People are starting to gather again on the Apache Reservation.
When the pandemic hit, it was a scary time. People stopped visiting, families were told to stay apart. We couldn’t have our family dinners. It was such a change because the environment on the reservation is so tight-knit. Being in community is the one thing that drives most people here; we need that togetherness. But we had to embrace isolation for the safety of our loved ones.
Now that things are opening up again, people aren't wasting a moment. Everyone is celebrating this birthday or that graduation. You add in food and it becomes a fun time. But there is still hesitancy from a lot of people to gather in larger groups.
That hesitancy is just one struggle we have faced reopening our DIY (Do It Yourself) Home Repair Workshops and Community Garden programs. We’re doing our best to let people know they are safe by taking steps in guidance with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). We drafted safety plans so we could host events at our church. We make sure to provide hand sanitizer, wear masks, and meet outside for programs when we can. We’re doing our best to understand the different ways people feel about the situation.
Going through these steps to feel prepared and safe has been tiring—perhaps some of you can relate? Here on the reservation, we owe so much to the passion and determination of our volunteers and local lead team. The overwhelming emotion I feel is thankfulness. These individuals still want to push through the difficulties we face. They do this because, for them, our work is all about being there for other people. After all, that’s what Jesus did.
These volunteers are why our programs reach people and change lives. Every time they show up ready to serve and talk about Jesus.
I think of volunteers Scott and Pam Duryea. They love to help and go out of their way to do so. Before this past year, they visited friends and family to help with home repairs. They were the ones who were eager to start doing workshops once it was safe.
(left photo) Pam and Scott Duryea || (right photo) Charlene (light blue shirt far right) and Cherly (Kingdom Workers shirt next to Charlene)
I’m grateful for people like Charlene. She is an elderly woman who keeps us grounded in why we do what we do. She pushes us to pray with the families we serve and is a huge spiritual encouragement to us all. She is also a vital resource for us regarding tribal relations. She has worked in several different tribal departments on the reservation. With her guidance, we can work toward making our programs more sustainable and focused on gospel outreach.
At our garden, I would be lost without Cheryl. I don’t have as much experience in gardening. Cheryl has taken the lead overseeing the planting and seeding. It has been a bit of a slow start—first a cow got into the garden, ruining our crops, then we relocated the entire garden to a new location to reach more families. But Cheryl is excited to have her hands in the dirt again, showing families how to grow fresh, healthy food.
These volunteers are why our programs reach people and change lives. Every time they show up ready to serve and talk about Jesus. I am thankful for their resilience and am grateful I get to watch them become emboldened to show and share Christ’s love.