Myself along with four other girls went on an adventure to Whiteriver, AZ this past week in order to serve some of the Apache people in the White Mountain Apache Reservation. We worked through an organization called Apache Youth Ministries (AYM) who (as you can imagine) does a variety of things to reach out to the Apache youth. Since I did not have internet access while there, I record the events each day, beginning with when we left.
Saturday, May 16th:
We left at 6 am sharp, all five of us packed into a car with our luggage assembled rather tightly in the trunk. We were all excited about what God would do with us and through us in the upcoming week. We arrived in Elk City, OK after a long day of driving, ate supper and crashed in our hotel room.
Sunday, May 17th:
The original plan was to arrive in Whiteriver, AZ on Sunday night, however different things were in store for us that day. We drove on peacefully for awhile, and even rented The Shack from Cracker Barrel on audio, in order to pass the time (a very good book, I might add). One of the sites along the drive included the "World's Largest Cross", or so they proclaim. At about 5pm the car we were driving violently shook and Megan pulled over to the side of the road. After a little investigation we determined that 4 of the 5 lug nuts on the front left tire had come out. It was only by God's grace that the fifth one stayed in, as it was rather loose as well. A call to AAA later, a tow truck was on it's way. We all called our parents with the plan to head back to Albuquerque for the night and got a hotel close to the car dealership to fix the car. We thank God that Megan has a phone with the internet on it! However, Billy, our tow truck driver, had some problems with the gentelman he was helping at the time we were stranded and we had to wait two hours for him to arrive. Upon calling the New Mexico police (we wanted a car to sit with us while we waited, stuck on the roadside), we were hung up on twice. However, I forgot to mention how breath-taking the scenery was-absolutely beautiful! After Billy got there and we found the dealership to take the car to, we discovered that they padlocked their gates at night, so there was nowhere to drop off the car (save for the hotel parking lot). We did that and finally got to our hotel and to sleep. Thank goodness for John, the front desk representative who gave us a discount. All in all, we were not injured and the minor setbacks were not great.
Monday, May 18th:
Not wanting to use up Megan's free tows from AAA, we called upon Brittany's roadside service for the tow from the hotel to the dealership. We talked to the front desk and Linda was able to push our checkout time back to 2 pm, and later 4 pm (as we were still waiting on the dealership to call). Fianally, we recieved a call that told us the lug nuts were fixed, but the hub bearings needed repair and they would have to ship the parts in overnight, setting us back another day. We stayed another night at Sandia, and made the best of it by taking a trip a couple blocks to Target, getting swimsuits and food. We swam that night and got to know wach other better while we waited.
Tuesday, May 19th:
We were impressed that the dealership called around 9 am with the car ready to go. We were out of the hotel by 10 and back on the road again. We (finally) arrived in Arizona and were able to go the The Kennel (or open Kennel) and spend about an hour with the Apache Youth. Through meetng with the youth I immeadiatly learned the "turtle handshake". The youth were a lot more open to getting to know us than I expected. The Kennel is a place the high schoolers frequent after school. A better description of The Kennel and what the staff at Apache Youth Ministries are doing with this building can be found in a short video at www.apacheyouth.com (go to "programs" tab-in black along the top, and click on "youth center" the video is embedded on that page). The video will also provide you with a look at the landscape and some of the youth being impacted by this ministry. That evening we went to the staff house (that the staff of AYM so kindly let us use), relaxed and unpacked.
Wednesday, May 20th:
We woke and met with a volunteer at The Kennel, who showed us some things we could do to be of service to AYM. That day we cleaned off the basketball court and began to repaint the logo in the center (before the rain threatened and we were forced to put a picnic table and tarp over our work to keep it dry). We were told that so far it had been really hot, and they needed the rain. I just wish (after so much rain in Illinois) that it could have waited until we left. I was amazed by the rain in Arizona. It didn't pour, as it does in Illinois: it just sprinkles on and off. During the rain we did some cleaning indoors and met with Ron Everingham (who's blog can be found at the above link to AYM). He shared with us the vision for AYM and told us a little more about the Apache people as a whole. We hung out with the Apache youth that afternoon, and I began to learn more and more about them, theri lives and their school: located behind the Kennel. I learned that day that basketball was the thing to do on teh reservation, making it difficult for the other sports to fill up teams (the wrestling team had 3 people on it). The Apaches do not keep score while playing, they simply play for a while (generally at least an hour) and then someone says, next point for the win. One of the staff, a native of Indiana, was looked at funny when he first arrived and began to keep score for the students' game. I met sever youth, each with their own stories and interests. That evening we went to the high school band concert (four of the Apache youth from the Kennel were in band). The band was very small, compared to what I am used to, consisting of maybe 25 students. For a couple of the students, band was just a class, but for others it was one of the few ways to express their interest in music. There were several others at The Kennel who had musical interests, but their instruments are not included in the band (such as guitar). One of the students told me he wished that, "there was more on the rez [slang for the reservation] he could do with his music". This student wrote music and played well (and brought his guitar to The Kennel on a regular basis).
Thursday, May 21st:
We arrived at The Kennel and our service project was to build a picnic table for the students. The cool part about it was we started with boards and tools (and through guidance) transformed them into a place where the youth could have Bible studies, do homework or just sit and talk. We even sanded and stained the table! That day we also did more cleaning and helped out with various other projects as needed. While hanging out with the youth, I continued to learn more about them and their family. Even though we were only staying for a short time, many of the students were excited to play ping pong, pool, and basketball with us while talking and getting to know us, and each other better. Through both talking with the youth and the staff members, my eyes were opened to the poverty and struggles of the youth and the Apache people as a whole. I am blessed to have been able to help them out, through my small acts of service. Throughout the trip, it was amazing to see the different people who had some connection to Illinois (however small). One of the AYM staff members went to college less than an hour away from where I go. It was funny that the girls in our group knew some of the same people he went to school with. That evening we went with him to a worship practice with the band he plays in at his local church. They play many of the same songs we worship to at Encounter (ISU's campus ministry). That was cool to see the simalarities there. Afterwards we went to a local resturant and ate wings and pizza.
Friday, May 24th:
We went on a tour of the reservation (that we were suppose to do upon arriving Sunday night) and saw Fort Apache, among other local landmarks. Historically, the Apache lived in dwellings called wikiups (I'm not sure if the spelling is correct on that or not, picture below) and had meeting places called ramadas. We also got to see the historic landmarks of the Battle of Geranamo, which was pretty neat. Th other picture below is one of the mountains that Geranamo used as a hide-out (mostly the caves within the mountain). Later that day we hung out with the youth again, and said our goodbyes. I thought it would be easier than it was to leave, but it was kind of difficult. I didn't realize how attached I had gotten to the students in such a short time period.
Saturday, May 23rd:
We drove the majority of the way home. We had a very nice meal at Cracker Barrel (the poor waiter patiently put up with all our requests). Although we had booked reservations at a hotel in Joplin, Missori, when we got there (around 2 am) we were told the hotel had been given to someone else: even though the person we booked it with assured us he would include a note telling of our late arrival. Luckily, the third place we tried had a room avaliable within our price range. We slept for about six hours before getting on the road to continue our drive home.
Sunday, May 24th:
After hours more of driving, we arrived home. It was a wonderful trip (despite our difficulties) and I learned a lot! Now let me see what I can do about those pictures...