UTO Trip to Navajoland
Recently, I was a part of a contingent of Team UTO that traveled to Navajoland. We journeyed there in two cars, with one car visiting a mission and UTO grant sites in Utah and the other car, the one I was in, visiting the old hospital in Farmington, New Mexico (built in 1922) and the UTO-funded Cheii’s Web Development Shop. The old hospital is being remodeled to serve a variety of purposes, and Cheii’s Shop brings together some technologically savvy people who are available for hire to do website development. Cheii’s Shop works with photographs, graphics, logo designs, and all things needed by organizations seeking a web presence. Check it out at http://cheiiswebdev.com/.
After some additional sightseeing, we drove our car across the land with its constantly changing landscape, breathtaking rock formations, and hardy foliage. We visited Good Shepherd Mission in Fort Defiance, Arizona, which dates to 1894 and is the oldest of the three Navajo medical missions built by The Episcopal Church. After a short stop there, we met up with the other car at a Navajo-run motel in Window Rock, Arizona, to share our different experiences. To my delight, I received a small packet of sage in my room that night.
The Area Mission of Navajoland, later called The Episcopal Church of Navajoland, was created in 1978 on 27,000 acres of land in parts of three states – Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – next to the Navajo Reservation. Bishop David Bailey has said to many of us that Navajoland would not exist without the grants it has received from United Thank Offering. Besides visiting UTO grant sites, Team UTO was there to meet Navajo people and learn about their culture and their land, as well as to tackle a practical matter: how to set up and share booth space in the Exhibit Hall at this summer’s General Convention.
After worshipping together Friday morning in the church at Good Shepherd Mission, singing a hymn in the Navajo language, and meeting and sharing ideas, I visited Shima, the values-based social business owned and run by members of the local Navajo community. I toured the Power House, where soap is made and processed for sale. It was fascinating to see the equipment that Paula, Shima’s manager, uses to mix the ingredients, pour the liquid soap, cut it into bars, trim them, and stack hundreds of them on shelves to dry and cure. I also saw the blue corn products and honey that the company sells, both projects that started with UTO-funded grants.
Navajoland also is home to the UTO Fulfillment Center, and I was eager to see where UTO materials are stored and orders filled, so we strolled over to another building on the complex – formerly a medical mission – where it is housed.
On this trip, I learned a lot and spent a lot of time with members of Team UTO – Heather, Kayla, Katelyn, and Sherri, as well as Christopher, Jeremy, and Heidi from the Church Center – and with Navajoland and UTO grant site staff – Chan, GJ, Margaret, Patty, Paula the deacon, Paula the soap maker, Sedona, and little Elizabeth. I am grateful to you all for making this a special trip with very special people. And although I didn’t see him this trip, thanks to Bishop David Bailey for his amazing leadership. Thanks to you all.