Monday, January 13, 2014

visiting the navajo reservation

In November, our family had the opportunity to visit the Navajo Reservation in Arizona for a humanitarian project.  I had known of a family in our stake that had been involved in a project like this last fall.  After visiting with them, we were able to work together to plan a service trip.  It ended up being a really great experience.  Most of my family went, and several of my nephews decided to use this trip as an Eagle Project.  We spent several months planning and gathering items to take.

One of the families we were traveling with has a son serving on the reservation, which gave us a great resource.  Under the direction of the church leaders from that area, and with the insight of the missionaries, we were able to focus on projects that foster self-sufficiency.  Before we left, we spent an evening with a couple who had recently returned from a mission to the reservation.  They taught us about the gardening program that has been started by the church.  We were able to haul 3 huge trailer loads of fertilizer and supplies to help with the gardens, and another two enclosed trailers full of quilting, canning, and sewing supplies.  We were also loaded with wood cutting supplies, with plans to haul and cut large quantities of wood with the members to use through the winter, as wood is most of the people's only source of heat through the winter.  The months before we left were filled with preparation, which I think made it more meaningful to the kids because they had worked so hard to gather donations.

We headed south a few weeks before Thanksgiving in what ended up being a whirlwind weekend of a LOTS of driving and working!  (Ryenne spoke in church about our project a few weeks later and commented how long a 13 hour car ride can be when you are riding with a car full of teenage boys!)
Luckily, the kids had cousins to ride with which always makes life more fun!

After a day and half of driving, we arrived on the reservation Friday afternoon to very cold & windy weather!  The men and most of the children immediately loaded up into trucks and headed to the hills with the branch members to haul firewood.  The rest of us stayed at the church and helped to teach some of the Relief Society sisters and youth how to loom yarn hats.  Kate and Emmy were expert hat loom instructors and stayed busy teaching all of us!  We had brought garbage bags full of yarn and lots of hat looms that were donated so the members could continue to make hats for warmth and to sell as a source of income if they choose.

The branch wanted to do something to thank us for coming, and prepared all of our meals while we were there (a big sacrifice for them).  That first night, Jodi and I spent a few hours with Nancy (the branch Relief Society President) at the senior missionaries home learning how to make Navajo fry bread.  What an amazing lady- we learned so much more than fry bread skills from her!

 Nancy's daughter in her new hat- isn't she beautiful?

That night, after the wood cutting crew returned, we were treated to a yummy dinner of stew and fry bread!  Everyone was so tired, cold, and hungry- they were in heaven with the homemade food!

(This is a pretty terrible picture of me, but I had to include it!  Claire was cracking us up!  She had gone to the mountain with Courtney and the big kids and was so tired!)

 (Sam- working on the quilt frames!)

The next morning after a much needed rest, we started bright and early.  The members had breakfast waiting (the kids said the sisters were the "best cooks on the reservation!").

Most of the men and big kids went back up on the mountain to cut more wood, while Courtney and a few of the older boys stayed back to begin to chop the massive pile of logs they had brought back the night before.

The little girls and I stayed back to help with lat looming and quilting.  My nephews had made quilt stands as part of their project and had four pair to donate to the branch, along with tons of fabric and sewing supplies. With some of the donated money, our friends had bought a sewing machine to donate to the branch as well.

 None of the sisters had ever seen a quilt frame before.  They were in awe!  We laughed when one of them said, "I've never seen a loom like this before!"  That day, we showed them how to put on and tie 2 baby quilts.  They finished them from start to finish, even learning how to bind them on the sewing machine!  They were so proud!

 I wish I had better pictures of the amount of wood that was cut.  It was pretty amazing!  The members were so grateful, and it was a great experience for our families to work alongside theirs.  The wind was blowing so hard (and cold!) that day, and the boys' eyes were filled with dust.  They definitely earned their supper that night!  The branch had planned a "Thanksgiving Feast" and had worked so hard to treat us with a nice meal.

Everyone was exhausted by the end of the weekend!

(Another crummy picture, but it made me remember the hours and hours of driving each day!  We had to be pretty creative to keep everyone entertained!)

Sunday morning, after a really special Sacrament meeting, we headed for home.  Everyone was tired, but happy!

I sure love this family of mine.

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