LOOKING BACK ON THE JOURNEY

I left Michigan a few days after retuning home from the upper peninsula… I had no idea where I was going or where I would end up. California was on my mind as I headed down Route 66… but I was open to anyplace where I could begin to put Love into action.  Driving through the Texas panhandle on a hot Summer’s day, I felt some resistance on the steering wheel and pulled over to the side of the highway to see what was wrong. I discovered that the right rear tire was going flat and needed to be changed. I checked the spare and, seeing that it was good, proceeded to take the defective tire off… however the first lug nut would not budge. I put all of my strength into it until finally there was a snap as the screw broke off. I tried the second one and it too broke off, just like the first. My frustration suddenly turned to fear as I imagined having to be towed away. I didn’t have a lot of money with me and worried about how I would be able to pay for the tow-truck and the repairs. Another car pulled over behind me and a young man got out to see if he could be of any assistance. After seeing the problem he went to his car and returned with some water which he splashed on the remaining lug nuts to cool them down before loosening them. He was a mechanic, and as we talked I shared my story. When the tire was changed, I thanked him for his help and asked if he felt it was safe to travel with two lug nuts missing. He assured me it would be alright to go a few hundred miles but recommended that I get it fixed as soon as possible or it might do permanent damage to the car.    

The panic had subsided by the time I pulled back on to the highway. I realized I would not make it to California as I had thought but would have to find someplace else to hold up… at least for a few days. Entering New Mexico, a feeling of calm came over me and as the Red Rocks, that lined the highway, grew in size and beauty, they seemed to be guiding me to where I was suppose to be. Gallup was still a long ways off, but I knew Rehoboth Mission, an Indian ministry my church had supported for many years,  was somewhere close to it, and I was sure I would be able to get some advise and assistance from them. I arrived at dusk and spoke to someone on the campus but they recommended that I return in the morning. I found a cheap hotel for the night and had no problem falling asleep.

The reception I got, upon returning the following morning, was even less friendly than the one I had received the evening before. I suppose my long hair had something to do with that. The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) was, and as far as I know, still is on the conservative side and Mr. Ed, the director of Rehoboth Mission, seemed to fit into that category. When I told him I had worked at Pine Rest however, he loosened up a bit and informed me that the small hospital they ran needed help and encouraged me to talk to the head nurse… and because I was from the CRC, he also agreed to let me stay at the Mission House until things worked out. I thanked him and drove the short distance to the hospital, where I met with Mr. Vern, the head nurse. I recognized him immediately as one of the head nurses at Pine Rest during my training to be a Psychiatric Nurse. He had left however, during the four years I served in the military. He did not recognize me, however… but when I told him about my training at Pine Rest he became quite interested, because he was very short on staff at the time. He assured me there would be no problem hiring me… all he needed to do was to check with my former supervisor, Mr. Stan, a personal friend of his, for a recommendation, and I could start work immediately. He told me he would call him that evening and would give me an answer in the morning. I wanted to ask him if he could call someone else as a reference instead, but thought that might sound strange, and so I walked away hoping that the recommendation would not be to bad. I should have gone with the sounding strange, because when I returned the following morning, I was told that the recommendation was so bad that the Board of Directors would never approve of my working there.

I was very disappointed of course, and it must have showed, because Mr. Vern suggested that I work as a volunteer with the construction team at Rehoboth for awhile, and perhaps in a few months he could use some local recommendations to get me in. I returned to Rehoboth and talked with Mr. Ed about volunteering. He was hesitant at first but said he would give me a chance to prove myself. I thanked him and started moving my things in to the Mission house… but didn’t feel real good about it. That evening after dinner, as I sat alone on the Mission house steps, a young Navajo boy rode his bicycle up and sat beside me. We talked a bit and I learned that he was from the outside community. He didn’t have a father and because his mother was sick a lot, he had dropped out of school to take care of her. Dusk was approaching and as he got to his feet to leave, he asked,”Are you going to stay here?”

“I don’t know,” I responded, “It all depends on when I get my car fixed.”

“Yah, that’s what I thought.” He replied, “The good ones never stay here.”

I fell asleep on those words and when I awoke the following morning, decided I would stay, at least for awhile, to prove him wrong.

I didn’t realize at that time, just how insightful his words really were. Not that Rehoboth was filled with bad people, but that there were things going on at Rehoboth that were hidden from outsiders like me… and for good reason. Rehoboth brought in more “mission money” every year than almost all of the other outreaches of the CRC, primarily because the Dutch people, who make up a majority of it’s members, have big hearts for Indian people… but almost no heart at all for Black people. Offerings for Rehoboth brought in far more money than was needed to run it’s programs and with the excess money, ministries could be started in black ghetto areas or invested in land schemes… both of which were never very successful and the latter of which resulted in a very large sum of money being lost. These things would only be revealed to me much later however, after I had earned the trust of some of the insiders. Working as a volunteer with the construction crew, was one of the lowest positions at the Mission, however, it gave me a free ticket to the backstage of the Theatre, where I could observe, from some of the best missionaries the CRC had to offer,  the trickery that goes on behind the scenes of some of the many deceptive practices preformed by missionaries and Mission organizations.

There is a high rate of burn out on the Mission Fields primarily, I feel, because missionaries are taught how to appear compassionate without getting involved… or in other words, how to act like Jesus… without risking the possibility of crucifixion. 

Comments are closed