Friday, June 27, 2014

Missions Speak

A few words from Alden Pritchard

Missions Speak

Good morning. My name is Alden Pritchard, and I was a part of the 2014 missions team that went to Navajo Nation in Bluff, Utah. The 2014 missions team’s goal was to put up the walls and begin the roof of a Hogan, which is a traditional Navajo house. The Hogan we built was in the shape of a combination of a rectangle and an octagon.

It was a combination of God’s help and better team arrangements than we had last year that the 2014 missions team was accomplish this goal. Last year, there were at least five different teams doing work on different construction sites.  This year, we had four teams all concentrated on one work site. The teams we had this year consisted of about 9 people per team, 2-3 adults, and the rest were kids. 

One of the largest reasons our teams were so successful was that this year everyone was more familiar with each other, and this made the teams more effective because communication was more open, which was a big improvement from last year.
Last year there was no familiarity between us and the kids from Tulsa, Oklahoma because last year we didn’t know any of the kids from Tulsa at all before the trip, whereas this year the vast majority of people knew each other beforehand, partly due to the 22 hour bus ride.
The small teams we had this year were constantly busy, as there was always work to be done. Some teams had more specific jobs: My team, team 4, went by the name of Rolling Stones, and we were tasked with building the east facing walls, which consisted of two walls with windows, and one with a door.

Other teams may have either had other walls to build, or they might have had tasks like cutting, measuring, or marking wood that would be used to construct the walls. Other jobs for those who had none were helping other teams that had a lot of work to do and needed more help than they already had.
Sometimes a few people would be recruited for a special task like assembling a header to go above a window to support the wall, and that would take them away from their team for a little while. I remember Paul Schwartz, who was on our team, was helping with cutting wood and getting the power tools working so he was unable to help us for most of the time.
Some of the work was not easy. I remember how our team had to tear apart a wall we started putting together because assembled outside in not inside out
Roofing crew had to work on the roof, had to work very meticulously, more so than other groups
All in all: Six sided Hogan (traditional Navajo house), almost all walls up with almost all plywood on those walls
Incredible considering:
Time element
o   Monday bus got stuck, 1-2 hours on site total
o   Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, full day
o   Friday 45-60 mph winds, limited activity on roof and with plywood, cleanup was done before 2:00

o   Temperatures at about 100 degrees every day with almost constant wind

-Alden Pritchard

Thursday, June 26, 2014

From the Me, to the We, to the One

A few words from Libby Morris

From the Me, to the We, to the One

As I stand up here today, I am an unfamiliar face to most. Unlike many of my peers in YMO, I am not an official “member” of Grace Church. So, you must be wondering, how did I get involved in YMO?
            About one year ago, after the YMO kids came back from missions in New Mexico, I met with one of my best friends, Laila Drury, youth rep extraordinaire, for dinner at a Thai restaurant to hear about the trip. As soon as she started talking about the trip, I was immediately jealous. At the time, I was in another youth group based out of a different church. I had been on two mission trips with that group before, but these trips seemed like nothing compared to what Laila and the YMO kids had just experienced. I wanted in.

            So, when it came time for the first YMO meeting of this year, Laila was really excited to take me. I can’t say the same for myself. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was excited to be in the youth group, but I was really nervous about meeting new people and whether or not I would be accepted.
            And boy, was that stupid. As soon as I walked into Father Chris’s house that night, I was accepted into the group. No question about it. Of course, it took time to really get to know everyone in the group, but from day one, I was always an integral part of YMO, just like every one of my peers.
            The whole year, Father Chris had been teaching us that we need to go from the “me” to the “we” to the “one.” This means instead of focusing on ourselves and instead of focusing on everyone in the group, we need to focus on coming together as one, harmonious body. And I think that to truly be able to make it to “the one,” acceptance is key. On our mission trip this past month exemplified YMO’s sense of “the one” and acceptance greatly. To just give you one example is an extremely hard task. It’s hard because the amount of love I saw within this group during missions is unbelievable. Completely unbelievable.
            First, I could tell you about the time when our coach bus got stuck in the sand in the middle of the desert. I personally wasn’t there, but everyone who was there did everything in their power to help. And I mean everything. People were using their hardhats to scoop sand out from under the wheels and others were just trying to stay calm. Finally, a couple of huge trucks serendipitously showed up and were able to help pull the bus out of the sand.

 A true act of God. But really, helping the bus out of trouble was a huge act of “the one,” which wouldn’t have been possible without accepting each other for our individual strengths.
            Or, I could tell you about the life-changing experience we all had on Wednesday night. Father Chris took us into the canyon right behind St. Christopher’s mission to show us an “energy vortex:” a place where God’s energy on earth is overwhelmingly palpable. As soon as we entered the canyon, we were silent. There was no need to talk to each other. We sat on a formation of rocks deep inside the canyon to meditate, to become one with God and each other. 

This experience is completely indescribable. I know this may sound contrived, but I really figured myself out during this time; we were so in tune with nature we didn’t even realize we were in tune with each other. When the meditation period was over and we were back at the mission, we all looked at the bright moon and subconsciously held hands with each other. No directions were given to do this. We, as one, felt so connected, so in-sync with each other. Without even thinking twice, we silently accepted each other right then and there.
            I wish I could go back to that night, I wish I could experience that feeling again. But, I know I will. With this group, anything of that caliber is possible again. This year has been a year that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I was a junior in high school this year, aka the hardest year of high school, and I really do believe that YMO was the reason I was able to stay sane. I know I’m not alone in saying that missions this year was one of the best weeks of my life, although I was very excited to take a long shower to get the sand off my body as soon as I got home.
Looking back to the beginning of the year, I can’t believe that I was ever without this group; I can’t believe that I was once a “new” member. Father Chris has always made a big deal about the fact that there are never “new” people in the group. We have always been a part of this group, whether we were aware of it or not. It was always God’s plan for me and my peers to join this group, and it’s in His plan for more people to become part of the “one” that we all so greatly cherish.

Libby Moris

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'm Staff

A recap of our journey from Kelley Summers

I'm Staff

I’m Staff. With a capital “S”-taff. Yes, I thought to myself, I can actually sleep and not have to do anything because I’m no longer the Staff in Training-the “parent” in charge of this sometimes rowdy bunch of kids! But that was just a story I thought would become the truth in my head, and that was a bit far-fetched to say the least. 

Why did I come back for this mission trip after the craziness of last year? I thought I did because I wanted to have something to share with others when I returned about the group, the construction work, and the drama that would make people excited to hear my stories. But the truth is that I came back so I could build something that someone would inhabit with my own two hands. Truth is, I came back so I could figure out my own spiritual journey, since these trips seem to help me focus on what my faith means to me. Truth is, I came back for the YMO group, especially these amazing kids.
          It’s no secret that I love the work that we do on these mission trips. Not only did I learn a lot about construction, but I also got to do A LOT. It’s an excuse to take sledge hammers straight to awry pieces of wood or look cool using pneumatic nail guns, and I took every opportunity I could to get involved in the construction of this hogan.

It was my enthusiasm that kept me “thirsty” for more work, and with that came more responsibility. Jack the Contractor became my “drill sergeant” I MEAN mentor for the 5 days we were on site, and when he said to put on a nail apron to “look like a leader”, I put on the first one I could find. But the thing about leading is that you are nothing without your team, and my team overachieved in every task that was thrown at them. My team, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, put up the first wall, and the third and the fourth and so on. 

Everyone on that site was there for a reason, and all of us working as one allowed us to get as far as we did in the construction of the hogan.
          Whether you know this about me or not, the truth is that, before these trips, I was not as involved with the church as I should have been. I liked the people that went to Grace and enjoyed the many social gatherings I attended, but there were years where the closest I got to church was the GEMs golf outing. I never took the opportunity to examine my faith and try to understand my spirituality.

 Not like I’m saying I know even half about what it means to be a completely spiritual person (since Father P tells us that if you think you know it, you don’t!), but what I’m saying is that this trip is the closest I’ve ever gotten to knowing what it means to have and believe in myself and my spiritual life. In spite of all the energy I have, the energy vortex made me stop, and feel, and sense, and hear. And I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt more at peace than on that Wednesday night.

 But the biggest reason I came back was for this group of bright, inspirational YMOers I see before me. You guys are the reason why these trips are so special to me, because you inspire me with everything that you do. You’re the ones that make the work worthwhile, and the people I would always pick first to be on my team because of the heart and determination you all showed on and off the site, day in and day out. You’re the ones that made me really want to explore my spirituality and that honestly brought me back to church. 

And you’re the ones that make me laugh, act like a complete goon, scream I MEAN sing songs at the top of my lungs, get absolutely no sleep for days, listen to your stories and jokes into the wee hours of the night, and feel so happy to have met and gotten to know each and every one of you. It’s no question that Father P has played a significant role in your emotional and spiritual development. Each of you are a piece of a great puzzle, with your own edges and curves that make you who you are as an individual. But when you come together as a group, each piece falls miraculously into its unique place. The completed puzzle: an image formed by, but unlike its individual parts. Connected. Cohesive. Clear.

  Today marks the first time I've spoken about my time in Utah except with my fellow missioners. I've been trying to focus on sticking to the truth of what I experienced there instead of having it spiral off into 1,000 stories that don’t actually mean anything individually. I’m not able to, nor do I want to do that, since what truly happened there is something way too meaningful and important to me to be shared in some story. There is no place I’d rather be than with you all, working hard on the site with all our power tools (Bosch-made or not *flex guns*), continuing my spiritual journey that truly started just a year ago, and knowing what it finally means to be a part of a group that loves each other like family. I am honored to be a piece in the puzzle that is YMO. 

 - Kelley Summers - June 2014


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Land

This past Sunday, we were blessed to have 4 people from the Mission speak to us about their journey in Navajo Nation.  These will be presented here as they become available.

This first one is by Cindy Jackson King,,

The Land

The story is that Grace YMO went to Utah to build a Hogan for the widow of the first native Episcopal bishop at St. Christopher’s Mission.  Fr. Chris has said that the truth is that we went to Utah to understand and respect Navajo spirituality, (that he was called to bring us to the Place by the very winds>)  I recognize now that the process of building the Hogan was to be the very means by which we could learn about and experience Navajo spirituality.  For myself, lessons of spirituality were learned most clearly in our daily confrontations with the physical environment in which we lived and worked – the heat, the sun, the winds, the rocks, the sand – with what I wall call “the Land”.  I will tell you that in the daily bouts between our intentions and the immoveable realities of the Land, it was the Land that won every time. 

I could tick off the list:  We came prepared with our hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, tents, bottles and canisters of water and Gatorade, thinking that we could protect ourselves and keep up our strength and ability to work in the heat and sun at our site every day.  Despite all our preparations, the Land had other plans.  We found every day that we still needed to adapt to the realities of the heat and sun.  And even in trying to focus the bulk of our work time in the hours before noon, many of us still had to return early from the site.  And some of us were visited with the wonderful experience of heat exhaustion. 

We planned that we could complete most of the outer work on the Hogan within our 5 day work frame.  Our schedule was delayed not only for safety training with our power tools – which we could never forego – but also by the very remoteness and expanse of the Land.  Although we had paid in full for the steel for our roof, the vendor declined to deliver the materials to the site.  “You’re in Bluff!?  That’s the middle of nowhere!  We’re not going to deliver there!”

Connected to that story – we had expected that we could efficiently and easily transport work teams to the work site daily from the Mission using the very bus that brought us safely from Hinsdale.  The Land had other plans.  

On the first day of work, arriving about a mile from the work site, our bus was captured by the sand of an unpaved road.  

Try as we might – and we tried everything we knew for about an hour – we were faced with the reality that the bus was stuck.  It was only by the appearance “as if out of nowhere” of a certain Ford 450 muscle truck, equipped with a tow hook, that the bus was freed.  Yes, the bus was pulled out of the sand by a truck.  That same truck, and driver, would become the means by which our steel was finally delivered to our site.  (That is another story.) 

And yet we kept on giving our best efforts, still hoping to achieve our goal of getting the outer and supportive structure of the Hogan finished by the end of the week.  That Friday, our last day at the site, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that we had worked up some confidence – perhaps cockiness? – in our progress so far, our abilities to use our power tools safely and effectively, and in our ability to follow the directions of our managing contractor, Jack.  Once again, the Land had other plans.  We were working at a good and effective clip until about noon – when we were visited by a sand storm.  Some 60 mile/hour winds and swirling sands made climbing and working on scaffolds and maneuvering sheets of plywood impossible, and Fr. Chris made the executive decision to shut down the site for safety reasons. 

 So, with goggles and kerchiefs trying to protect our mouths and noses, (securing the remaining materials at the site as best we could, packing our tents, generator compressor and supplies) we broke camp for the last time, and high tailed it off the site with the wind and sand licking at our heels.  That was a reality check. 

And yet – for all our being chastened and humbled by the stark realities of the Land, it was, ultimately, those same processes by which I would receive marvelous gifts. 

On a personal level, I was forced to face limits within myself.  But as I let go of some of my delusions of competence and control, this was compensated for by the gift of loving care of others.  So many people took care of me!  From giving me eyedrops and Ibuprofen, to recognizing that I was in stages of heat exhaustion. 

As we progressed through the week, the Message Board was a huge source of joy.  As I processed each day, it allowed me to reflect on and become aware of the prowess and the variety of gifts of my team, my fellow staff, and all of my YMO family.  And in acknowledging, I became grateful.  And being grateful – haven’t you found? – is a blessing in itself.  The Message Board became a means for me to count blessings. 

But probably the single most powerful experience – and most effective teaching tool – came in our group experiences on the site where the mission was located – on the site that originally called Fr. Chris to bring us there.  As the evening was falling, we climbed in silence the rock and shifting sands of a canyon wall, finding perches on a rocky lege.  It was there that we sat as a group in a guided meditation. 

It is difficult for me to convey my experience of the Land – in that Place – in words.  There are some things of which we cannot speak.  I will say this:  that canyon – those rocks, the sands, the scrub – forgive me, but it all felt ALIVE to me.  I daresay – I felt in that Place something like a kinship with the Land.  With that, my sense of relationship with and embeddedness in, the YMO family surrounding me was altered, became more fluid.  And my perspective on myself, my relations with others, and my place in the universe (as Fr. Chris says “When I say universe I mean God.”) has changed.

- Cindy Jackson King
Presented June 22, 2014 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014