow along with me on this journey God seems to have me on. Keep checking in for posts.