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Education majors teach and serve at Navajo reservation school

June 4, 2013 | Ian Richardson

The team set foot on the flat top of the mesa overlooking the Navajo reservation. They prayed for the local church, then for the surrounding community. Afterward, they each picked up a rock as a symbol of their prayer and set it on top of the pile where many other visitors had laid rocks before them.

The team then made the rocky drive back down the side of the mesa – in a church van.

The team of Evangel University students, led by Dr. Becky Huechteman, professor of education, had set out on the weeklong trip from Springfield, Missouri, to Pinedale, New Mexico, on May 4.  Huechteman and the four Education majors partnered with local pastors and volunteered at Church Rock School, where 98 percent of the students are Navajo.

Though they did not leave the United States, the team says that the trip was a cultural experience far different from what they are used to.

Education majors on mesa

The team sits atop the mesa overlooking the reservation. From left: Lauren Langston, Brittany Jordan, Katelyn Schmitt and Abigail Johnson.

“Many of the people have no electricity and no water,” Huechteman says. “They must haul water in barrels from several miles away and use that water for cooking, bathing and other needs.”

Along with lack of indoor plumbing and electricity in some places, Abigail Johnson, a senior Early Childhood Education major, says the culture faces an extensive amount of poverty. Many children are raised by grandparents or siblings due to high levels of parental absence, and the people hold to a deeply rooted religious tradition of magic and medicine men.

The other students on the trip were Brittany Jordan, a senior Elementary Education major; Katelyn Schmitt, a junior Early Childhood Education major; and Lauren Langston, a senior Elementary Education major. The team worked to meet a basic need in the community through a skill they all share: teaching.

Each Evangel student worked alongside a local teacher to minister to the children at Church Rock, and Huechteman says her most memorable times during the trip came as she watched her students interacting with the children.

“The children connected with them immediately, and my students knew just how to communicate and respond, despite the cultural differences,” she says. “It was clear that they were reaching out with loving, caring hearts.”

Schmitt says one of her favorite parts of the trip came as she worked with one particular boy, who she learned came from a violent home.

Navajo reservation home

Many of the homes on the reservation have no running water or electricity.

“During lunch I really seemed to connect with him, and we were talking and laughing together,” she says. “That day as he left, he rolled down his window and yelled with a huge smile on his face ‘Bye Katelyn, Bye!’ This showed me that we were there for a reason and that Jesus’ love was shining through this.”

The team had one free day in which they visited the Grand Canyon. They also had the opportunity to minister at the local Wednesday night church service. The girls led worship, and Langston gave the message.

Schmitt says she enjoyed the interaction with the pastor and seeing how God is working in the people despite the spiritual darkness in the area.

“Pastor Nathan shared with us that medicine men do not mess with any medicine men who they feel have more power than they do,” she says. “He then told us that medicine men do not mess with churches or pastors because they know that the power that the churches and pastors have is more powerful than the power that they have. This just showed me the awesome power of God.”

Johnson says the trip opened her eyes to the needs of different cultures, especially those that lie within her own country.

“I learned that there is a great need for teachers who are willing to work in the community,” she says. “Also, I was able to learn that there is a great need within the states for missionary work.”

Huechteman says the end result was a success, and that the girls worked very well as a team.

“Each member of the team added something special,” she says. “The team had much in common because they are all Education majors and have a heart for kids, but each young lady is unique, and we appreciated the differences.”

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