This coming weekend is one of the most impactful times of ministry for Navajo Ministries, including the Christmas Connections and the Live Navajo Nativity. For those new to Navajo Ministries, it may be good to give a bit of history to both of these special events.
When Kay and I arrived in 1975 the outreach to Navajo families at Christmas included a visit to a home church located on the bluffs south of town which is now part of the NAPI Irrigation project on a Tuesday evening before Christmas. Sampson Yazzie was then pastor of the Christian Reformed Church in Farmington, now called Maranatha Fellowship. The evening included a potluck meal including mutton stew and some other items I never tasted in Pennsylvania. There was also a Bible teaching and carols sung in Navajo. At the conclusion of their fellowship they came by a long table outside that we had loaded with blankets, coats, toys and food to share with their families at Christmas.
A few years later we initiated a new way to reach more needy families living in the Four Corners region of the Navajo Nation. The Christmas Care-a-vans as we called them involved our houseparents, kids and staff members as we headed out to four designated areas the two Saturdays before Christmas. Social Workers or Navajo Pastors would go with us to those in greatest need. Those days were long, but the memories of singing carols in dirt-floored hogans, wrapping a warm blanket around the frail shoulders of a grandma and seeing the tears flow freely as we prayed and shared was worth it all.
Several years ago we again adjusted our outreach to Navajo families. Now, Joe and Gerri Begay are connecting us with a dozen Navajo churches located both near and far across the Navajo Nation. For the past few months Kay, Paula, Rolanda and others have been sorting coats, blankets, and other items for distribution. On Tuesday the final touches have been packed including pinto beans, fruit and peanuts. The Salvation Army will also add some items that will be loaded into pick-up trucks and vans on Friday when Navajo pastors arrive to load up and return to their part of the vast reservation land and begin their deliveries and ministry to the 25 neediest families in their area.
These Christmas Connections as we call them now are just that. Donors across the nation have provided funds and prayers towards this outreach. Local friends have brought items in for distribution. The pastors will make the final connections as they pray for and encourage about 300 families [often in the Navajo language] and connect them to Jesus, the Reason for the Season. “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The other ministry continues this Saturday evening, 6-8pm as we present the 33rd annual Live Navajo Nativity to our community. It all began in 1984 when we houseparents, including the Fredericks and Fitz’s decided we had talked about doing this for a few years and it was time to put our words and wishes into action. It was a big hit to the community. During the first few years we presented the Nativity for two nights in a row. Over the years we saw snowfalls and cold temperatures (10 degrees one night). We even had Santa kneeling before the Christ child one year. It was one of our housedads and he had trouble walking after that! In recent years, Navajo choral groups were added as carols are sung. Of course the live animals have added lots of excitement to the evening, especially the year that one of the calves ran down to Lotta Burger. That was before Chick- fil-A was in town.
This event has become a tradition for many families each year as they drive onto the campus, greeted by our little angels and follow the trail of luminaries by the Nativity scene where there is plenty of activity with shepherds watching the sheep and goats, Wisemen presenting their gifts and Mary and Joseph watching over baby Jesus who is wrapped in a cradleboard.
It’s a night to remember … a story to be shared … a blessing to be used of God to provide a LIVING CHRISTMAS CARD to all who come through our grounds that night. “The angel said, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)