I’ve been here for just over a week. It’s gone fast, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people. I also feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of life here.
I’ve previously only done short-term trips to serve other communities, and with a short 1-2 week trip you plan ahead for months to get as much impact during that short time as possible. In comparison to those types of trips I feel like I’ve done nothing this week! This is an entirely different experience.
I’ve learned a few things about the church here, by talking with people who were here serving before me. A missionary couple and their family started this church in the 1940’s. They moved here and lived in a tent and had harrowing experiences with blizzards and horrible mud. There’s a book written about them called Mud on Their Wheels: The Life-Story of Vern and Lois Ellis (Life-Story Mission Series) by Betty M. Hockett. It was interesting to read about the very beginning of Christian faith here among the Navajo of Rough Rock. (You can click on the title above to find the book on Amazon.com)
Many (I cannot keep track of the names!) missionaries have followed those 1st missionaries, Vern and Lois. Several years ago, the governing body of the church decided it was time for the church to stand on their own, after being equipped for so many years by missionaries. They sent a couple from Colorado, Bud and Judy, to help transition the church from dependence on missionaries to independent leadership of the church. Bud and Judy left maybe a year ago and it seems (reading between the lines here) that the church did ok for awhile, but then people began to leave. I’ve heard a few reasons. The woman who led the children’s ministry got tired of doing it by herself and couldn’t get volunteers to help her (we’ve had that dilemma in every church I’ve ever attended!), so she left and attended a Baptist church with a missionary staff that provided a children’s program. Now this church doesn’t have a program for children. They come, but go outside to climb on the rocks behind the church during service. Others have left as well, but I’m not sure of the reasons.
So here I am.
I know that God has specifically called me to be in this place, but I cannot lead. I can encourage things like Bible study and children’s ministry- but I cannot start them or lead them- because they need to be the church and have ownership of these things. I can come alongside and encourage, but that is all. This is so hard for them. All around Rough Rock there are churches staffed by missionaries who run all the programs and bring lots of supplies and gifts for families. It is an easier thing for them to go and just take than to become the church here that God is calling them to become. A truly Navajo church.
This is a hard thing in our part of the world too. How many people attend a church for what it can give them, rather than attending a church to give sacrificially so that the community around the church can know Christ? We are just fortunate (or maybe not so fortunate…?) to have lots of money to pay people to do much of the work in our churches.
Please pray for the people of this little church. They are genuinely trying, and many of them are stepping WAY out of their comfort zone to preach or sing up front or even pray up front over the offering. Imagine if your pastor stopped mid service and pointed at you and said- could you come up and lead us in this next song? These are the things they are facing and many are taking the challenge and doing a great job.
For the people of this church, I am praying for a deep understanding of God’s love, deep roots in Him and his Word, and an understanding of what God has gifted them in to use in and around the church.
As for me- I’m just getting to know people. I’m watching and listening and praying a lot.
This week I got to know Sonny better. He and his wife Kathy live across the “wash” from me. I guess it’s a gully that becomes a river when it rains..? Sonny is taking a lot of leadership in the church. He is also a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to fixing things- he spends all of his time fixing things for people. He also watches over me, my house and the church property since he is so close.
I also spent time this week with Roderick and Lavina. They are two of the people I met last fall. Lavina brought her 5 kids over to meet Casper and watch movies (we have a disappointing collection of Dr. Dobson lectures and old 70s Christian movies…if you have any VHS family-friendly movies you aren’t using, send them our way!) We all took a long walk yesterday and Rod and Lavina made me laugh telling me all of the antics from their childhood on the reservation.
We had a Bible study on Weds. It was really a great study. I’m determined to not be the leader of it- but to just support and encourage those who do lead it. I love the common ground we all have in Christ. Everything else might be different, but we share the truth of Jesus with each other!
Why am I here? I keep asking God that question, and it isn’t clear yet. Can I really have much of an impact on this little church struggling to get on its own two feet? In only 8 months? I really don’t know. I do know that God needs me here today though. So please pray for me to just be faithful and obedient as each day comes- regardless of the outcome.
I’m so thankful that I’ve made some small steps into becoming a part of this community. It is starting to feel more like home. It is beautiful and, I am learning, tragic here. The people are kind and gentle and thoughtful, but many are addicted to alcohol and suffer with severe depression. They desperately need the hope and freedom that a life in Christ brings.
I appreciate your prayers so much. We can’t possibly understand the intricacies of God’s plan for this place and these people, but we know that He loves them and wants them to be His own. We know he wants hope and life and victory over addiction for them. Please keep praying!
Whenever I pray I remind God of the verse I chose as a theme for this blog…more than we can ask or imagine God….IMMEASURABLY more than we can ask or imagine in this place!!!!
Have a great week, friends!
A prayer of King Jehoshaphat when facing a vast army…it’s been one of my favorites for years. I hope it is an encouragement to you!
2 Chronicles 20:12b, 15b
“O our God…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you…
This is what the Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’”