So Far, So Good (Spring break service trip)

I have had a fun couple of days. Since you’re on the internet, I’ll assume you have nothing better to do than read my blog about it. Sound good? Awesome. By the way, I’ll be blogging intermittently for the rest of the week, so stay glued to your computer screens for more updates!Back to my fun few days.Yesterday (3/21) at 5:40 am, I hopped into a van with thirteen other people. However, it was too early in the morning to hop and the van was packed enough that it would have resulted in injury, so rather than hop, I deftly wove myself into the undulating mass of bodies preparing to fall back to sleep for the epic journey ahead of us.We spent the rest of the day driving. It was the kind of road trip where you try just sleep through the whole thing but then your neck starts to hurt even when you’re blogging the next day.But it wasn’t all bad. Over the course of the daylight hours the landscape morphed before our eyes from the rolling green of Kansas pastures to the sporadically shrubbed steppes of Texas to seeing majestic red rocks assert themselves into the skyline in New Mexico and Arizona.Don’t get me wrong, it was still miserable. By the time we pulled into the Hopi Mission School in Kykotsmovi village on the Hopi reservation, it was 10:45-ish local time (1:45 Kansas time; we lost one hour by crossing time zones and the second one because Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time), and we were all tired, hot, cramped, sore, and ready to crash.And crash we did. Good thing too, because we had to be up bright and early this morning at 8 o’clock. Bright and early by student standards, just in time to eat breakfast, meet with our hosts for the week (Jim and Doris Yoder, Mark Smith’s grandparents and terrific cooks to boot), and go to church.The churches here are small. Kykotsmovi is a very tiny village on the Hopi reservation, and the churches here are even smaller. We decided to split into a few groups for fear of overloading any one church. The groups ended up being gender segregated, with the women going to Bacavi Mennonite Church and the men (aside from our faculty sponsors Mark and Tim) went a couple of blocks to Kykotsmovi Mennonite.Kykotsmovi Mennonite Church is a small congregation of mostly Hopi members and a few white volunteers working at the Mission School. Jim was sure to tell us going in that there are two timetables running simultaneously, Hopi time and white people’s time. White people’s time I’m guessing most of us are already familiar with, that of starting things when they are scheduled to start. But Kykotsmovi mostly runs on Hopi time, which is considerably more fluid.We arrived only slightly after the service was scheduled to start, because we are accustomed to white people’s time, but still a little less than perfectly punctual (we are, after all, still college students). When we arrived, worshippers were already singing hymns, but it was laid-back enough that a man sitting near the back rose to greet us nonetheless. He correctly assumed that we were with the college group volunteering at the school for the week.The hymnal used at the church was one of the most interesting cross-cultural artifacts I’ve come across lately. It was comprised of a collection of traditional Mennonite hymns, translated into the Hopi language. I can’t read music, and there is nary a word of English contained within it, save the introduction and publisher’s info, so opening it I was lost. The Hopi language doesn’t have its own alphabet, so the words are spelled phonetically. This sounds relatively simple, but it’s not. The words in the hymnal were punctuated by abundant apostrophes, umlauts, accents, hyphens and tilde marks that I’m sure serve some purpose to which I am naïve.After we sang some songs from the Hopi hymnal and a non-denominational English hymnal (including a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” which highlighted the vocal stylings of one of the worshippers, a Hopi man referred to as “Skeeter”), there was a break when the worship leader encouraged us to greet one another, and there were also coffee and juice and some donuts and similar breakfast fare. One of the churchgoers referred to this time as “church intermission.” During this time, we were made very welcome. Everyone was willing to come up to us, shake our hand, thank us for giving a week, ask us where we were from, or even tell us a little about the history of the church.When we reconvened the service, the worship leader essentially opened the floor to whoever wanted to share something. One person thanked the congregation for prayers concerning her recent retinal surgery, another asked for prayers for her mother, and then one gentleman took his bible up and just started talking. I wondered if this was their pastor, but he set me straight before I got too confused by explaining that the church has no full-time pastor, and they just take turns delivering sermons on what is important to them. This morning, the subject matter was the terrible state of Christian youth, and another man spoke of the evils of the economy, and urged everyone present to follow his example and take any money they might have out of the stock market ASAP.As eye opening as the religious portion of our morning was, the most salient element of today turned out to be frustratingly eye closing. We first realized the potential for sandstorms on our walk back to Jim and Doris’. The terrain around Kykotsmovi is very flat and sandy until you reach the mesas off in the distance. The sandy flatness is a constant year round, and sometimes in spring it can get windy. Like right now, for instance. We first noticed on the walk back here (here is Jim and Doris’) that if we weren’t walking with the wind, we might not be able to walk at all. We spent roughly three and a half blocks being pelted from behind by wind, sand, and tumbleweeds. And it has steadily gotten worse since then. Upon our return, Jim and Doris were frantically closing storm windows and hoping the wind wouldn’t get any worse. It’s so bad we can barely see out the window across a picnic area to the school building itself. Basically, we can see sand blowing and weeds tumbling. Everything smells like dust, because storm windows are no match the fury of trillions of tiny rocks and mobile air masses. There’s even an electrical socket on the wall out of which you can feel air blowing into the house.We were supposed to go hike up a mesa today, but that’s not gonna happen. With any luck the wind will die down tonight and not start up too much tomorrow so we can actually get to the painting work that is the reason we’re here, but I’m not holding my breath (unless I’m outside, in which case I definitely will be because I hate breathing sand).One final note: Bethel students (and faculty with caf experience) will be pleased to hear that even thousands of miles away, we are still finding the opportunity to complain about how terrible caf food is.–Clint Harris