Monday, April 4, 2016
On the Rez (Apache)
Last week some of our family headed out west to Arizona. We visited family during spring break and we wanted to show our children some of the sights like the Grand Canyon. But it has weighed on me more in the last four years that when we do fun activities that we also give back and show our kiddos how lucky they are and hopefully increase their appreciation for their lives.
After a few days of enjoying the Arizona landscape, we headed to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. I reached out a couple of months ago through a contact at Northside Christian in New Albany to come and do a basketball activity one day while we were in the Phoenix area. They happily agreed and had us out where I put on a small basketball activity for one day.
But the most informative part of our time there was the hour long prayer journey we did before meeting up with the kids. During that time, Diana Lawrence, one of the founders of Arizona Reservation Ministries (ARM) rode with us and told stories of life on the reservation. To say that life is hard on the reservation is an understatement, to say that she and her husband Dale and everyone else involved are doing great work there is an even larger understatement. But I also saw how the Apache themselves are fighting for their community and the love and care they fight for is an even larger understatement.
Drug usage, alcoholism, poverty and the sometimes mistreatment of its children is overwhelming due to the drug addiction problem. The Apache are a great people, a people prideful of their heritage, but are living in a perpetual cycle of failure that has been brought about by many factors. Including, but not relegated to what the US government has done to them, what it has allowed to continue to happen to them, their addictions to drugs and alcohol and the feeling of helplessness of a family who has gang members living in their small home with 10-25 other people on sometimes $250 per month.
How do parents with adult children who are gang members residing in their home with their kids, grand kids and even great-grand kids tell them to leave without fear of retribution? How do the local police living in the community do their jobs without risking the lives of their children? How do the local Apache politicians take care of their extended families; for whom they are culturally and incredibly responsible, while trying to do the right thing for all tribal members?
Why would a potential employer invest in a place of employment on the Reservation when the land you build on belongs to the government, is still under federal trust and already portions taken away five times? When the local casino doesn't have an urban draw, is still paying the debt on the building and few Natives are in management positions after 20 years, and still not one Tribal member receives a "payout" from the casino? When because kids act out from what they've experienced at home, the local schools on the reservation have severe discipline issues and the teachers are fighting each day to save them and educate them? This proud, wonderful people have been invaded not once, but many times throughout history by people and the disease of addiction and hopelessness.
That's where Diana and Dale Lawrence and ARM help. They are providing homes, backpacks, clothing, food, lessons, fun and love to help provide hope and to break that the perpetual cycle all the while allowing the Apache to keep their dignity and pride. With their church bus, ARM pulls onto the reservation as a consistent, vital part of San Carlos, providing help, hope and love.
Driving on our prayer journey, we stopped several times so that Diana could talk to some of the young people. Many saw her and ran with a smile on their face and their arms wide open for the hug she so eagerly gave. Then during the 40 minute basketball activity seeing the smiles and hearing laughter and having Diana say it went well is what I wanted to show my own children. You can understand that the Apache appreciate what is done for them, but strive to do more for themselves.
In our social media world, we often become numb to the latest issue that enters our world online. I know I've done it. You look away because it's on my iPad and I don't have to read it if I don't want to because it's one more thing to depress me in my sheltered good life. That's why I challenge you as I challenge myself to be more than a social media activist. Get dirty, don't go numb. Actually go and do something with those less fortunate than yourself. It doesn't have to be on a mission trip to Guatemala or even to the Apache Reservation, it can be in your local community.
But get dirty, make a difference. Can you save the world? Nope, I believe only one person can do that, but you can make a difference. You can make a child laugh or giggle and at the least take their minds off the issues waiting at home. You can do small or big things. In providing help, work to allow for those who may be less fortunate to find ways to do it themselves. Because true change inside any community will not come from the outside, but from the inside.
Maybe what we did in San Carlos wasn't much, but it's better than sitting on the couch aware of their plight and saying "someone should do something".
You can find out more about what ARM and what the Lawrence family is doing at azrez.org.