By Dorie Panganiban – Farmington, New Mexico …Amidst the ongoing pandemic, many in New Mexico, including the Navajo nation, may be asking what is there is to be thankful for, especially after the latest lockdown was announced on November 16.

La Vida Mission staff were asking themselves the same question after their school was required to hold classes remotely under the new guidelines, making a challenging situation even more difficult.

“All schools, including private systems, were mandated to transition to remote learning until December 6, which could be extended. As a result, we have temporarily suspended our face-to-face classes, a difficult situation as our students depend on it and benefit so much even from our one-day-a-week, face-to-face instruction,” Dorie Panganiban, La Vida outreach director said.

Staff immediately began planning their 11th relief operation, knowing the new restrictions would make life very difficult for members of the reservation.

Stores, gas stations, and all other essential services on the Navajo Nation reservation operate now on limited daytime hours. People are struggling, some are complaining, and many are desperate as this virus seems to spread uncontrollably. “We have to keep doing what we feel we need to do to help alleviate the people’s plight,” Panganiban added.

For two days after the mandate, La Vida Mission staff organized pallets of fresh produce, donated through the Partnership with Native Americans organization. Navajo Strong also donated a hundred gallons of hand sanitizer to distribute and donors provided the funds to again offer free propane refills.

Upon arriving at the Crownpoint Flea Market, redesigned as a relief distribution center, 200 cars were waiting for assistance.

“As I looked at all those vehicles lined up and waiting for 4-6 hours for a propane refill, food, and other essentials, I told our La Vida staff, ‘If these people didn’t need what we’re giving, they wouldn’t stay this long in line to receive it,”’ Panganiban reflected.

The Navajo police, Crownpoint Reservation Chapter officials, and Crownpoint Fire officials joined the La Vida Mission staff prior to beginning the relief operation for a prayer of thanksgiving for the donated items and for the families receiving the needed items.

By the end of the of the day, La Vida mission had provided food, sanitizer, and propane refills to more than 250 families.

Panganiban left with a heart filled with gratitude, saying, “I thank God for many reasons that words can’t express.”

La Vida community is grateful for all the individuals who make the opportunity to minister to the Navajo reservation possible and would like to remind everyone during this season of Thanksgiving that there is so much to be thankful for despite the pandemic.

— Dorie Panganiban, is La Vida Mission outreach director and office manager; photos supplied.