Loving Native America: August 2023 Update

Last month, a team made the drive up to the Hard Rock Chapter to make a delivery to the Rocky Ridge Boarding School, the Senior Center, and the Chapter House. We were so excited to be able to make our goal of raising 91 backpacks, and Jay (the Chapter president) was just as excited to receive them! Here’s a summary of our trip:

Rocky Ridge Boarding School
For the first time, we were invited to visit the school to drop off the items. In the past, we’ve dropped off the school supplies at the Chapter House, so we were thrilled when Jay asked us to drop off at the school, which was about 6 miles west of the Chapter House. As we pulled up to the school, we could see soccer goals set up in a large field, a basketball court, a playground, a mobile medical van, and several buildings spread out on campus. We were given instructions to drop off the items in one of the residential buildings, where Jay met us. The campus was mostly empty as the kids had not yet returned to school from Summer Break.

As we walked through the building, we saw many disassembled metal beds, new mattresses, and bedding. Jay shared that they were replacing the wooden beds with new metal beds because the wooden beds were more prone to bed bugs.

While at the school, we unloaded the backpacks, school supplies, laundry items, toiletries, and shower curtains that Jay had requested. As we chatted, we learned that around 20-30 students actually stay on campus year-round. These are the children that live in very rural areas that make it difficult to commute to school daily. We learned that a need was items to make the dorm rooms and residential buildings feel more like home, such as art work, lamps, and plants. In addition, the girls like having cosmetic holders and the boys like having shoe racks.
From the building, Jay pointed out the beginnings of what was going to be a community garden. In the fall, the students will be planting squash, corn, and beans (known as the Three Sisters…more about that below in the cultural fact section!), as well as Navajo tea, melons, and plants to dye wool. This is to teach the kids to farm traditional foods.

We also learned that athletics play a large role in engaging and motivating the students. Kids from grade 5-8 can enroll in cross country and volleyball in the Fall, basketball in the Winter, and softball and football in the Spring. With that, there is a need for athletic gear for the kids, mostly shoes and cleats. Jay shared that kids will often not have the proper footwear, and for example, will wear basketball shoes for cross country. As a result, the kids are more susceptible to injuries from poor fitting shoes.

Senior Center
From the school, we headed to the Senior Center, where Verna was eagerly awaiting our arrival. We were able to meet Vernon, a new supervisor for the Senior Center who started working there about 4 months ago. When introducing us to Vernon, Verna said “these are the people that pulled me through when I was by myself!”

Inside the Senior Center, we could see the water damage caused by a broken pipe from 3 months prior. Rebuilding had been slow, with the kitchen counters just recently replaced, and new flooring still needing to be laid. While the Senior Center is being fixed, Verna has had to cook out of the kitchen at the Chapter House, which is the next building over. In-person dining had recently resumed, with seniors temporarily dining at the Chapter House until the Senior Center is able to reopen. Verna shared that just that morning of our arrival, she cooked for 27 seniors, and that she provides food for about 40 seniors daily.
With the help of several high school interns, we unloaded food, water, and disposable trays that we had brought. Verna again expressed gratitude and shared that in the past, they have used every single food item that we’ve brought up during previous trips.

Chapter House
Our last stop was the Chapter House, where we dropped off the remaining items of cleaning supplies and a bike. The cleaning supplies were once again from Ace Hardware, as they donated to us a large amount of discontinued products.

We then made the long drive back to Gilbert, stopping at Winslow for a quick lunch near the famous Standin’ on the Corner Park. After driving about 580 miles round trip, we made it home safely. Attached to this email are some pictures of our trip. There’s one of the loaded church van and truck, the Rocky Ridge Boarding School campus, talking to Jay at the school, the view of the Chapter House from the Senior Center, the team unloading supplies at the Senior Center, and the Rocky Ridge students receiving their backpacks on the first day of school.

Next Steps
As we look to the Fall/Winter, we are planning to put a focus on the athletic program at Rocky Ridge, as Jay mentioned how important sports are to the children in that community.  In addition, we are considering another Holiday Food Drive like we did last year. More to come as we continue our discussions with leadership at Hard Rock!

You may be familiar with YouVersion, a popular bible app. The First Nations Version was recently included in one of the versions you are able to access through that app! Additionally, IVP recently did a spotlight on the First Nations Version. Check it out here.

Corn, squash and beans, when grown together, are known as the Three Sisters, and is an intercropping practice first used by the Iroquois. The idea is that when planted together, each crop provides an enriched environment for the other two to thrive. The beans help in fertilizing the soil for the corn and squash, the corn stalk provides support for the other two to grow by allowing them to wind around the stalk, and the squash leaves cover the ground to prevent weed growth. Read more on the history of The Three Sisters here. The students at Rocky Ridge Boarding School will get a chance to learn about intercropping this Fall, when they plant The Three Sisters in their new garden, along with other plants.
Whenever you come into my thoughts I give thanks to my Creator. I always pray with a glad heart when I send up prayers for you, because from the first day until now we have walked side by side in the telling of the good story. I have no doubts that the one who set your feet on this good path will keep walking it with you until the day that Creator Sets Free (Jesus) the Chosen One appears.
Philippians 1:3-6
First Nations Version
For more information on past conversation nights and blog posts, or to make a monetary donation toward our partnerships in the Navajo Nation or the White Mountain Apache Reservation, check out our page: https://vineyardgilbert.com/nativeamerica.