Lately, we have been thinking a lot about God's timing and providence in His follower’s lives. We have certainly seen God's guidance in our own lives, as it has been an extremely eye opening year on the Navajo reservation for our us. We are at our one year anniversary since starting ATGO Ministries in earnest, to continue serving on the Navajo nation! What a blessed and amazing year this has been for us. It has also been a transformative (and at times challenging) year for some of our new friends here on the reservation, and we want to share of few of their stories with you.
One thing we should mention before sharing their stories is that this year, despite having experienced many blessings, we have also witnessed many, many struggles around us and against the work here. The devil is fighting for souls on the reservation, and the fight is strong. We know the time is short before Jesus returns…the signs are all around. It seems as almost weekly on the reservation we hear of someone dying. Many lives are claimed here from alcoholism, suicide or car accidents (often related to drinking while driving). We have attended the funeral of a passing mother, cried with our friends as they struggled to make sense of lost loved ones, and shared God’s word over and over again as we all work to make sense of the things that have happened here over the last year. As you read the stories of our friends below, we hope that you will see their needs and pray for them and all of the Navajo reservation…as well as many other reservations in this country that are struggling to allow God’s light to begin to peak through the darkened corners of these spiritual strongholds! In His Service, Tony and Darah Varga
THANKING THE LORD FOR YOU!
We are grateful for two blessings that recently came in that we pray will help to advance the work here. Not long ago, Tony and I had decided to pray and fast in seeking God's guidance for the work on the reservation. We spent three days asking the Lord how we could best serve Him and the people here going forward, and on the third day we received a phone call. We were told that two donations had just come in. The first was $3000 given by a sister church in another state to help in the construction of a church building for our growing group here! This puts our total for the church building fund at around $10,000!
The second donation was given to help advance our health outreach efforts on the reservation. With this second gift we will be able to plan future health fairs and cooking classes to help the Navajo people learn better health and diet habits. Specifically, many Native Americans struggle with diabetes; it is rampant on the reservation. According to the CDC: Native Americans (American Indians and Alaska Natives) have the highest rates of diabetes of any group in America today. This donation will allow us to continue teaching healthy living habits that have been proven in helping individuals overcome such diseases as diabetes, as well as many other health related diseases. We have already seen how helping people with their immediate health needs is bridging the gap to be able to build friendships, and to begin sharing the Good News that Jesus is coming soon and He wants us all to be ready! Thank you for helping us to spread this message in our part of the world; into our sometimes forgotten (yet so close) mission field.
Support can be mailed to: ATGO Ministries PO Box 3173 Window Rock, AZ, 86515 You can also contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-275-3180. You Can Also Now Donate Online at: www.ATGOministries.org!
IS THIS GOD'S TIMING...
In just one short month from now thousands will converge on Houston, TX to share and fundraise for the work being done to spread the Everlasting Gospel; to exchange ideas on how to better serve in their called ministries; and to gather for Christian fellowship so they can leave refreshed and ready to continue in sharing the Three Angels Message and continuing the work as found in the Great Commission.
Every year ASI (Adventist Laymen's Services and Industries) holds a national convention somewhere in the United States. Last year, the convention was held relatively close by where we live and serve on the reservation; so we prayed about attending. We hoped we could help raise awareness of the needs on the reservation by attending and sharing. But, after much prayer, we did not feel God leading us to attend—yet. We felt we needed to have a better grasp of the needs of the people around us, and wanted to allow time for God to continue growing us as a new mission project.
This year, we are praying again. Ultimately, the cost to us is not small. We have estimated our costs as follows: cost of travel: renting a reliable vehicle: $350-$400 plus gas: $200 for 2200 miles round trip; accommodations for 6 nights (2 additional nights on either end to ensure we arrive in time for setup and breakdown): $400-$450; booth rental and registration fees: $1100; and booth setup materials: brochures, and stands etc...$100-300. This would bring the estimated cost for the ministry to attend somewhere between $2000-$2500. This being said we want to be sure that our attendance would bring glory to God and that attending would be the best use of funds right now to serve the Navajo people. Some doors seem open for our ministry to attend, but others still seem to be cracked.
We have less than one month to rent a booth space, and setup travel plans. Will you help us pray that if God desires us there to share what He is doing (and will do) here on the reservation through ATGO Ministries that He will open the way to go? If you are interested in helping to sponsor our ministry to attend and setup a booth at the upcoming ASI Convention, please contact us.
We strongly believe the time is now to start enlisting the help of others to hasten the work here on the reservation, and having access to share with thousands of mission minded people could be a blessing for the ongoing efforts here on the reservation!
(The following story of Priscilla, is one example of how God has worked here and how we hope he continues to work through ATGO Ministries in the coming year!)
**Our son, Jackson will also be participating in ASI if the Lord leads us to attend. He is excited and hoping to make close to 200 soaps (with his handmade “Everlasting Love Soaps") to sell at at our booth, to help raise funds for the ministry!
FIRST BAPTISM IN WINDOW ROCK
Priscilla's Story We met Priscilla almost a year ago now. She has become a growing pillar in our small group. Since first meeting her at one of our healthy cooking classes last year, she began studying the Bible with us; became a regular church member; and just this past Sabbath was baptized!
Priscilla has been a blessing to us since early on. We believe the Lord connected us not only so we could encourage her faith, but so that she could be an encouragement to us as we continue the work here. She gives us a glimpse of a life changing for Jesus; and that is exciting to watch! She has her challenges, especially recently as she neared her baptism, the devil began attacking harder.
The weeks preceding Priscilla’s baptism were tough for her. She dealt with close relatives disrupting her life due to alcoholism (she does not drink) and other family members trying to pull her back into her old traditional ways.
Medicine men who perform ceremonies like the “Enemy Way Ceremony,” that her family member was planning, typically encourage other family members to attend or assist in these ceremonies.
This particular ceremony was traditionally held when warriors came back from war, but today is used when a Navajo person is feeling attacked in life (either by others speaking against them, or by evil spirits such as skin walkers). The four day (to a week) long ceremony is a huge task and financial expense which involves a medicine man fee, ceremony materials, food, sheep, and wood gathering to name a few, and can cost anywhere between $2000 to $6000. Priscilla was devastated by this family member taking her to the medicine man's home against her wishes. She didn’t want to be involved in the ceremony and said she hurt so much for her family because they were seeking these traditional ways to solve their problems. She has prayed steady for God to free her family from traditional spirit worship.
Priscilla’s struggles don’t end there. Since meeting Priscilla we have seen her struggle with many health issues. We have worked to help her with some dietary and lifestyle changes that have provided some relief, but she still struggles with several different medical challenges. Two of her biggest concerns are her progressing rheumatoid arthritis and poor lung function which creates a need for the use of oxygen tanks. Life conditions, dietary habits and stress have been hard on Priscilla’s health.
Despite all these challenges… Priscilla followed her Lord and Savior this past Sabbath in baptism! And, another great answer to prayer happened that day, her husband Tony also attended…telling us that he had not been in a church in over 30 years! Afterwards, he told us that it was an eye opening experience and that he felt God calling him to make some changes in his life too. Priscilla continues to remain excited about following God’s words and His direction for her life.
Priscilla has been a bright smile, and a cheerful witness for her Savior here on the reservation. She accompanies us to the flea market when we set up booths for outreach. She is always out front and center handing out flyer invites for upcoming health fairs and cooking classes, and prays with people in her native tongue. As she tells us often, there is something powerful about the Navajo people hearing the Gospel message in their own language! This is a gift she has been given and she doesn't shy away from using it and sharing it with others.
Please pray for Priscilla as she has stepped out in faith as one of the few in her family who has chosen to follow Christ. Please also pray for her husband, daughter and son that they too will see the changes in her, and desire to follow in her footsteps.
***On our way home from Priscilla’s baptism, we saw more Teepees being put up on the reservation. Priscilla’s husband explained to us that they are holding Peyote ceremonies in them, and that this is done frequently for holidays, birthdays and celebrations. Even small children are encouraged to drink the peyote during family celebrations.”Peyote is a psychoactive alkaloid (a drug) that comes from a small cactus that grows wildly in the Chihuahuan Desert. The cactus can be found in areas of Texas and Mexico and is common among scrub where there is limestone settlement. This plant, particularly the mescaline within the plant, can produce a wide range of effects including being believed to provide deep insight into one’s spiritual side. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common with the use of Peyote.” (http://hallucinogens.com/peyote/)
I mention this to illustrate how there is always a true and false worship. A true celebration in Christ happened at Priscilla’s baptism, yet all around us are many who are falling prey to the false worship and celebrations of the world.
We share Priscilla’s story because it is a common one here. Seeing her over the last year draw nearer to God, and persevere through many struggles has given us a great hope that with the Lord’s help there will be many others like her here on the reservation who can be reached for Jesus, and turn away from the false worship of the world and turn to the one true God! Please help us continue to pray that God will lead His children to salvation and the Bible here on the reservation.
GOD'S CALL TO KEEP GOING
Because Darah has been blessed with wonderful writing talents, I have left the newsletter in her hands, though I also would like to share my thankfulness to the Lord and praises for God leading us as He has!
Sometimes I feel under-equipped spiritually, mentally and even physically to be considered a missionary or laborer in God’s vineyard. And at times, I see my own need of God as great, how could I possibly think I have something to share with someone else. Well the truth is, I don’t, but our Lord and Savior does, and He has chosen to use us (all of us); no matter how feeble, weak, or straying you or I may feel we are. It’s an amazing thing that our Lord imparts His faith, His righteousness, His words of Life, His courage and strength to us, to be given out to others. So, as our feelings come and go as to what we think we can do; Christ sets aside our feelings, and replaces them with His steadfastness.
I turn to Him daily and seek repentance for the wrong I have done and ask Him to continue the work in me He has promises to do. I must remember “it is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure”. Phil 2:13. I realize more and more, the need to press forward wth sharing who Jesus is; what He can do; and that He truly is coming back soon! Sometimes I feel our part is small and progress is slow, but then God shows us how He is very much at work. When we feel unsure of things, Darah and I often tell each other, that God really does have us where He wants us for a reason.
Witnessing our first baptism in the small church plant we are helping to get started this last week was a wonderful encouragement for us. Our friend, Priscilla, was overflowing with happiness in Jesus! God worked wonders on her behalf as her husband, of many years, decided to attend. It was the first time he has gone to church with her in thirty years! He has even expressed his desire for bible studies after his heart was touched by the powerful witness of his wife, deciding to commit her life to following Jesus through baptism. And, just yesterday after months of praying, we saw our Vietnam veteran friend, Jasper Walker (who recently lost his arm due to unwelcome events mixed with drinking alcohol) walk into our trailer park with his Bible in hand. We had not seen in him about 3 months, and I was feeling a little guilty for not trying harder to reach him, as he was living in another town with no phone or good way to contact him.
I gave him a giant hug as I couldn't believe Jasper was there and more sober than I had seen in a while! He asked to study the bible and we spent the next few hours reading 1st John together. What an answer to prayer! But Jasper and many more that we have yet to meet, need your prayers. Alcoholism is hard to overcome here…but nothing is impossible with God! Please pray for Jasper as he desires to make changes in his life and seek Jesus.
I thank each of you who take the time to read our newsletter; and I especially thank you for your prayers for us and those here on the Navajo reservation. We put our requests together with yours to our faithful High Priest who is always making intercession for us. Now more than ever, let us continue in asking for God’s grace to help us all change our characters that we may be seeking Christ’s likeness as we near the end of time. May God Bless each of you richly with His mercy and grace, Tony
Cooking Class Blessings
Recently what the devil intended for our harm, God turned into His blessing!
We have been using a local chapter house (these are Native American local governing and communal meeting facilities located within each community of the reservation) to hold our healthy cooking classes this summer. Unfortunately, our time getting into the facility and staying there has been riddled with challenges since the very first class. We have had a couple of classes where the building has been occupied before our arrival and the first group using the space was particularly late closing their meeting. Each time they left late, we hurriedly rushed afterward to get the food prepped and all materials ready to go, sometimes while our class participants sat and waited on us. Thankfully, we have some very informative DVDs on health which we have been able to play for them as they waited.
Our most recent healthy cooking class was no different. It was scheduled on Father's Day, which was a Sunday afternoon. Only when we arrived for this class, the gates were locked and no one was around to open them. We couldn't even get into the perimeter of the building this time!
We sat, we prayed, we called contacts (including the vice president) at the chapter house...but nothing. A few cars began to line the side of the road, as we checked each time it was someone wanting to come to the class, not someone there to open the gates. Eventually, we left a note on the gate letting people know we had to relocate the class to our personal trailer.
Little did we know though, the blessing that was hidden in the disappointment. God was working on answering an unspoken prayer request.
Elen Wenell (our missionary friend from Monument Valley, that is helping teach the classes, along with her husband Bill and two teenagers) and I had just been discussing earlier that day how it would be nice to be able to get to know each person coming to the class a bit better, and to learn their individual health concerns. This hadn't been as easy in the larger facility. We didn't feel we were connecting as well with this summer’s class participants as last summer’s participants when we held classes in one of our homes.
However, after moving the class to our trailer, this class was completely different!
At the end of this class we were able to sit (we had no set time when we had to leave, unlike when we are in the chapter house) for quite some time getting to know those who had come, discussing their personal health concerns and learning much more about each person. We had several people say what a great class it was! We even had one lady who had been coming to the cooking classes (both this year and last year), who also used to come to Bible studies, wait for quite some time after the class until I (Darah) could get back from driving all the ladies back to their homes. When I got back to our trailer she was still there, she had been waiting to ask if she could have the past Bible study lessons she had missed so she could begin catching up!
We are always amazed at how God provides, even when it seems challenges and road blocks are in our way; God never fails! We continue to ask God if we need a permanent building for cooking classes, health fairs, and of course, to hold church.
To share the message of salvation with Native people groups using health outreach aimed at improving physical and emotional wellbeing.
To help Native people groups know Jesus by teaching from the Word of God.
To equip indigenous peoples to reach their own with the Gospel and to prepare them for Jesus' second coming.
Abby Brings Emmy Along for the Ride
So many times Jackson has found a stray dog that we foster until transport, and during the time the foster is with us (or during transport) the Lord leads us to another one in need. It has almost become a given that we will not take just one animal at a time, the Lord always brings us more! Well, this time Sunny Tails Rescue had a first.
In all of our years living on or near the reservation and rescuing strays, we have never picked up a stray cat. In fact, cats are rare to see out here, likely due to the huge stray dog population (drive anywhere on the reservation and sadly you will see more than one dead dog on the roads). But, recently, we were at the flea market with our ministry passing out flyers and sharing materials, when we found a stray dog we named Abby. She stayed with us all day at our booth at the flea market, then we brought her home to love on her and feed her before transport. Abby was without a doubt one of the sweetest, gentlest dogs we have picked up to date.
The next day as we drove to meet Gina our transport connection, we prayed that the Lord would bring us another dog or dogs to rescue before the transport left. We arrived at the gas station to meet her, said goodbye to Abby, and then asked Gina if she had time to look around the gas station for more strays (always a good place to find them begging for handouts). She gladly agreed, but sadly we didn't find any at the first station, so we all decided to go over to a second station where there are always many strays around. Soon we saw a white dog that we followed for a ways then lost sight of, we weren't able to catch that one.
Jackson was beginning to feel like we wouldn’t find any others before Gina had to leave to take Abby, so unknowingly to me, he went a little ways from the cars and prayed, asking the Lord again to help us. No sooner had he prayed than we heard something very different, this time it was meowing! Long story short, Jackson found a small stray kitten (he named Emmy) who was eager for attention (and food) to go along for the ride! Jackson prayed and thanked the Lord for sending us our first kitten to rescue! To date, Sunny Tails Rescue has taken 48 stray dogs (and one cat) off the reservation where life can be challenging and short for many, to better homes and new beginnings!
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. John 9:4
From our family to yours, may God richly bless you as you seek to serve Him!