In most of our Village Missions churches, the culture is similar to what you would experience in your home church. You could visit and know what to expect, perhaps know some of the songs that are sung, and understand the pastor’s sermon easily. But in America’s southwest, we are serving Navajo communities, and the culture is unique in many ways.
You might ask, “What makes the Navajo ministry, the Navajo church, different from mine?” The answer starts with the culture on the reservation, a culture bound up with the Navajo language. Our Navajo missionaries tell us, “When you begin to lose the language, you lose the culture.” With that in mind, our Navajo services are held in the Navajo language, using a Navajo translation of the Bible. Most members of the congregation speak English only as a second language, and it is rarely heard in these churches.
The reservation where we serve is economically depressed, with over 65% of the community unemployed. Because of that, churches are often run down, and the congregations have a hard time supporting a pastor — if they can find one that understands their culture. The economic situation feeds other problems: alcoholism, which in turn adds depression, medical ailments, violence, and abuse.
This is a culture that desperately needs Jesus, but often resists Him. Salvation sometimes leads to a conflict between the Christian culture and the Navajo culture, making it so important for the pastor to live as a Christian in that Navajo culture. As our Navajo consultant Nelson Betoney said, “The outside world doesn’t understand the unique conditions here…they often alienate the very people they are trying to reach.”
We have served on the Navajo reservation for three years. In that time, the church in Defiance, New Mexico has grown to around 50 people on a given Sunday. Two Village Missions churches visited the church on missions trips and reached out to the community in that way. There are opportunities for more churches to be opened, but we are praying for pastors who lovingly and prayerfully understand the unique condition of the Navajo community.
We’d love for you to be a part of our Navajo ministry. You can give towards physical needs or even plan to take a group there to work. Just contact us for more information.