We enjoyed our visit, especially interacting with the Navajo and Ute craftsmen and women who displayed their amazing handmade jewelry and other items, including arrows with obsidian points. As you might imagine, Tanner was especially intrigued and fascinated as the gentleman explained and demonstrated this craft, and our next blog post will include Tanner describing it.
We drove further south into New Mexico as we prepared to journey into the heart of Texas, but we did so with heavy hearts.
Both Ann and I have spent time serving on reservations in the past: Pine Ridge in South Dakota (Lakota Sioux) and Lame Deer, Montana (Northern Cheyenne). They are deeply challenging places of cyclical poverty, and the local leaders who work so desperately hard to bring hope and vision to their people are inspiring. But as we drove southward through Utah and passed through these tiny reservation communities with their run down and weather beaten government issued "homes", with absolutely no opportunity nearby for employment, we both felt a deep sense of sorrow for what the Native Americans have endured. The image of mile after mile of the most desolate, unforgiving land that our country contains, littered with thousands and thousands of empty, discarded alcohol and beer bottles along the side of the road was a grim reminder of the reality of rampant alcoholism that ravages these communities. Our mood was only deepened when we were approached by a visibly bruised Native American woman, who told us a convoluted story with slurred speech that made no real coherent sense, eventually asking us for money and/or a ride (unfortunately not in a direction that we were able to go) while her husband watched from the shadows of the gas station we had pulled into. Though we were able to give her some funds and talk with her, we left feeling depressed and helpless at witnessing both the grand scale of the problem that many Native American communities face, and the personal face of it in this battered woman.
Next summer I plan to take our senior high youth group back to Lame Deer, MT, to both help as we are able, and also to expose our youth to the needs that exist within our country. I know it will touch them deeply and impact them in powerful ways. Ways that might lead to lives dedicated to making a difference. Lives lived with a purpose that brings light into the darkness.