The Struggle Continues...but God is in Control

The Struggle

Driving home the other day from visiting a lady is who is currently house bound, I watched as a young girl was walking along the main road. She was probably close to our son’s age. Several things struck me as I was watching her. First, she seemed too young to be walking along a major road by herself, but that’s not uncommon here—seeing children walking home from school along the roads alone, no parent. But, the next thing I saw saddened me even more. The young girl came to a dog that had been hit lying dead on the side. Instead of walking around the dog she simply stepped over it. This might seem an odd thing to point out, but it is indicative of a sad aspect of life on the reservation. People—even the young—are accustomed to death. Dead animals lie in roads commonly, and we hear of funerals or family meetings due to death what seems like weekly. And, all to frequently the deaths we hear about are from causes that could have been avoided—alcohol, accidents, suicide, lifestyle related illnesses.

Why so much death and pain? The struggle on the Navajo reservation is in some ways unique and in some ways probably common to other parts of the world. Throughout the Navajo history there have been countless changes for this people group—and sadly, much of them have not been positive. Things like the Long Walk and other government attempts at assimilating or adjusting this culture have left many Navajo people with an identity crisis. People struggle to overcome generational hurt and pain from outsiders but also from within their own clans and families.

This is a sensitive culture; a very tender culture, and one that as missionaries we have to try to work very delicately and mindfully with—as at first we can been seen as just more outsiders trying to come in and change things. Our goal is not to deprive anyone of their heritage; but rather to make friends and as the Lord opens the way: introduce people to the Book of Heaven and the Creator God, who alone can prompt a heart to change and grow into not only a better Navajo man or woman, but most importantly into a child of God and a future citizen of heaven! We know that if a person needs to change a certain thing (and we all do: Romans 3:23); the best thing we can do is share truth and offer guidance (from us as sinners who have found a Savior to others seeking a Savior). But, we have also found that ultimately it is God (Philippians 2:13) who does the prompting and leading to help people make the needed changes far better than we ever could!

CHANGE

With the signing of a treaty in 1868 that required compulsory education for all Navajo children-families were torn apart. Children were taken from families and forced to attend government or mission schools off the reservation--often far from home. For the Diné (the name by which many here prefer, meaning “the people”), who have always been very connected by clan and kinship connections (and still are today), this was especially difficult and left many children to grow up feeling alienated and without a sense of their roots. This practice continued on into the 1960’s. Many schools would receive these children, shave their long hair; force them to assimilate quickly to foreign ways; and not allow them to speak their native tongue or teach them of their Native heritage. (*1)

We have heard countless stories of how teachers and educators (some in government schools, but also some in “Christian” boarding schools) would use physical punishment, like hitting children on the knuckles with rulers, to dissuade the Navajo children from speaking their own language. Many of our friends here have told us that when they grew up, home was the only place that seemed to accept the use of their own language. This has left a void in the current generation. Many do not know their own language, and the older people who do are aging and dying with that part of the culture. There is some focus now in schools to teach Navajo history and the language. However, the history of abuse and many other attempts from “outsiders” to change them has already left a definite scar on the Navajo as a whole.

Sadly, add to these things other issues such as: current lack of economy and opportunity for advancement on the reservation; government allotments, like giving one acre per every Navajo family; which sadly has prompted some here to not seek employment at all (*2: unemployment is around 40-50% throughout the reservation with roughly 40% living below the poverty rate), and others to forgo formal marriages (because if a couple remains unmarried they will be able to obtain two acres of land instead of one). Things like this have broken down society and family even further—now from the inside out.

You can see all around us people using drugs and alcohol to numb this pain and hurt. Others using misguided relationships, overeating, suicide, and joining gangs to try to ease their pain and to find a place where they belong.

We now see numerous agencies setup to try and help the Navajo recover some sense of “normal.” From government provided health care—to free housing offers; but none of these seem to truly fix the long-standing problems. It becomes evident by looking around that giving more free things to an already hurting culture is not solving the root issues.

When you do see glimmers of hope it is from individuals here who have not bought into this “system,” of handouts and appeasements. It is those who see their need for change and do something personally about it—and there are those individuals here as well. It is also those who find out that the “white man’s God,” (a term we hear often), can actually be their God, that He loves them personally, and that in fact He came for us all—every nation, tribe, tongue and people! (Revelation 14:6)

It has been amazing to watch as people here allow an amazing God to work in their hearts and minds for true restoration and healing. This is our purpose here. We feel blessed beyond measure to be trusted and even loved by our Navajo friends. It has taught us so much. We have learned even more as we watch our friends, some with horrible or sad pasts, as they work with the Lord’s help to overcome their pain, we see again that all things are possible with God! It has also helped us to better see the Savior’s love for all mankind. *1: https://smithsonianmag.com/history/decades-us-government-forcibly-placed-native-students-western-schools-effects-felt-today-180959502/ *2: www.navajobusiness.com/fastFacts/Overview.html

LEADING THE WAY

Back in October we had a group of 10 volunteers from Eden Valley come to help us with a health fair. During that time we met many wonderful souls seeking to serve the Lord. One of whom, we could not have known then, but the Lord was planting seeds in his heart to come back and join the work here!

Miguel Nunez is a trained evangelist through the Amazing Facts of Evangelism program and now a trained medical missionary through the Eden Valley program. We received a call from Miguel recently stating his desire to come and serve with our ministry in this area. Many miracles have opened up for Miguel to get him here just this week! Below is Miguel’s testimony of God’s leading and guidance to get him here to the Navajo reservation.

As I my medical missionary training at Eden Valley, I had no idea what the Lord had for me next. I went back home to California for a few weeks, while I prayed and asked God for guidance and to show me where or what He wanted me to do, all of a sudden I heard this voice in my head saying: you need to go out of this place (home); out of your comfort zone to a place where there is a lot of work, “difficult work.” l was in amazement, I kept praying and asking the Lord if He was sure, was He sure He didn’t want to send me back Eden Valley to do my Internship, or send me somewhere else? But all this time after I heard the call, my mind was restless. I threw a lot of fleeces out to God (excuses), but here I am. I praise God because he is providing everything.

And, when Miguel says God is providing everything He means everything. Miguel arrived on a Monday morning after driving from his home in California and sleeping in his car on the way (during the coldest part of our winter-the weather was in the single digits at night). He did not know where he would even stay within days of his arriving. Though the Lord knew! A man (not yet a Christian) who recently began attending our local church plant offered Miguel his extra room in his house-when Miguel arrived the man had already prepared the room, and even made extra keys to the house and gate to give to Miguel! Miguel has had several friends send him money to help him to be able to purchase groceries and to get settled. Miguel has already begun to look for part time work in the area to help support his Bible work, but very much hopes to spend the majority of his time serving the people and God while here. If you would like to help support Miguel as a Bible worker with ATGO Ministries please contact us.

OPEN DOORS FOR NEW CHURCH BUILDING

Where to begin with all that’s been happening to prepare for the way for a new church building. We have many people planning on volunteering to help this year. They are coming from all over, to give of their time and skills to help build a permanent church for God’s people in the Navajo Nation’s capital.

Tony and I would be the first to tell you that when we first arrived in Window Rock almost 2 years ago to start the work in earnest of church planting in this area—we had no desire to build a church; not then anyway. We truly saw the importance of being intentional and not stressing the new local believers with a big project before they even had time to settle into their new faith. We also felt we needed to use our efforts and energies in outreach and didn’t feel we had the time to fully commit to a large building project (or even a small one at that time!).

Today, we can both say we now feel ready with the Lord’s help. We see His leading in this endeavor and are very excited to hopefully soon see the results of His leading! We are even more excited to say that our local members are also eager for this to happen. We currently have 10-15 people attending on any given weekend, and are actively studying the Bible with 7 individuals. We also will be hosting a full month long evangelism series this July with Amazing Facts evangelist, Wyatt Allen, and feel confident God will lead more to the group here through those efforts. We look forward to being ready for His harvest in the nation’s capital soon!

Some amazing doors have been opening recently to help the church building project get underway. Here are a few of them…

  • We had an architect volunteer his time for free to draw up the plans for the new building.

  • We have a group coming in April from Weimar Academy to help put up a fence on the property and help us with some door to door surveying to find out the most pressing needs of the people in our area, as well as to help us clean-up the church land (we have been used as a dump site for quite some time).

  • Another skilled couple has volunteered their time to come and live on the property starting in April to come and help lay the foundation for the building.

  • And, in July tentatively, we have a group of 60 people, including 4 building contractors, coming to help build the structure during our summer month-long evangelism series!

Currently we have around $30,000 in the church building fund that has been raised through donations and offerings, but this will not be enough to complete the work. Please help us pray for the needed funds in time to complete God’s church!

Early birds before the service started...

Early birds before the service started...

Early birds before the service started...

Current Trail of Hope Trailer (converted to sanctuary) where currently church services are held each week.

Inside trailer singing, in English in this picture...but many times in Navajo. Those of us who are not Navajo are slowly learning more hymns in Navajo too!

Ministry Goals

1. To share the message of salvation with Native people groups using health outreach aimed at improving physical and emotional wellbeing.

2. To help Native people groups know Jesus by teaching from the Word of God.

3. To equip indigenous peoples to reach their own with the Gospel and to prepare them for Jesus' second coming.

PRAISES & PRAYER REQUESTS:

  1. Praising God for sending unexpected funds of $500 the same week Miguel arrived in Window Rock!

  2. Praising God for answering our prayer for another Bible worker in our area! God provided abundantly, not only through Miguel but also for leading Emilio Gomez and his wife Rose Gomez, who are long-time residents of the area. They are now being employed by the church to serve as Bible worker in both Kinlichee and Window Rock, AZ.

  3. Praising God for a group from Weimar coming to help put up a fence in April. And possible group of 60 people coming to help build the church in July.

  4. Prayers needed for our summer evangelism team and for many souls to attend.

  5. Prayers needed for the utilities (electric, water, and gas) to be installed soon on the church property.

  6. Prayers needed for Priscilla’s health and plans for her to attend Eden Valley (that she will be able to go and the way will open financially)

  7. Prayers needed for Miguel finding the right job ( or for funding for the support of his work)

  8. For God to lead Miguel where he can be most helpful with the mission work.

Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God...

NEEDS

  1. Donations needed to continue the church building project (currently we have around $30,000 to start the work, but estimate the entire project to cost more than our current funds)

  2. Monthly support for Miguel of $500 to work as a Bible worker and health missionary in the Navajo nation's capital.

  3. Volunteers to come and help with a June 24 Health Fair that will be preceeding the July evangelism. (Consecrated Doctors, Nurses, and health workers needed)

SUNNY TAILS RESCUE: Samantha, pictured above, is one of our most recent strays to come in. She came in with obvious health conditions, and as it turns out a case of Kennel cough. But, after receiving a bath and some love and attention she perked up quickly! Sunny Tails Rescue has now rescued 89 dogs much like Samantha and connected them with loving "forever" homes!

How To Donate: would you like to help us keep this outreach going? You can donate towards any of our current needs. All donations received will be used towards our most pressing needs in the order God is leading us to fulfill them. There are no overhead ministry costs, as we all work on a volunteer basis. We are hoping to apply to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the future. However, we are able to provide tax deductible receipts for many donations, contact us directly if you need a receipt for tax purposes on your donation.

Support can be mailed to:

ATGO Ministries

PO Box 3173

Window Rock, AZ, 86515

You can also contact us via email:darahvarga@atgoministries.org or call 928-275-3180.

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