We love because God loved us. (1 John 4:19)
It is wonderful, as always to greet you.
There is much happening at Neighborhood Ministries and we wanted to keep you updated.
We raced headlong into the Fall, with all our school year programs beginning. Here are just a few highlights of life at The Neighborhood Center: Katy’s Kids Pre-School launched enthusiastically into its second school year with two classrooms; the Fall garden is planted at Hope House; OpportuniTees is branching out with new customers; the Barrio Bike shop’s bike clinics are happening most afternoons; a new work force development grant is helping many youth and young adults; our young leaders have been mobilizing everyday getting out the vote; and strategic plans which consumed most of last year are in motion in all eight NM departments. I hope you will check out our newly updated web page which describes all we do most days.
[caption id="attachment_7098" align="alignright" width="128"] Click to hear Eagle’s song[/caption]
Sad news greeted us on Monday, October 22. Our friend Herbert Bizardie Tsosie, aka “Eagle” was hit by a train and killed in Flagstaff. His homelessness and his often inebriation could be cause for one to overlook his true self, of which, we can happily (and sadly) say we came to love and learn. He was frequently at the center and claimed our neighborhood as his Phoenix home. He came from the Navajo nation.
On Saturday, October 27th, five of us (Chris S., Rudy, Nikki, Lisa and I) representing Neighborhood drove up to Gap, Arizona to participate in his funeral and meet his beautiful extended family. The small old fashioned looking church with the white steeple was packed. It was the church where Eagle grew up. I came to learn over the years, that my friend Eagle came from the Navajo mission which had provided a portion of my early training in ministry while I was in college. That connection wasn’t lost on me as we sat in this grace filled and indigenously led church. The eulogy was read by two of his grandsons, in both Navajo and English. They traveled through his colorful life, his education in boarding schools, his sports participations wearing his favorite number, his graduation from welding and auto-mechanic schools, his patriotism, his sense of humor and funny nicknames (“Eagle” being only one), his marriage to his high school sweetheart which brought the birth of his two children and his familiarity and friendship with many, many people, some from all over the country. And his love for the Bible. According to his grandsons, he had memorized the bible from Genesis to Revelation. We have been recipients of a spontaneous verse, often in Navajo.
And there was his generosity. Though Eagle would work for our neighbor, Mr. Henry, and would often work for us at the Center, he also had learned the fine art of panhandling. “Chump change”, as he called it, would get him through the day. And should you have been the one to part with a little bit of money, you could expect to find a gift left behind, on your desk or handed to you as he made another visit. We all have at least one homemade tomahawk or a dream catcher, and beautiful Navajo jewelry. It was common for us to find these gifts long after we remember giving him a gift ourselves. Our friendship with Eagle was reciprocal.
His friendship with us was also in his eulogy. It meant a lot to his family that he had found us, or vise versa. They asked us to close the service by singing “Do Lord”, a song from another era. The refrain goes like this: “Do Lord, oh Do Lord, oh do You remember me …” Eagle loved that song. In fact, one day he and Chris were doing some recording together. He sang a few songs in Navajo. We recognized one of them as we prepared for the funeral; it was “Do Lord”. Chris brought the recording of Eagle singing this very song up with us, and our brother sang along through this recording. As the pastor said more than once during the funeral and burial, “Herbert taught us how to vulnerably tell the truth … not just about his life but about ours also. He didn’t cover anything up, like we tend to. He lived out in the open, in his brokenness and suffering in front of us. He asked for help, which we find difficult to do. He broke into our lives publically and explicitly, where we often hide from each other. We are allowed to remember who we are when we look at his life.”
Because of Eagle, I have thanked God often in these past few days for the gifts of those He has brought into my life. And I thank God for the gift of Eagle.
Just one week after returning from the rez, we received the sad news of the passing of another dear friend to the ministry, Marilyn Hamman. Marilyn and her family foundation were instrumental in the progress toward purchasing and rehabbing the campus when we first began to dream of a future here (1999) and she was the very person in the now famous Neighborhood story of how God speaks. We call it the massage message, where during a massage Marilyn heard the Lord say, “tell Kit you will buy it”, leading to the purchase of Hope House. Her life was a testimony to her love for God which she exhibited in many ways, her generosity of course, but her love and devotion for her family was the marker of all she did. She was never far from a word about the work of God in her life, no matter the difficulty. We grieve the loss of this dear friend, who lovingly walked with us through many a storm, and who we loved along the way as well.