As we were all gathered around the large dining room table at Many Waters Mission, a middle-aged Navajo woman stood at the end with a pained expression on her face, as she addressed the small crowd. Directly next to her sat a young man who perpetually stared down toward the ground with a disturbingly distant and lifeless expression. The woman pleaded with us that we pray for the young man who was her son, for most days he said scarcely a word and remained disengaged while maintaining this troubled countenance. She went on to explain that she did not want to believe in “the witchcraft,” but she feared that he was under a curse. She admitted that she had taken him to the medicine man, which was the traditional Navajo tactic to break a curse, and she was being pressured by her family to bring him to the Native American Church, which is a cult that uses a natural hallucinogenic drug called peyote as part of its ritual worship. With increasing poignancy, she communicated that she came to the mission because she did not know where else to turn, and she begged us to help her and pray for her son.
Whatever was going on with the boy, there was no doubt that something was very wrong. The mother showed us a picture of him a couple of years ago, and we saw a normal engaged expression in his face, and looking at the person that sat before us it was as if all the life and the spark were gone. Lynn, one of the founders of the Mission, sat down next to the boy and took his hand, but he jerked away as if human touch was painful. Eventually, he let her grab his hand, and she prayed for him, and he talked a little, so the mother was somewhat encouraged.
Conversation ensued after the time of prayer was finished, and the mother again discussed her concern about witchcraft and evil spiritual forces. At this point, an older Navajo woman who until then had remained silent began to speak. She said the witchcraft is real, and she warned that if you don’t have Jesus in your heart it will not stop pursuing you, and it will find you. After she had spoken a few more words of advice to the younger woman, she then began to share her testimony.
Her name was Marie, and she had met Jesus when she was a young girl. She explained how she and her family had lived in a hogan in a desert canyon. Her father was a harsh man who often mistreated her, and one night to escape she wandered out in the desert alone. She stopped at the edge of the canyon, and in the darkness she saw a beam of light that appeared to come from something like a flashlight. As she began to follow the light, she was startled to find that when she reached the end of the canyon the light did not go straight, but it actually wrapped around the rock! She continued to follow this light, and it eventually led her to the home of some missionaries. Marie then told us about how they invited her in and began to tell her about Jesus, and she was moved by the Holy Spirit and believed. She prayed with the missionaries, and submitted her life to Christ.
She then recounted that she returned to the hogan excited about her new found hope, and she walked in to find her mother washing dishes. I was suddenly moved as this quiet, dignified older woman sitting before us recalled that she approached her mother and said, “I found truth, and his name is Jesus.” Her mother immediately scolded her and said that that is the “white man’s religion,” and she should never speak of it again. She told her that if her father found out he be very angry. Nonetheless, Marie refused to conceal her faith, but this was at price for her father indeed was angry and mistreated her.
As she continued growing up, both her father and her brother would beat her on occasion, and they were especially infuriated by her Christianity. Marie told us about how she continued to seek the Lord, and she would walk to church whenever she had a chance. However, she began to share with us that one day as she was sitting in church her father made a surprise appearance. He walked into the church building, grabbed her and threw her out onto the ground. He then took her Bible threw it back in the church and drug her away. It was heartbreaking to watch as this girl who was now an old woman sitting before us began to fight back tears. She told us of other experiences where she was forced to flee from her father or brother, but as she concluded she affirmed that she was still is serving the Lord, and she strives to do his will each day.
I stood for a moment reflecting on Marie’s testimony, and I glanced over at the mother and son standing there broken and hurting, and I felt keenly aware of the spiritual battle that rages on the Reservation. I was struck by the circumstances, pressures, and spiritual attack that so many of the Navajo Christians face. In Marie’s case, she was actually persecuted and shunned by her family for her faith. It is through the testimony of people like Marie that we catch glimpses of the presence of God in this world, and I left encouraged to trust God with my life, for the same God who sustained a young Navajo girl through such intense hardship is also my Father, and he sustains me.
Later that day, I had the opportunity to drive to the church near to where Marie grew up and meet her son who is now a pastor. In the brief time that I was able to chat with him, I was encouraged by his heart for his community and the world. He has actually travelled internationally, and he desires to lead members of his community to become involved in missions. Our hope is to recruit teams to come and serve alongside this church, and as we prepare for these mission trips, it is my prayer that the teams may build relationships in the community and be encouraged just as I have been by the testimony of their Navajo brothers and sisters.
- Josh G.
Navajo Mission Trips: It is so beautiful to see what a little bit of love and compassion can do in the lives of children. As the children from the community of Toko’i got off the large white van at the church on the first day of Kid’s Club, nothing but silence filled the air. It was apparent to see how uncomfortable and reclusive all the children had become in their current situation. We began individually introducing ourselves and one-on-one inviting the kids to join in on a little game called duck-duck-goose. Before we knew it all the children were in the circle and smiles were sneaking across their faces when they thought no one was looking.
After the warm up game, we moved on to a more intense game known as Red Rover. It was amazing what this game did for the kids. All of a sudden all thirty of the kids were lined up, cheering one another on. I could just see God, as I looked at the kids jumping up and down against the yellow sand. Red Rover seemed to be the key ingredient to letting everyone’s guard down and opening them up. From then on things only got better. Everyday the kids got closer and closer with us and with each other. By the end of the week, you could hear the laughter from the van before it reached the dirt road to the church.
The short term mission trip team that came for the week really enjoyed watching the kids bond and open up. On the last night they discussed how that impacted their trip and their lives. The next week began completely opposite to the previous. The children pretty much leaped out of the big white van into my arms, yelling my name. It was so precious to see the lasting effect of the past week with the kids. They didn’t begin the week quiet again, but over the duration of that week they had formed even stronger relationships. The week flew by, and with every passing day the kids become more and more like the one big family they are.
It is interesting because most of the kids are related, somewhere down the line. Yet due to the distance between them they had not gotten to know one another. By the end of the second week of Kids Club the youth mission trips teams that had come were discussing how they loved seeing how close and trusting the kids were. They talked about how it really impacted them to see how easily the kids opened up to them. It is just so awesome to see the complete contrast in the two weeks, with what started as a simple game of Red Rover, ended up forming a strong and loving family.
Note: Experience Mission is offering Navajo mission trips on the Navajo Reservation. If you’d like to join one of our short term Youth mission trips with EM, visit us at our website www.experiencemission.org
When I stop to think about it, I simply cannot believe how fast this summer has gone. Far too fast. Every week has had its unique people, unique challenges, unique work projects, unique victories and unique stories of God’s grace. With five weeks behind me and only three ahead, I am sad to be on the tail end of the most wonderful summer I’ve ever had. I’ve worked HARD and sweated a LOT, but it has been so enjoyable. I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity to be working for the Kingdom and seeing God’s work up close and personal in so many others’ lives.
Out here on the Navajo reservation I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about a slow paced life, one that treasures each conversation and is in a hurry for no thing. I’ve seen families care for each other, brothers and sisters tend to each other’s needs with such love. I’ve learned the significance of saying “thank you,” and meaning it. I’ve learned the importance of getting my plans out of the way and letting the Lord work his miraculous plan. I’ve seen first-hand how much more meaningful it is to work with someone instead of for them. I’ve learned a whole lot about self-less-ness. I always have to break that word down as I say it, because honestly, it’s more than I can chew.
Only by God’s help have I been able and willing to give up my “rights” and expectations for the good of those around me. Sometimes with my teammates I have to pull 60 percent while they are pulling 40, and the next day they pull 75. In life, most relationships are not even or fair, they are a beautiful push and pull, give and take, and if each is selflessly giving their all- it always comes out even in the end. Mostly God has taught me how to love others, not for what they do or even necessarily for who they are, but because they are my brother, sharing One Father, Creator of the Universe- each one created as a special miracle with the Lord dwelling in them, making them absolutely priceless.
Much love in Christ,
Note: Want to see first-hand the remarkable ways of the Navajo people? Experience Mission offers short term mission trips to the reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Find out more information on our Summer 2010 trips at www.ExperienceMission.org
Youth Mission Trips: I can’t imagine a better week. We had two short term mission trip teams this week- Voyagers Bible Church from Irvine, CA and First Presbyterian Church from Ashland, OR. They worked so incredibly hard and from the minute they stepped off the busses they were serving everyone they met.
All of the girls from the CA group had determined before-hand not to wear or bring any makeup at all. What beauties they were too! They also wrote PHIL. 4:12 on their arms (“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”) And that’s just what they did! Even at meals, each person would ask someone “May I serve you?”, and they would go down the line together, each making the other’s plate, just as an act of service and a good way to get a chance to talk together. The Lord taught each student so much and I was amazed at the growth that happened as each of them shared with me what God had taught them through a new culture, new people, hard work, and lots of laughs.
The Lord displayed His divine pursuit this week as well. On Wednesday night as we sat in on the Navajo service, the Lord impressed on my heart to share my testimony with the group this week. So Friday night, while we were out having worship at the base of Shiprock, looking out across the plains, I shared my story, hoping it would be used by the Lord. That night, one of the girls came to me in tears, telling me that she shares a very similar story and she didn’t know how to escape from a bad upbringing and the traps of the world. I was able to encourage her in the Word and share with her more about the freedom in Christ. She experienced such a breakthrough and relief!! Praise the Lord for divine appointments and relationships!
-Navajo Nation staff
*Note: Experience Mission offers Christian mission trips to groups of youth, college, and adult. Interested in finding out more about the Navajo Nation? Check out our website at www.ExperienceMission.org for more information and to sign up for Summer 2010 trips.
This week in Toko’i, New Mexico, the mission trip team from Luke Airforce Base near Phoenix, Arizona is awesome! For every person on the team, this is the first short term mission trip they have ever been on! They have been working so hard and have made not only some really beautiful improvements on several homes, but also some very meaningful relationships during their time here.
One woman we’ve spent a lot of time with during this week is Etta George. Etta was originally the founder of the church we are working with, Victory Life Christian Fellowship. We came to her house this week to finish some siding and paint the trim around the house. She immediately made us feel welcome on the first day, ushering us into her home and sharing with us each day more little bits and pieces about her life.
Behind her house there is a large outdoor stage area and she told us that each year the area is packed out for a camp meeting revival that she has hosted for many years. We were amazed as we heard her stories and saw how many lives she has touched in her lifetime. What a woman! When we stood in her kitchen after Chris replaced her old washing machine with a new cabinet she wanted, she cried and thanked us for the work we had done. She also made fry bread two different days to thank us, and gave us watermelon as well!
The kids all talked about how awesome it was to see that Etta was so grateful and sweet. What a woman to learn from! This youth mission trip team certainly has had an incredible first mission experience!
-Navajo Nation staff
*Note: 2010 mission trips will be posted soon! Check out www.ExperienceMission.org to find out the new communities that we will be working with next summer.
Navajo Mission Trips: The youth mission trip team from Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, Arizona has been here for three days now, and the 30 middle schoolers are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen! Yesterday, we were able to split into four groups and work on John Watson’s house, a home in Kayenta, a graffitied water tower, and some odd jobs at the church. My team went to Mr. John’s house and we had a blast. We painted the entire exterior of the house and got to spend some good time with John and even made friends with a few of his cows! He invited us to eat our lunch inside with him, and the kids really enjoyed it. At the water tower, the group was able to cover the graffiti and worked on painting a beautiful mural of a sunset with some Navajo artwork. The group in Kayenta painted some rooms in a family’s home and got to share some time with the family as well. At the church, a hardworking group built some new picnic tables and then dug a trench to lay a water line close to the outdoor kitchen where we cook! No more hauling water! Praise the Lord! Today, the entire group is in Tuba City de-tagging many of the city buildings and spending time with some of the Navajo that have come out to work with us. We had lunch in the gorgeous park and everyone was running around playing games as well. It has been an incredible couple of days and I can’t wait to see what else will happen this weekend! The rumor is that we are going out to the canyon tonight- what an adventure!
Blessings and love,
Laura Marie and the Navajo Experience Mission Team
Note: Experience Mission will soon be offering Summer 2010 mission trips on the Navajo Reservation. If you’d like to join a short term mission trip with EM, visit us at our website www.experiencemission.org
Christian Missions Work
The last week of teams is finally here. The two teams here this week were from California and Michigan. The Michigan team was a sight for sore eyes because they new how to play a Midwestern card game by the name of Euchre. Anyways due to this being our last week we wanted to accomplish as much as possible to finish up the projects that had already been started throughout the summer.
This meant a lot of day trips back to familiar faces which I felt was a great way to finish up the summer. We went back to Suzy’s place and painted her bathroom, went to Stella’s to paint the inside and work on her ramp, went back to Eli’s to finish up the paint work, and went back to a few others just to fix up some odds and ends. We even started a few new projects at the Bitter’s house, which involved a lot of drywalling and painting. The team also got to pour concrete for another church’s floor. This was a fantastic week where so much was accomplished. God really did an amazing work through these teams and I was really impressed by them.
This week really gave me the opportunity to look back on this summer and reflect on what God had done. It is truly amazing to see how much God will do if you simply allow Him to work through you. These teams this summer have all said yes to God, and He sent them to do amazing things in the Navajo Nation. His work is truly evident, and it seems that everywhere I go people are talking about it.
A lot of the people here have taken notice to what God is doing and have been asking me why people are doing this, and I think it is great that so many people are noticing what is happening. I feel this summer we have given Pastor James a lot of work to do with the people in his area, and that is a good thing for a Pastor to have. A lot of seeds have been planted this summer, and I can’t wait to see the end result.
You can come to the Navajo Reservation and be part of a Christian mission trip. Visit Experience Mission’s website at www.ExperienceMission.org - Native American Mission Trips are lifechanging.
After a fantastic weekend of camp meeting I was exhausted, but ready to start a new week of service. As the teams rolled in from California and New York, I realized that God was going to wonderful things this week. For these two teams we had one gigantic project for them to tackle. We set up 20 or so team members working on Grandma Suzy’s roof and the exterior of her house. Suzy had been having trouble with her roof for some time and has been asking her family for help for years, however no one had helped her. To keep the rain from coming in the house she had been nailing tarp to her roof to patch holes.
This was incredibly dangerous for a woman of her age to be doing this and thanks to the grace of God she never hurt herself. The team completely tore the existing roof off and replaced everything to protect her house from the weather. This was an enormous task, but by the end of the week we had the entire roof replaced and had painted the outside of her house to create an almost entirely different looking house. For me the best part about this week was seeing how much time the team spent with Grandma Suzy. The team sat down and talked with her and took interest in what she was doing with her life, and by the end of the week a lot of special bonds were formed that would leave a lasting impact.
This really reminded me what mission work is all about. It is not about the physical side that we accomplish with our hands, but the emotional and social side that we touch with our hearts that truly impact the people of this world. When all is said and done the roof will get damaged again some day and need replacing, but Suzy will always remember the people from California and New York that took time out of their lives to come help her and be her friend. That is what mission work is about and truly inspired me to take that lifestyle to heart.
After a long break of no teams it is good to be back in to the swing of things. From the get go I was impressed with this new team from Texas. As soon as they got out of their vehicles they were ready to work, and we were ready to give them work.
This week starts a camp meeting where many of the local Navajo meet at the church here and have full day services…and there is a lot to do to prepare for this. So immediately we put them to work on putting up the tent, and the team, without any complaints, went straight into service mode with no down time from their drive. I thought this was incredible.
To continue their service we sent part of the team to Grandma Helen’s place. Grandma Helen is a patriarch of one of the Navajo clans and has been in and out of the hospital for the past few years. She really has been through a lot in her life and is so grateful for the little things that she has that some of her stories really broke my heart. To help her out a little bit the team patched up her roof, painted the interior and exterior of her hogon (or house), and filled in the cracks of her house with silicon to prevent the wind from getting in. It wasn’t much, but every day Hellen would be so excited to show her gratitude and try to repay us by any means possible.
Every day it seemed that she had something new for us. From frybread to bologna we were constantly getting gifts and it was truly humbling. This woman who had little would give us everything she had. It reminded me a lot of what I should be as a Christian, completely giving no matter what I have.