The mouse trap snapped in the middle of the night. I smiled. The intruder was caught. I stared up at the pocked ceiling and let my eyes follow the lines of this simple, yet beautiful church. Tonight marked a first—spending the night in a church. The whole experience this past weekend showed the glory of God’s Word with no frills, including the simplicity of our sleeping arrangements.
When I first arranged for my husband and I to visit our host pastor and his wife on Navajo Land in Kayenta, Arizona, we did it without representing our church. We were going as Tony and Nikole Hahn to get our feet wet in missions, to experience a different culture only four hours away from home, but the truth was I’ve felt a tugging towards the Navajos for many years. I don’t know if I would call it a calling or not. That seems so super-spiritual, like I should be wearing robes and a bright, golden halo or something. Daylight Savings Time was our first hurdle.
The Navajo Nation in Arizona is not on Mountain Time, but Daylight Savings Time. We didn’t know this, but we were afraid that mapquest was wrong on how long it would take for us to drive to Kayenta. So we left an hour early and arrived 30 minutes before the start of service and discovered the difference in time. I didn’t have time to print out my notes and instead took my laptop. Teaching Sunday School nearly terrified me.
When our host pastor first mentioned teaching Sunday School, I thought, “I never attended Bible College!” What makes me authoritative to teach young or old? God has put a burden on my heart for people who have “daddy-issues” and so I spoke on how marriage is an illustration of what God wants our relationship with Him to look like. I spoke a little of my testimony, on strong families and marriages, and I used Ephesians 5:30-32 to conclude my talk. Amazingly, the pastor’s sermon coincided with my talk though we didn’t really plan it together. I did tell him what my topic was and our host pastor said it was what the Navajos needed to hear.
When I arrived at the church, I felt comfortable. Even while I was teaching the Sunday School, I really felt God with me. I was in the right place at the right time. The Navajo people are so loving. Their church is a refreshing change from the music, the choirs, the high definition televisions, the order of services, the bands, etc.
The day was spent without access to a television or internet. Cell phone service was spotty. We weren’t familiar with Kayenta and where one could hike. So we drove the 19 miles to Kayenta from the church and did a quick sight-seeing tour. Then, we spent the rest of the day relaxing in the quiet, drinking tea, making a simple dinner, and reflecting on all we observed and experienced.
Experiencing the Word of God without frills felt good, peaceful, and intimate. The people were different than any church I had ever attended. The service had songs sang with just a piano in accompaniment. I felt privileged to hear prayers in Navajo. They had a Navajo class for those who didn’t know English and a Sunday School class for english-speaking Navajos. Young and old gathered in the same room as I taught. They all heard the same message from ages 5 to 70 from all walks of life. The message our host pastor delivered spoke about joy in trials. The Navajo people certainly show this from the gas station attendant, the people getting gas, to the mini-mart. People smiled at you.
People were content with what little they owned. Five or six people lived in some of these one-room hogans. One hogan was beautiful, and in that simplicity, the person who owned it is growing closer to God and her children every day. There are no distractions that our culture, even our Christian culture, offers where she lives. Just her, her community, acres of land, and her children with morning and evening devotions. We arrived to teach and left a student, having learned much more than we taught.
Tony and I made a promise that we would come back once or twice a year to visit and serve. They are so hospitable and kind. You can’t help but love them. I even made new friends with a promise to keep in touch.
Spending the night in a church is by far unique. We also made sure to leave the place as clean as we found it, even cleaner when I disposed of the mouse caught in a trap.
Pastor Will Tsosie and his wife, Lena, have many needs! In the next few weeks, they need plumbers and electricians for the new church building. The next phase of the construction of their new church building begins in September. If you can help provide the workers, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and phone and I will forward it to Pastor Will.