Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dine'tah: An Appeal

Six years ago, I knew very little about the Navajo people (Dine') and the vast and beautiful Navajoland (Dine'tah). My education on these matters is still a work in progress, but in these past 6 years I have come to have a great respect and love for the Navajo. I find their history fascinating. I admire their triumphs (Navajo art, in particular, is among the most creative and beautiful of that of any culture in the world). I grieve over their challenges. I am anything but a "bleeding heart," but I am ashamed of the way earlier Americans treated the Navajo and other native peoples.

After six years of living close to the Navajo Nation reservation, I have witnessed firsthand the foolish (and, I will add, racist) policy of generations past of rounding up native peoples and driving them to "reservations." Often, our government placed these peoples on lands that were the poorest and most remote. No walls were built, but once the reservation boundaries were determined (and changed many times, by the way, by the bureaucrats in Washington), little effort was made to teach the indians new skills, or to provide modern infrastructure that would make assimilating into American culture easier. There were some basic and noble efforts made, to be sure, but these were few and far between. Most cruel of all, perhaps, our government brought in alcohol to "pacify" the indians and to quell dissension and revolts. Oh, what great tragedy alcohol has brought to the reservations.

The past cannot be undone, but the present and future can be better, much better. As I live and work among the Navajo, I see a people who love life, who are bright and industrious, who are honest and good-natured. I see a people who, when given half a chance, can excel and do great things. I continually pray that the resources and opportunities needed for continued and accelerated advancement of the Navajo will come. Share this prayer with me.

Of course, my primary interest here is with the children of the Navajo nation, particularly those children who are in crisis, whose families are beyond dysfunction and who are in great need. We at the Manuelito Navajo Children's Home are striving to help these children and families. We need partners in our ministry to enable us to extend our reach and to take more children into our care. Will you help us? Please make a contribution to our cause today.

As you consider this plea, let me share with you some statistics that describe, in some small measure, life on the Navajo reservation:

  • There is 58% unemployment on the Navajo reservation
  • Annual per ca pita income is around $7,300 (try feeding and housing a family on $7,300 a year!)
  • 32% of houses lack plumbing
  • 20% of houses lack electricity
  • 50% of children drop out of school
  • Fewer than 7% of adult Navajos have college degrees
  • 90% of the population is impacted by alcoholism (either personally or through a close family member)
  • The median lifespan among men living on the reservation is 46 years (read this sentence again! . . . that's over 30 years shorter than in the wider American society!)
  • 20% of families are intact; 80% of families are fractured!

Manuelito Navajo Children's Home is just one of the efforts by Churches of Christ to share the love and message of Jesus Christ to the Navajo. Today, churches can be found in at least ten communities on the Reservation. Many of these congregations are being led by Navajo preachers. In the coming days and weeks, I will introduce these workers here on my blog and on my Facebook group, Churches of Christ Navajo Mission. Please pray for these men, their families, and the churches with whom they work. Pray for the effort to bring Christ to this beautiful and noble people. Do more than pray, become involved personally and financially.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Autumn Grace

Note: I wrote this article in the days before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation. My youngest daughter, Autumn Grace Foster, was born on September 10, 2002, just 43 minutes shy of 9/11/02.

It was not planned, but it seems to be happening. Tomorrow, Tuesday, if everything goes well, my wife and I will be welcoming a third child into our family. It wasn't until this week that I thought of the coinciding anniversary.

Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. It will be, in many quarters, a day of somber reflection, with thoughts given to those 3,000 innocent lives brought to an end on that harrowing day. How awkward it will be rejoicing over the birth of a child.

But should it be awkward? From death comes life. Is this not the message of the Gospel? Paul said the message would be met with ridicule and disbelief, for it is foolish to believe that life comes from death, that the cross represents an object of power and not shame; but such is the case with the Gospel.

When all is bleak, when the world seems to be crumbling down all around, there can be hope of a new day dawning. peter says that men and women of faith have a "living hope," a hope realized in Jesus Christ and the new birth found in him (1 Peter 1.3-5). So, is it awkward to be rejoicing over a new life on the anniversary of a day of death?

Christians look forward. Doesn't this attribute set us apart from the world? We have a tomorrow that is certain, that is real, that cannot be shaken or taken away.

My heart goes out to those whose lives were tragically affected on that Fall day one year ago. My prayer is that they find peace. My prayer is that they find peace. My prayer is that they come to know God's abiding presence and his autumn grace.