A Navajo Update

"A time to be born and a time to die...a time to tear down and a time to build" (Ecclesiastes 3:2-3). These past couple of months have seen these words from Ecclesiastes in action. Volunteers from Risen Savior building for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Navajo, New MexicoPictured is the team from Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas (and Jeremiah Trephibio, a member of Shepherd of the Valley) that visited Navajo from Sept. 18 - 22. In the photo they are building a foundation for a home for one of our church members. Incredibly, in that amount of time they were able to complete that project as well as repair the roof of the church, landscape on the church grounds and take out a platform that was a hazard in our fellowship hall.

They also assisted with worship sharing music and a skit. What a great blessing it was to have them! We were also blessed earlier in the month with a visit from Sue Gebel and Rosemary Sternbeck, two of our co-workers from Lutheran Indian Ministries, who came to see first-hand the ministry and brainstorm ideas for encouraging growth and advancing God's Kingdom.

Although these two visits were great boosts to us, sadly we have had three deaths among our members' families and friends as well. We all know that there is "a time to die," but that knowledge doesn't take away the very real pain for the survivors. Of course, this is where we can share our greatest hope, the victory that Christ has won over death (1 Cor. 15:57) and God used members of our congregation, myself and even other Christians to give witness to this hope to the bereaved.

Two of the people who passed away had lived long lives but one died suddenly in his twenties. Many people who came to his funeral do not share the faith we have in Christ, so we were able to witness to the hope we have with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Please pray for all the families who have lost loved ones. Many people on the reservation suffer from a continual cycle of grief. I spoke with one of the friends of the family who's father passed away recently and she told me that every four years she has experienced a loss (parents, nephews, close friends).

On the positive side, I traveled with two members of our church, Louise and Loretta Lee, to Centennial, Colo., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. Shepherd of the Hills has been a long-time supporter of God's mission at Navajo. In the past they have sent many work teams, VBS teams, and have contributed prayer and financial support and they still do! In fact, a group from Shepherd of the Hills is planning on visiting Navajo next summer. It was a joy for Louise and Loretta to be reunited with so many people who have shared their lives over the years.

We also made the first step in our goal of training leaders. Timothy Yazzie (Navajo) led worship for us one Sunday; it was to be the Sunday we were in Colorado, but we had a torrential downpour that day so the congregation decided to cancel services (it is hard to get around on the dirt roads with high-desert flash floods). Timothy led services the following Sunday and Lord willing, this is a first-step for him to be a spiritual leader for his people.

Please thank God with us for:

  • The group from Risen Savior and our colleagues from Lutheran Indian Ministries who visited us in September and encouraged us.
  • The joy of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church with people who have faithfully been involved in the mission at Navajo.

Please intercede with us for:

  • The three families who lost loved ones, that God will comfort them with Jesus' victory over death.
  • Continued growth for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

Volunteers from Risen Savior with children at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Navajo, New Mexico