We host three types of mission experiences. I believe that you will find one that suits your team’s needs, desire to be stretched and age range.
The three types are:
- Home Repair and Improvement Experiences
- Service Experiences
- Outreach/Engagement Experiences
Home Repair and Improvement Experiences are just what they sound like. Building Projects. Painting Projects. Repair and Remodeling Projects. Putting in small solar systems for lights. These are great entry level Experiences for groups that want some interaction with the Navajo population, but in a casual, “helping you out and getting to know you” way.
In this type of Experience, you will get up early, have a hot breakfast and head for the work-site. We work on your project from around 9 until about noon and we break for lunch. Lunch is done at the work-site and is usually pretty simple. Sandwiches, chips and drinks. We do this so that the family you are working with can eat lunch with you and you have a little “down time” to interact with them. We do a devotional type study after lunch to motivate you spiritually – but also to have a chance for your host family to listen to Christians talking about everyday life’s ups and downs. It’s a powerful time for everyone. Clean up for the day and packing up all the tools take us to around 2 pm where you’ll have a little free time to shower up, relax (sleep!) until around 5 pm. (There are times when the project you’ve tackled may be bigger and will require more afternoon work on-site.) Dinner is at 5:30 and at 7 we’ll take you to somewhere spectacular for sunset, worship, prayer, reflection and whatever else God leads us into. The family you’ll be working with will be included in this evening time if possible. Not all families will be comfortable or willing to join us.
The people you are helping may not have running water and electricity. They are often older Navajos who love to have company. When your work-site has only older Navajos living there, we provide a translator to help facilitate communication.
There are younger families with kids who need housing help, as well. Unemployment on the Rez is far above 50% for women and 70% for men. The main way of surviving is through government aid programs that are used to fulfill the US Government’s Treaty obligations to the Navajo People. “Good” housing is scarce and many people live in what you will consider “shacks.”
Home Repair and Improvement Experiences vary somewhat in price as we calculate the cost of the project you’ll be working on and include it in the overall cost. For instance, if your team is made up of adults and older teens, you may want to tackle replacing a roof or building a shed. The cost for this type of project is more expensive than the cost for repainting a house, building a porch or handicap ramp or – this always sounds gross to people, but it is such a valuable project – building and pitting an outhouse.
One of our newest, and by far most “wow” inspiring projects in this category is installing a simple solar system for people. This is generally in the lower cost category of work projects. Roofing and Shed Building are in the higher category.
Service Experiences are a variety of things. They run the gamut from full blown VBS programs, sports camps, nursing home visitation, parent’s night out to community clean-up where you’ll help a family get their homestead put back in order. This might include raking, hoeing, hauling trash or simply helping them make the place look better in the way that they believe it needs to be done. We have built old-tire fences for people. We have hauled away trailer-loads of junk to Kayenta, 75 miles away and the closest place to get rid of things like refrigerators, tires, etc.
The schedule is similar to that of a Work Experience, with some flexibility built in to accommodate the various types of ministry you may be doing.
Fridays will often find our Service teams at the Chinle Flea Market. One cool thing to do is have your team save up nice, sale-able items, sell them at the flea market and then bless the family you are serving with whatever you make that day.
The service part of ministry can be a part of any mission trip. Many groups that come for a building project take some time in the afternoon to visit the nursing home or take a group of kids swimming.
Outreach/Engagement Experiences are for groups that really want to share the Good News of Jesus with our community.
This is a new type of outreach here in Chinle. It allows your team and our church to reach out to people who are rarely reached. This experience will get you up close and personal with Navajo families. You’ll get to experience how they live, laugh and love as an extended family – because you will be there with them.
We start these days with a morning quiet time, hot breakfast and prayer – prayer for the people we will interact with today. Around 10 am we take our 20×30 canopy, food prep equipment, food, tables and chairs and we invade a family compound.
What’s a family compound?
Navajo’s have an unusual way of living. Grandma and grandpa, long ago, built a hogan (the traditional Navajo house structure, and began to have a family. (My wife’s is the youngest of eighteen children in her family) As the kids grow up and get married, they build their own house fifty feet from mom and dad’s hogan. All the kids do that and you have six or eight houses built close together. Grandma and grandpa begin to have grandkids and, as they grow up and get married, they build houses fifty feet from their own mom and dad’s place. Now, in our time, many families live in these housing compounds of their own making.
I do some prep-work and set it up with the families so that they allow us to come in and cook lunch for everyone – and we invade. We involve every Navajo we can in this process so that you are working side by side with them to prepare lunch. Some of you will go door to door with one of your new Navajo friends inviting all of their relatives to lunch. One of you may see something simple that needs to be fixed on a house – and you can fix it. Some of you will be setting up the canopy with me, putting out tables and chairs. Some of you may be playing a little basketball with the kids who are just itching to play with you!
All of this to build some instant relationships.
And then we have a lunch BBQ or Navajo Taco feast or – well, you get the idea. We bring out a cake and sing happy birthday to anyone who has had a birthday that month.
And, as you’re eating and talking, you’ll have a chance to use a couple of tools that we’ve given you that seem to work well here on the Rez. You’ll have been taught how to engage them in spiritual conversation. And we’ll see what God will do.
When cleanup is done, you’ll have had opportunities to talk with locals about their spiritual beliefs in significant ways and you will, likely, have had an opportunity to share what you believe about Jesus with them.
You’ll get a break. Get some sleep. Take a shower. Text one of your new friends. Upload a video update to your church back home. We’ll grab some supper and, a little before sunset, we’ll worship. You’ll have invited the people you engaged earlier in the day. Some of you will give testimonies. Some of you may share the Word. Got someone who can play guitar and two or three people who can sing? They will. Everyone gets a chance to pray over every need shared. And as the sun goes down in a blaze of color and the canyon or the sand-dunes go dark – you’ll be ready for some sleep and you’ll be energized for the day ahead of you.
And it builds every day. You get better at it and more comfortable – every day. And then – you take it home and use it there.
Those are the three Experiences we offer.
In all three, we try and involve the local population in as many meals as possible without being over-run by people wanting free food. We give you access to all of our video training for any of the three Experiences so that, if someone on a Service Experience or a Work Experience wants to engage the people around them, they have the ability to.
In the Outreach/Engagement Experience we ask that you learn the tools we will give you and that you practice them on each other (and maybe a few non-believing friends) as part of your Team Building preparation.
You also have the option for me to come, in person, and do hands-on training with your group for a few evenings or a weekend. Sometimes it simply helps to see it work in person, to be hands on with the person who developed the tools and to hear it from someone who is experienced at this kind of engagement.