A Trip to Shiprock – Four Corners Native American Ministries

by Alli Newsom, Communications Director & St. John’s UMC-Santa Fe Facebook page

The normal process for preparing to cover a story is number one, get the location. So, I asked the Four Corners Native American Ministries (FCNAM) Executive Director, Debra Yazzie for the addresses of the homes where groups would be working. There was a pause. Soon after, I received an email containing satellite photos for three of the homes and Google map images. The next day, I received audio Google map directions using coordinates, which got me to the area but required searching for people on the roof and a hogan to confirm the locations. This is all to say that even though these homes were actually in the city of Shiprock, not out on the reservation, mission work in the Four Corners is definitely “rural.”

When I arrived, I met Bob Galano at one of the sites. He provided some background information on the team. This work group did recovery work in Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane, Maria. Bob said that compared to Puerto Rico, Shiprock was like working at the Ritz. The team members are Lane & Kristy Krahl, Frank & Louella Hardin, Barbara & Eddie Dry, Tom & Donna Whitson, Bob & Marilyn Galano, Rebecca Heindel, Mark Sward and Pastor Matt Bridges. They are experienced and joyful in their ministry.

Marilyn & Bob Galano met Debra Yazzie at Annual Conference this year. They did some fund raising to provide school supplies and winter gear to school children in July. St. John’s Prayer Shawl Ministry made 143 warm hats for the students. During the late summer, they planned a week for a group to travel to Shiprock.

They stayed at the FCNAM shelter for the week of September 25th. Debra is the Vice-President of her Chapter House and between her connections there and at the Shiprock Senior Center, she is able to find people who need help the most.

The participants split up into several work groups. They built a ramp for an elderly, disabled couple. For another elderly man, the group installed pro-panel on the roof. They painted a hogan and did yard work for a blind widow. They installed a door and windows for another “relative.” An existing ramp was painted and additional painting and cleaning of properties was accomplished. They also learned about solar-powered ovens.

On Wednesday night, the staff of the FCNAM Winter Shelter and their families joined the St. John’s work group for a spaghetti dinner, where they enjoyed comradery and learning about their unique contexts.

Overall, it was a trip of blessing others and being blessed. They are already looking forward to the next trip!

When asked whether work groups throughout the year would be helpful, Debra said that during the colder months, they deliver wood, water and other supplies to families. Starting in November, they will have homeless relatives staying in the shelter. Work groups are welcome but they’ll need to find their own accommodations.

Groups that would like to plan a visit to assist the Four Corners Native American Ministry may contact Debra at: yazziedebra01@gmail.com. We pray for the continued impact that this ministry has on its community and on the people who come to serve.