Archive for the 'mission' Category

Published by Brian Slezak on 23 Jul 2008

My Closing Thoughts on the DZ Mission Trip

I wanted to provide a last post to lay down my thoughts about the trip and event as a whole. Without a doubt, I feel the mission was worth the time and money to visit the Navajo people and serve them, even if for a short time. Could we have done a lot more and been more efficient? Oh sure, hindsight is always 20/20. Would we have had the same cultural experience if we were more efficient … probably not. In all ways it was worth it, and I really hope I can return again some day.

Ironically, the Monday after I returned I found a post on a blog I casually read titled Are Short Term Missions a Waste of Money? In the post, Andrew addresses the Washing Post article, Churches Retool Mission Trips. I’d suggest taking a moment and reading those posts, they are both thought provoking.

I’m guessing this topic is an age old question that has been asked since missionary work was formed. I’m also guessing that people gave Paul a hard time about how far he traveled at such great expense of time and or money, only to get thrown out of a town on his butt. Is it a shame that Paul didn’t decide, “Hey, I can make a lot more impact at a lower cost of time and risk if I just focus on the local community?” In the Washing Post article, a Florida pastor was quoted in saying,

“It became too hard to justify the expense of flying the kids overseas”, Brinton said. “If you’re going to paint a church, you can do that in Florida as easily as you can in Mexico.”

Ouch. While I am sure it is easier to pant a church within a 5 mile drive of your house than one in Mexico, I think the cultural experience is going to be a bit different. The article sites some great examples of mismanaged mission efforts, and I agree that there are probably a decent number of trips that need to be canceled, heavily trimmed, or completely reorganized. But as a member of the race of broken people, I can’t see the brilliance in ignoring everyone outside of our comfortable range of influence and hoping that there is someone closer to do the job for us. Continue Reading »

Published by Brian Slezak on 23 Jul 2008

DZ Mission Trip 6 of 6

Our last day at the school was Friday, July 11. One small project we had to complete was assembling a couple bookcases which were donated to the Nageezi chapter house. We assembled those in a quick evening and morning, and I helped drop them off. I had planned to help complete the assembly, put them in place, check out the community center, and catch a ride back to the school. Our ride left early, and I ended up sticking around to help out with the children’s activities. I didn’t mind, though it is not one of my strong skills. I am an only child with a small extended family, so I didn’t have siblings or cousins to care for, and I have not logged many hours interacting with children.

Laura, our senior pastor, group leader, ex-teacher, and leader of the childrens activities asked one of the young women in our group, “So, do you by chance know origami?” The woman laughed and said no. I smiled, and slowly raised my hand. Laura gasped, “Brian!? You know origami!? Well we’re learning a lot about you this trip.” Until she mentioned it, I had totally forgotten that I even knew it. Continue Reading »

Published by Brian Slezak on 22 Jul 2008

DZ Mission Trip 5 of 6

On Thursday, July 10, we went on a field trip. It is funny how many parallels there are between missions and grade school. 🙂 This was very special time though. John was taking us into the mountains to view Navajo petroglyphs created between the 16th and 18th centuries. It was fascinating to see this ancient cultures history carved in stone.

Some of the stories they told were pretty detailed, as John explained them. The image to the left tells of a time of plenty, followed by a time of scarcity. People arrived on horses, wielding weapons, and forced the people to travel. The travel was long and difficult, spanning at least five days or more. It was surreal listening to John interpret some of the symbols and bring to life the story they contained. Another story told of 5 people who tried to cross the great river, the Rio Grand, and none of them survived. Another told of a group of people, 7 women and 7 men, in which one of the women was lost after moving from one place to another. Not all of the petroglyphs in the valley are understood, and it is assumed there are many more than are yet to be found.

Continue Reading »

Published by Brian Slezak on 22 Jul 2008

DZ Mission Trip 4 of 6

In my previous post I wrote about the playground equipment we were constructing. Something I left out was our process of selecting which piece to build. We started with a very large structure, that was going to require about 16 holes to be dug and posts set. That was quickly set aside, and we looked at the next size down. That was about 10-12 posts. Ok, next. 5 posts, and two large pieces. Yeah that’s doable. On July 9 we finished construction on our project, seen to the right here. The thing I learned most from this .. constructing playground equipment is insane! Oh my gosh. It is bulky, hard to handle, the quality of documentation is underwhelming, and you have to sink the stuff into 2 cubic feet of concrete!

It was satisfying to see the thing completed and in the ground. After it was done, I was happy to have been a part of the construction crew. In the beginning it seemed silly that we’d traveled all this way to do something so small. In the end, for one it wasn’t that small, but two it was a way of giving our time to a community in a way that was meaningful to that community. Within hours of completion, local children were playing on it. (Don’t worry, concrete sets very fast in New Mexico due to the incredibly dry ground.)

The work we did, identifying, organizing and assembling that equipment, would have been done by someone at the school, and now they can spend their time on other more important things.

It was a pleasure to be there and serve.

Published by Brian Slezak on 21 Jul 2008

DZ Mission Trip 3 of 6

Over the next two days, July 8 – 9, we learned an enormous amount about the Pueblo and Navajo cultures, such as these are two different societies of differing ancestry. We also served the local community and got some work done around the school. I was part of the work crew, and our first project was assembling some playground equipment. The school had an entire playground worth of equipment that still needed assembly, and we were going to get done what we could. Imagine if you can large boxes, tubes, and plates stored in a large garage, and everything is well marked but mixed up as randomly as possible. Some of this stuff required 3-4 people to more it was so big, and yet some of it was small pieces and parts which fit around 100 to a quart bag. Long story short, it took us four hours just to figure out what we were building, identify and locate all the parts, and prep. it for assembly. Ha! The manufacturing company was the culprit of the problem, as they just threw everything together wildly and shipped it out. Wow.

Believe it or not, that was our morning and afternoon. Later in the evening we traveled to Chaco Canyon. (See some of my pictures on my Facebook album as well.) This is a canyon area where the Chacoan culture, ancestors of the Puebleans, thrived around 800-1200 AD. They built extravagant stone cities throughout the valley that were very well constructed for what one would expect. There were two mind boggling traits about this culture. 1. There are no earlier structures built before the ones there now. No other buildings are found in deeper layers of earth. These 800 AD structures are the original ones on this land. 2. After building these structures that stretched many hundred feet and occupying them for 300-400 years, these people picked up and left. The best explanation given for this movement was their believe that their people were like the clouds, ever changing and ever moving. Like the clouds, they were not created to be unchanging or stay in one place. So after a few generations, they moved on and left behind this comfortable life they’d built for themselves.

Learning about this ancient Native American culture was enlightening, and awe inspiring. As a child there were two specific cultures I dreamed of experiencing within my lifetime. The Mayan culture, and the Native American culture. I’ve already been moved by each of them, but my time here is not yet complete.

Published by Brian Slezak on 21 Jul 2008

DZ Mission Trip 2 of 6

July 6 we reached the school, ate dinner and settled in to relax for the evening. In the morning we ate a simple breakfast and hit the road. We visited the surrounding reservation communities and handed out fliers about the weeks activities. The neighborhoods were separated from each other by a good distance, so we had pockets of neighborhoods to visit and walk around handing out fliers and posting them on doors.

The reservation housing was very simple. Nearly everything was a duplex, with a very plain curb-side view. Everything was visibly low income. The people we met were all very polite, and we only ran into a couple of ornery dogs. This experience was humbling. Here is a proud people, forcibly moved to this part of the country, and left to fend for themselves. What little work exists is menial and pays poorly. I honestly could not believe it. My only knowledge of this great people was what I learned through my high school education, or what I’ve researched and learned on my own. The former being horribly biased, and dare I claim, racist. I knew of all the injustices of the past, but to learn that this still goes on today was sickening. It was hard to process it at the time.

The fliers that we posted advertised a daily event at the community center for young kids Continue Reading »

Published by Brian Slezak on 17 Jul 2008

DZ Mission Trip 1 of 6

The first couple of days were low key, spending time in travel and playing tourist in downtown Albequerque. We checked out downtown and went on a tour to gain knowledge of the local history and culture. I loved it. I enjoy learning about local history, stories and myth.

On Sunday we attended church at City On a Hill, an upbeat church that meets in a closed theater off Central Avenue. We arrived early and grabbed seats in the back. Most of the people that came in were probably 20-37 years of age. They played great music (see this video from my phone of horrible quality), and the message was … Sex and Glory. In short, it referenced the song of Soloman, and was about passionate sex. …. Everything that God provides is good, God gave us sex, and consensual sex between couples is good and pleases God. … Now to convince my wife. :-/ It was an interesting service to start our mission trip. 🙂 Humor aside, it was a great service.

After the service, we headed a couple hours South to the Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle community school outside of Bloomfield, NM, which would be our home for a few days. We arrived in the afternoon, got settled, and cooked dinner. Much more was to come in later days.

In the next post, hard work on playground equipment, and learning about the Navajo and Pueblo cultures.

Published by Brian Slezak on 16 Jul 2008

Mission Trip – Starting Out


Thus began my journey to Bloomfield, New Mexico, to serve a Native American reservation school, named Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle. Ever since I decided to attend this trip, I’ve been looking forward to it. It had been a couple years since my last one, and I really loved that one. I felt as though the clock was swinging back around; time for me to go.

The fine group of people I traveled and served withWe were required at the airport at 8 am on Saturday. Everyone arrived to the airport on time, and we had no problems to write about. We flew out to Denver, CO, just in time to catch our connecting flight to Albuquerque, NM. We’re so cuuuutte! →

I think the desert-scape is amazing. This is the furthest West in the US I have been, and the first time I have been to a desert area. I found beauty in the simplest of things. As we were shuttling to the rental cars,

Just a drainage ditchI snapped a quick picture of a culvert on the side of the road. My brain synapse fired wildly when I saw this, because I haven’t seen natural colors like that before. The landscape throughout the drive from Albuquerque to Bloomfield was just beautiful, though I didn’t get any good pictures of it because I was, at the last minute, assigned as a driver for one of the vehicles. I really enjoy driving though, so it was all good.