Summer is sneaking into the Bay Area, slowly but surely. Schools are closed, graduations have come and gone, and vacations are in the works! And for many of us here in the VBC family, there is much preparation for some of the most spiritually fruitful events of the year! The crown jewel of the summer for many in the VBC family is our outreach to the Navajo Nation. If our calculations are correct, this will be our 20th sojourn to Four Corners, USA – where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico converge in one geographic point.
Our hosts for these past two decades have been the staff of Immanuel Mission (IM), a group of men, women, and families from all over the USA who have devoted their lives to serving the Navajo Nation in a community on the reservation called Sweetwater. Most of the IM staff serve as teachers at the IM elementary, middle, and high school during the school year, then take off for the summer to be with family and friends in other parts of the country. But there are always some familiar IM faces who stay back to greet us when we arrive at their compound and remind us how excited they and the Navajo community are to see us once again.
During our week of service, each day we conduct a basketball camp for Navajo children (basketball is by far the most popular sport on the reservation), and visit several Navajo families and help them with whatever projects they need done around their property. Then, in the evenings, we visit Navajo families for a wonderful time of ministry. The Navajo love to tell stories about life on the reservation and we encourage them to share their stories with us.
Afterwards, we ask if we can share our stories with them, and each member of our ministry team, at some point during the week, will share his/her two minute testimony – a summarized account of how we became followers of Jesus Christ. After we share our stories, we ask our Navajo hosts if they have any questions about what we shared, and the interactions that follow have been some of the most wonderful moments many of us have ever experienced in ministry. Last summer alone, twenty-one Navajo gave their lives to Jesus during our time on the reservation!
As we prepare for our departure on July 14th, there are lots of details to handle. Each team member is required to memorize Scripture, prepare their two minute testimony, have an evangelistic encounter with an unbeliever in our community, fast for forty days from something that tends to be a distraction in our lives (i.e. social media, TV, or movies), and read and journal for forty days from daily readings in Our Daily Bread. Then, the days preceding our departure, we have to prepare all the food for travel, rent vehicles, attend training sessions, and even learn a dance routine we present to our Navajo guests on our last night with them. Our last day on the reservation, we host a gigantic pizza party and invite everyone we’ve interacted with during the weeks and often, hundreds of Navajo friends attend! Our last day on the reservation, we present our dance routine, share some of our testimonies, and then a member of the IM staff shares a gospel message. It really is an extraordinary opportunity to minister to a group of people who are often overlooked and underappreciated.
What a privilege it’s been to serve the Navajo and share the message and love of Christ for these past twenty years in Arizona. Everyone in the VBC family may not be able to actually hop in one of our vehicles and join our caravan for this amazing journey, but hopefully, we can all be united in prayer for what God will accomplish through us during our time on the reservation. We can’t wait to return and share the stories of God’s provision with you all.
Author: Tim Barley , pastor to High School Students & their Families