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Spotlight: Anne Marie Reynolds

Hi! I’m Anne Marie, and I’m a senior Family Life Education Major from Tennessee. In May 2018, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Kayenta, AZ with Harding University’s Global Outreach program. I was one of seven students going on the trip, and we were there for two and a half weeks. Going into the trip, I had no idea about the amazing experiences I would have, the people I would meet, and the relationships I would form.

At the time of writing this, I’m about two months out from returning home from Kayenta. I still find myself thinking about the reservation and our trip almost daily, and it has continued to impact me even after the initial high of emotions has waned.

One of my main motivators for going on a mission trip was to have my eyes opened to poverty and hopelessness. Quite honestly, I had never before encountered poverty, grief, or hopelessness in my life. I feel like I’ve “had it easy” compared to many people, and I wanted to broaden my perspective. Jesus went to the poor and the hurting, and I wanted to better know “that side” of His ministry.

I was not disappointed.

I could go on and on about the Rez and our experiences there, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick to two stories.

The first thing that comes to mind is the leadership retreat we held at the church one weekend. Me and two other girls on my team prepared lessons for the ladies’ class. Only two showed. We came ready to teach, but we ourselves became students.

I don’t remember how the conversation started, but both women in attendance began talking about grief. Both women had recently lost family members to suicide, and as they shared with us their stories, my heart broke into a million pieces.

Their losses were fairly recent, both within a year, and as if their stories weren’t enough to prove the hurt they were experiencing, their tears said it all.

Within a few minutes, I and the other two students with me were in tears as well. I’ve always described myself as a “private crier” — it takes a lot for me to let down those walls and shed tears. But in that classroom, all my walls crumbled as I saw pain and sadness in a way I had never seen or experienced it before. I remember praying in my head as I listened, saying “Jesus, please come. They’re hurting so badly. I have never seen someone hurt so much, please just come back.”

But where there was sadness, fresh grief, and pain, there was also hope.

Before me I saw two women who were walking through valleys I could not fathom, and yet they kept choosing faith when they could instead give up hope. I saw two women who chose Jesus as their hope and their stay despite the darkness and questions of their grief.

I was thankful when a girl in my group spoke up, saying “You have no idea how much you have blessed us. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.” I and the other student nodded in agreement, overwhelmed with both thankfulness and sadness; it was an honor to sit and learn from two of the strongest people I have ever known.

I can’t describe the impact it made on my heart and on my perspective on life and faith when these two women shared their stories. It opened my eyes both to the hurt and pain the world has to offer and to the even greater saving and sustaining love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The second experience was during one of the days we did Lunch Sacks of Love. We made up lunch sacks with sandwiches, water, fruit, and a flyer for the church. We split up into two vehicles and drove around town looking for opportunities to give sacks to the homeless.

During one of these outings, I stepped out of the car and walked over to a few people sitting under an awning. I handed the bag to one of the men, explaining what was in it and about the church. As he looked in it, his eyes lit up, saying, “There’s water in here!”

That simple comment struck me, and again, my eyes were opened; the world is not exactly like how I experienced it growing up. Not everyone is warm, fed, and safe when they crawl into bed at night. It’s a reality I always knew intellectually, but had yet to internalize.

Equally impactful to me is the fact that this kind of poverty exists in our nation. This kind of poverty exists in my homeland. Many Navajo families do not have access to running water; poverty in the Rez sometimes extends to that of a third-world country.

That thirty-second interaction left its mark on me and humbled me. Not only was I overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings in my own life, but I was reminded how love doesn’t have to be extraordinary or extravagant to be impactful, and you don’t need a fancy message to tell someone about Jesus.

I could go on and on about the other people I met and things I learned. I could write about the beautiful places we saw along the way and the numerous inside jokes we created within our mission team. Despite the heavier moments of the trip, I had a wonderful, laughter-filled two and a half weeks! I LOVED my team!

But, for now, I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

First, if you are thinking about going on a mission trip, I encourage you to consider going to the Rez. (I went through Harding University, or you can contact Roots and ask them if they are aware of other opportunities.)

Originally I wanted to go out of the country for my trip, but I am so thankful God led me to Arizona. I would not trade it for any international adventure!

Second, I am thankful for a God who is patient with me. I’m thankful that His loving hand removed some of my naïvety and opened my eyes to the world He came to redeem. I’m thankful for His grace in giving me the chance to make memories with a wonderful group of people and for the beautiful western scenery I got to see — God is so creative that He makes even rocks and sand look beautiful!

Thank you for reading, and even if you don’t ever feel called to visit the reservation, please consider praying for and/or supporting the work that God is doing there.

In Christian love,

Anne Marie

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