“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.” Japanese poet
There is so much beauty here, in the incredible scenery, in the cultures and traditions, and in the people. There are so many moments when I think to myself, “I wish I could capture this moment, in all of it’s beauty!” The sun is shining, the kids are laughing, the adults are chattering away in Navajo, the fry bread is sizzling, the mesa is green from the rain last weekend… There’s no way to capture all the sounds and smells and feels of this place, and I’m positive I will miss this terribly when I’m gone.
For all of the beauty here, there is great tragedy. More tragedy than I even realized when I first came here. I think that most of the world outside of the reservation is unaware of all that happens on the reservation, so I thought I would share a little bit here.
Suicide rates are between 25-35% higher on the reservation than off. Many Navajo consider it a bad thing to talk about it. In fact, there isn’t a word in Navajo that means “suicide”. The statistics might be even higher than this because death by suicide often goes unreported and the Navajo police will just attribute the death to “accidental causes”.
It happens here all of the time. Previous missionaries all told me about people they knew here who killed themselves. Just last week one of my friend’s brothers-in-law killed himself.
There is much speculation about why the rates are so high. There is 50% unemployment here (and literally everyone I know really wants to work…they are applying for jobs all the time). There is also tremendous alcoholism and following a drinking binge there is SO much regret and self-loathing. I have seen men cry over the fact that they cannot control the urge to drink. They promise themselves (and their wives, kids and God) that they will stop, but then they get drunk again and the next day they hate themselves for it. This was the case with my friend’s relative.
Another terrible tragedy here are the traffic accidents. I try very hard to not drive at night for many reasons. There are cows, horses and sheep that stand in the road and at night you can’t see them. A few weeks ago, someone from church hit a cow and destroyed their van. Fortunately, the injuries were minimal. There are also SO many drunk drivers at night. I cannot think of ANYONE that I have met here that has not lost someone in a car accident. Most of the time they were either driving drunk or riding with someone who was driving drunk and they went off the road and rolled the vehicle.
I know that these things happen in the Anglo world as well, but EVERY person here has lost someone. My good friend Lavina lost two brothers, my friend Rod lost his brother…every time I sit down with someone they tell me of the people they have lost in their family.
The strange thing? They have no news here, so these terrible tragedies happen and nobody knows. Occasionally things filter down by word of mouth, but mostly it is just the family that knows about it. My friend Delbert has a police scanner and he says there are SO many tragedies that nobody knows about. It’s like we are living in a land that everyone in America has forgotten.
But God has not forgotten the Navajo. In the midst of this tragedy I have seen the strongest faith in God. I come from a world where if everything doesn’t go exactly as we want, we point blaming fingers at God. We complain to Him that life is hard and unfair and wonder why he doesn’t fix things for us quickly.
I’ve never heard a Navajo blame God for tragedy. I asked one of the men at the church if he was ever angry with God for how hard life is. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind. He said, “Why would I be mad at God? The sin that caused this isn’t His fault.” Then he said the most incredible thing. He said, “Jesus suffered when he lived here. Why would I ask God to make things easier for me than it was for Jesus? Do I want to live better than God did when he was here?”
Reminds me of Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Do we want to live better than God did when he was here?
Or are we willing to share in his sufferings, take up our cross and follow him?
I love the perspective this place and these people are giving me. I am rich in so many things and I take so many of those things for granted.
I hope this gave you a little more perspective on some of the harder sides of life here, but that you are encouraged by the faith of the Christians in spite of circumstances.
This week was SO full. Oh my goodness- the longer I am here, the more things fill my days! Thank you for praying for our little Wednesday night Bible study! It has moved to Delbert and Lula’s home and that has been a huge blessing. Lula loves to host, and she makes stew and tortillas for us each week and loves it. It has also opened doors in reaching out to Lula’s family since they live all around her house. Remember the 2 ladies from the trading post that I met the 1st week I was here? Sarah and Candice are both sisters of Lula and last week Sarah came to her 1st Bible study! The way God works things out just makes me smile… thank you for your prayers. God is answering them and doing some incredible things here. Keep praying! Who knows what will happen!!
Have a great week!!