Tent Revivals and Camp Meetings!

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Revival2There is a phenomenon here on the Navajo reservation that I haven’t yet shared about.

The Tent Revival!

I have very vivid memories of going to these with my Grandma VandenBosch.  My brother and I spent a week every summer in Hudsonville Michigan with my grandparents and the question would inevitably arise…..”Shall we go to revival tonight?”  This nearly always meant a trip to Maranatha in Muskegon Michigan.  I have memories of sitting through fire and brimstone sermons that were driven home by the heat of the screened in sanctuary.  I remember gospel music and lots of hymns and I remember stopping in neighboring Grand Haven for a late night treat of fried chicken from my grandpa’s business: Cobb’s Chicken Takeout, on the way home.  I very clearly remember eating chicken in the car while grandma reminded us that Jesus could return any minute and take us to heaven in the “twinkling of an eye”.  I remember her telling us that some would be taken and some would be left.  Just like that, some people would just disappear, and we needed to be SURE we had Jesus in our hearts so we would be taken and not left!

Tent meeting5

Maranatha still exists and it’s super fancy now, but I remember it more like this picture.

It’s funny, I hadn’t thought of those conversations and road trips in years, and living here has reminded me so much of those times (except we eat fry bread and mutton instead of chicken!)

Revivals go on literally all the time.  My friends Delbert and Lula really enjoy them, and they travel all over the Navajo Nation to attend them.  They run every evening for a week usually, and the weekend nights are the big nights to go.  They are hosted by both churches and families.

My 1st tent revival was in early July when a woman from our church invited us to her extended family’s revival.  There was a mission team here from Ohio here at the time, and we all went.  It was in Blue Gap, about an hour and a half away.

It was in a huge casino tent that had seen better days, and there was singing, testimonies and preaching, mostly in Navajo.  It was fun to see all of the elderly women in their best traditional dresses with all their beautiful Navajo jewelry.  We left at about 10pm and the teaching hadn’t yet begun.  Revivals go into the early morning hours sometimes.


My next revival experience was HOSTING one! The people that are taking leadership roles in the Rough Rock Friends Church decided that they wanted to host a revival- except they insisted that in the Friends Church they are called Camp Meetings.  I’m not sure why…?

So we had a camp meeting!  We had a team from Indiana here for that week, and it was incredible.  The church did most of the planning and organizing, and the team and myself just helped them.  We had great times of worship in both Navajo and English, and the pastors from up on the mesa came down to teach and preach and share.  The last night was really memorable to me.  I still think of it often.  The group from Indiana did a skit to Lifehouse’s “Everything” song.  It is such a powerful skit, and it had the undivided attention of every person in the room. If you’ve never seen it, you can watch a version of it on youtube by clicking here.  It uses no words, which meant that everyone in the room could understand.  The kids from the Indiana team each shared a testimony, and as they each went up and shared it started to really get to be a long time of sharing and I wondered if people were getting antsy- but no.  If there is one thing the Navajo are still talking about from that Camp meeting it was the kids’ testimonies. It made a big impression on the Navajo teens.  Several of them mentioned that they felt really convicted that they weren’t sharing testimonies like that with others.

gym16Tyrone, one of the pastors from the mesa (and if you know Kelly Hadlich, Tyrone is his Navajo TWIN) preached a lesson on overcoming temptation.  Then he had us all circle up and hold hands and pray for each other.  As the English and Navajo all mixed together into a beautiful offering of praise to God, I was so struck by how beautiful things are when God is in them.  Beautiful Navajo believers, beautiful teenagers reaching out…. it made me smile, and I was so thankful for all of it.

Revival1My most recent revival experience was  just last weekend.  Delbert and Lula invited me to go, and it was close- just up the road in Many Farms.

This was SUCH an interesting experience. For starters, the lady who organizes it just has it on her family land.  She hosted it for the 1st time last year, and the reason she decided to have it was because her husband died of liver cirrhosis as a result of drinking too much.  She was watching the rest of her family going the same route and she wanted to bring God into the equation and turn her family in a new direction.

She invited a pastor from a Church of God in Window Rock to come and speak. Several really incredible music groups came as well.  For the 1st time, I got a glimpse into a large movement of God here on the Navajo Nation.  This pastor, Jerry Tom, was so passionate about reaching not only the Navajo Nation for Christ, but ALL First Nation people.  He and his church hold a conference each summer called the Gathering of Tribal Nations (click here if you want to read more about it).  It invites leaders from churches all over the US and Canada that are a part of a tribal nation to come and be equipped and encouraged to reach their people for Christ.

He preached some hard things.  He told them that they need to let their traditional beliefs go.  He said- if you still believe in the gods of the 4 sacred mountains, you are not following the one true God.  He will not share his place with any of the Navajo gods.  Then he paused and said- I know that is a hard thing to hear, but it is true and I don’t want to lie to you about God.  You cannot follow any other god but Him.

There were a lot of people there, and the presence of God was so incredible.  We sang one of my favorite Navajo songs and when the instruments dropped out and over a hundred Navajo voices were singing praise to God, and I was able to sing along with them…it was a moment I will never, ever forget.

So, God moving in families and churches, God moving in large groups and small.  But God moving on the Navajo Nation.  God is definitely moving.


I spent a part of today packing up kitchen and blog things I won’t need before I leave.  My time here is nearly over and I want to slow time down and savor each of these remaining weeks.

do know what I will be doing next, but I’m still waiting on a few details to get ironed out before I share about it with you.  I will tell you that I’m in awe of how God directs our path if we just follow along behind Him and trust.  I’m really excited to tell you the details- I think it will make you smile when you see what God has pulled together!

So, I will leave you in suspense!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for making it possible for me to be here these 8 months.  I feel like I can see, looking back, all that God has accomplished in me and in this little church during this time, and I’m SO thankful to be a part of this!!!



If you’d like to see a little collection of worship from all three of the revivals I shared about, you can click here and see it on YouTube!


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