Safe and Secure


God answers prayers. Cathedral-like cliffs tower above me as I supervise four high school boy’s down at the river during this year’s outdoor school session in Zion National Park.  The water is cold, but it does not deter us from washing off the day’s grime from our bodies and experiencing a refreshing sensation to boot. After two hours of splashing and cairn building in the river, we headed back to camp for the next activity with all students safe and accounted for.  

Safety and security followed us the rest of the week, but not as you might think.  I wish I could tell you that all of our students came through unscathed and that our daily prayers for safety were answered to the “T.” The truth is that some students did get hurt...hanging out in the outdoors, hiking, biking, sliding on the dunes, etc., can be dangerous at times.  We do take risks with our students and ourselves every day at Holbrook Indian School.  They are calculated, but they are risks just the same. 

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God tells us in the Bible that, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4-5 NIV).

At HIS we are blessed with the resources to give our students the opportunity to go to new and beautiful places such as Zion.  We are also blessed with a creator that takes care of us.

So now why do I feel that God answered our prayers even though some of our students sustained injuries and had to visit the ER?  Here’s why: they were all cleared with no restrictions other than what their level of pain would allow.  Bumps and bruises...could have been much worse.

 Courtesy of Josef Kissinger

Courtesy of Josef Kissinger

The Rest of the Story: More Adventures Await


More Trouble and Destination Disappointment

There’s more to last week’s story about my misguided adventure with a busload of students. After negotiating through an additional seven miles of bumpy dirt road, we came to a water crossing within sight of a paved road.

This time, I stopped the bus and the boys hopped off and built up the banks of the road with more rocks BEFORE I attempted to drive over. When we finally turned onto a paved road, the students cheered. Four miles later, we arrived at the entrance to the campground. At last! We would have a hot supper enough sunlight left to set up camp after we ate.

I pulled in to the group camp area and looked anxiously around for the advance team and the tables laden with food. When I saw nothing, I wondered if I had pulled into the right spot. Unfortunately, I had.

We let the kids off the bus, and they stood around in dazed groups. Our six-hour trip had turned into a twelve-hour odyssey. Just then the advance team pulled up in the Tahoe—without the trailer full of food.

It turns out that Google Maps had led them on another, equally perilous journey. Eventually, they abandoned the trailer and headed to camp to find help.

We gathered the kids together and explained what had happened. A few of them groaned with disappointment, but they quickly got to work unloading the sleeping bags from the bicycle trailer.

The staff decided to serve what little food we had and send the kids to bed. It might take all night to rescue the trailer contents, one load at a time. Fortunately, we actually had a little food in the back of the Tahoe.

A Handful of Fruit and a Cookie?

That’s how we ended up serving a supper of nothing more than cookies and a handful of cut-up fruit. We had no bowls or spoons or even napkins. After blessing the food, the kids shivered a bit in the wind and settled down to eat. They laughed and chattered about the day’s adventures, and came back for more cookies.

Around that time Pedro drove up. He had arrived three hours earlier, but when none of us showed up on time he got worried. After setting up our tent and exploring the campground, he’d driven eight miles into the nearest town to find cell service. Unbeknownst to him, none of us had cell service on our unimproved dirt roads.

He and one of the Tahoe drivers headed back out to the trailer’s location (about 45 minutes from camp), and the rest of us started setting up camp with what little we had.

It turns out that the girls had more stuff than the boys. They had followed instructions that morning about putting their sleeping bags AND tents in the bicycle trailer. The boys, on the other hand, ended up with just their sleeping bags. No one had toothbrushes, pajamas, or more warm clothes, though.

Nevertheless, they cheerfully set up camp with that they did have. Some of them chose to sleep on the bus out of the wind. We settled down to sleep and hoped that Pedro would figure out the trailer problem in one trip.


More Than Enough Attitude

The next morning, I went over to the group camp to help out. Pedro had arrived around 11 with the trailer in tow, and some of the kids had woken up long enough to grab their suitcases and extra bedding. Others had just conked out for the night.

The temperature hovered around 38, so we set up the cook stove first thing in order to heat water for hot chocolate. Boys rolled out of their sleeping bags and started setting up their tents and helping prepare breakfast.


We discovered that in loading the trailer the previous day, someone had forgotten to bring the cups. The kids drank out of cereal bowls for a week.

You’d think that after spending the night sleeping on the ground without tents, or slumped over on a bus seat, the kids would have a bad attitude. Not so. They woke up happy and laughing over the previous day’s adventure. They had attitude all right—positive attitude in spades.

How often in my life do I whine and complain when little things go wrong? I make mountains out of mole hills and spread my sour attitude like mustard at a picnic. It stains and taints everything it touches.

My poor students had a handful of fruit and cookies for supper. They camped under the stars on a cold night without all their comfort items. They drank out of bowls for a week and never complained. Their positive attitude humbled me.

I’ll take my kids camping any time—they’re good to ride the river with! Speaking of riding the river…just think of everything we could learn on a week-long rafting trip down the Colorado…

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

When You Plan a Trip, Check a Map!


It Seemed Like a Good Idea

I should have known when I passed the sign that said, “Unmaintained Road.” And we should have just turned around when I blew by the sign that said, “Road Impassable When Wet.”

But it had been a long day. After a late night wrangling the final details for outdoor school, I had arisen at four. I had to finish packing and load my stuff and shepherd everyone aboard for our outdoor school adventure.

When we started within thirty minutes of my planned departure time, I gave myself a pat on the back for my planning acumen and cheerleading skills. I waved goodbye to the three staff members in a Tahoe pulling a U-Haul trailer full of food and luggage. They would have no problem reaching camp in plenty of time to prepare supper for the rest of us. Shoot, they might even have time to string up their hammocks and relax for a few hours.

Through judicious packing and rearranging, the men in charge had managed to fit everything but two pans of brownies, a container of cut up fruit, and six-dozen homemade cookies into the trailer. They stuffed the rest of the food into the back of the Tahoe.

The kids had tossed their pillows, sleeping bags, and blankets on top of the bicycles in the trailer that I would pull with the bus. Everyone settled down and we had prayer before heading out to Kodachrome Basin State Park for a week of school outdoors.

When Plan A Fails

Twenty miles down the road the check engine light came on in the bus. I pulled over with a silent groan. The mechanics had just replaced the water pump the day before. No sooner had I hit the emergency blinkers than smoke started to spew out the front of the bus. The kids groaned good-naturedly, and the more mechanical minded men got off the bus to investigate.

Two hours later, the mechanic who had ‘fixed’ the bus the day before finally arrived and determined that the water pump had a crack in it. Time to institute Plan B.

My mom happened to be headed out of town, and she stopped to help. She took one of the CDL drivers back to pick up a smaller bus, and someone volunteered to bring our other small bus out as well. Thirty-four students and six staff members wouldn’t fit on either of the other busses, so we resigned ourselves to continuing with two busses instead of one.

Our mechanical woes set us back almost three hours, so we had to forego our guided tour of Glen Canyon Dam. As we passed through Page, AZ, I told Siri to “Navigate to Kodachrome Basin State Park,” and kept on driving. I hit the ‘Go’ button and glanced down at our arrival time, shocked that we wouldn’t arrive until 5:30.

I had forgotten about the time change in Utah. When Siri told me to turn right on Johnson Canyon Road, I obediently did what she suggested. I had to pull over because the other bus lagged behind. When they blew by me, I flashed my lights and honked until they turned around.

Plan B Turns into a Nightmare


Odd that Siri had us turn on a road that didn’t have a sign about Kodachrome Basin. But the kids had languished in the bus all day and I wanted to arrive at our destination. When Siri told me to turn right on to County Road, I should have turned around.

For some reason, I figured that perhaps since Kodachrome Basin didn’t have any cell service, perhaps no paved roads lead into it as well. And those kids must be tired of traveling by now—even though not a single one had asked me, “Are we there yet, Mrs. Ojeda?”

Which lead us to our current predicament. Some thirty miles down a washboard gravel road, we started crossing small streams. “Good thing it hasn’t rained recently,” I quipped to one of the other teachers. At mile 36, the stream crossing the road looked deeper and wider than the previous four trickles.

I carefully angled the bus (a 14-passenger affair about the size of a Class C RV) across the stream and hoped that the trailer wouldn’t bottom out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see over the rock under the right side of the bus, and when the back wheel dropped dramatically, I knew we had a problem.

Two Choices

We piled out of the bus, using stones to step on and avoid soaking our shoes up to our ankles. I had basically buried the trailer hitch in the road. Oops. Pedro would not be proud of me. When I saw the sign for Willis Creek Trail across the road, I knew that if we went forward (IF we could get unstuck), the busses should make it the rest of the way.

A ranger had assured me just the week before that a bus could easily make it from Kodachrome Basin to Willis Creek. Funny that he hadn’t mentioned the 44-mile-long dirt road extravaganza leading into the park. I had crafted my plan so carefully, and despite our good start in the morning, everything seemed to go wrong.

Some boys went to work with all available tools (sticks, rocks, screwdrivers) trying to unbury the hitch. Other boys started carrying rocks to shove under the back wheel.

“This is so much fun!” one of the boys exclaimed. Bless him. I laughed and smiled and prayed that we’d actually make it to camp before dark. No one had eaten since we passed out an afternoon snack two hours earlier. Our supply of drinking water wasn’t that great, either.

With the students’ help, we tried backing out of the situation. Didn’t work. One of the other teachers found a giant metal crowbar, which worked wonders for loosening the dirt and rocks wedged under the hitch. (Note to self, all school vehicles should carry a shovel).

Finally, we tried pushing the trailer and bus forward—wonder of wonders, it worked! It seemed as if we had lost hours trying to get unstuck. I started to fantasize about a hot meal, AND the other staff members setting up the kids’ tents for them.

GPS vs. Maps

As we rumbled down the remaining seven miles of dirt road, I couldn’t help but think of the difference between GPS and maps. Sure, GPS services claim to keep a driver informed about road conditions and the fastest route. But getting stuck in a creek and wasting valuable daylight hours didn’t seem like a faster route to me.

When we arrived at a second expansive creek crossing, I stopped before we started across and we all got off the bus to assess the situation. The students carried rocks and filled in the drop offs BEFORE we drove over. Two hundred feet from the creek, we could see a paved road.

The thought that Kodachrome Basin State Park really DOES have a paved road leading all the way into it niggled at the back of my mind. I vaguely remembered passing it when we moved to Arizona four years ago.

I felt resentful that some GPS program had routed us through a so-called short cut that turned out to waste time and put our group in danger of spending a cold night on the road without food.

If I had just looked a map when I made my plan, I would have known that Johnson Canyon Road lead to an unmaintained dirt road. I would have chosen the logical route along Highway 12 past Bryce Canyon National Park.

The whole situation made me think about the difference between the Bible and books about the Bible. If I rely on the map—the Bible—I won’t have questions about the right route and how to get there.

Read the Book—Not Just Books About It

If I rely on books written by others about the Bible, I might think there’s a shortcut to heaven or that God promises beneficent prosperity to all who claim his name. The last time I checked the Good Book, God promises us trouble—not prosperity—but he also reminds us that he’s overcome the world, so we don’t have to worry.
Don’t get me wrong. GPS programs have saved me countless time by rerouting me around accidents and road construction. Likewise, books written about the Bible have helped me think more deeply and convicted me to strengthen my relationship with God.

Reading books about the Bible is like depending on GPS instead of a map to reach an unknown…

But the fact of the matter remains. The Bible and good old-fashioned maps give the most accurate information about the roads we travel. The next time I plan a trip for 34 teenagers, I’ll check a real map before I leave campus.

That way, when we arrive, we won’t suffer more disappointment (tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story).

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it