We made a trip out to Prescott Conference this year. Four years ago we took a van of young people, this year it was two cars made up of three older couples. Jimmy and Nellie Britt would be coming to conference 40 years after they attended their first conference here in Prescott. They had come out with Pastor Campbell’s Assembly of God church out of Mounds Illinois. Pastor Campbell would choose to pioneer a church in our fellowship as Jimmy and Nellie went back to carry the reproach of being Campbell disciples. They would eventually migrate to Harry Hills Assembly church in Sparta, which is the fellowship church today.
The other couple were Dennis and Bonnie Eggemeyer, our photography buffs. The trip provided them with many photographic opportunities. Four years ago we stopped in Amarillo and Chinle where we outreached both places as well as preached in Chinle for Pastor Artie Aragon. While there we were treated to a tour of Monument Valley by Darrel and Elrena Holiday. Today they pastor in Kayenta in the Navajo Nation. I organized with Artie to stop in Kayenta and preach for them on our way to conference.
We caravanned to Denver where we motel 6ed it. In the morning the Eggemeyers were off to Estes Park while we slowly made our way west. The Eggemeyers would end up taking some back roads along the ridges of the Rockies and join up with us in Arches National Park in Utah. We would make a stop in Grand Junction, my kind of paradise. Fresh peaches, apricots and cherries! We stopped in the ghost town of Cisco and followed the Colorado River down to Moab and then to the Arches National Park. We stayed there late in the evening as a full moon gave us extra time. We then went to our Airbnb home in Monticello.
Saturday took the Eggemeyer’s north where they found more back roads that created some minor difficulties they had to overcome. The Britt’s and ourselves headed to Kayenta. We were going to do some one minute bible studies and then rendezvous with the pastor and his family for dinner. It was a 95 degree day. Pastor Holiday recommended taking the Valley of the Gods road. We slowly made our way south seeing the sights around Bluff and Mexican Hat. Joan had memories to share from her days living in this area. We stopped at a gift shop in Monument Valley, looking for a piece of turquois for Steve. Then into Kayenta.
I should make this clear: we are talking about Kayenta AZ on the Navajo reservation not Kayenta Utah the home of rich spiritualists. There is a reality essay there if someone wants to write it. Our first stop was the Navajo gift shop where I procured a finished piece of turquois for Steve. The clerks at Monument Valley and here both knew the pastor and agreed that he was a good man.
There is something depressing about the socialist paradises of the world. Is Kayenta one of them? I don’t think I want to venture there at this time. “Without a vision the people perish” says the bible. Can you have a vision in a socialist paradise? I remember talking with Evgeni in Russia. He was paid $110 a month starting out with free housing, utilities and transport. His father, the 30 year factory foreman was paid $120. The only vision is to get in with the ruling crowd and enjoy the goodies that are to be had at the expense of those who will never have access to them because they are stuck in their socialist paradise.
So on this extremely hot July 8th Saturday we looked for some people walking about to do some one minute bible studies. Ran into Jamie, a 21 year old tatted and pierced Navajo girl. She chose “clear mind”. I read the scriptures to her and in looking for some common ground found that she had no knowledge of the bible or church. Invited her to church trusting in God. Joan did “10 rules of dating” with a young girl while I did “clear mind” with Michael Parrish. He had been sober for 4 years but fell back into drinking 2 years ago. He wants to quit drinking, he knows its hard and he knows he needs God. He gladly let me pray for him. He is that picture of a strong Navajo man with warrior tendencies. He is shirtless with a tattoo of an eagle covering his entire back. The long black hair is in a pony tail. Not married; he is a warrior without a war to fight. “Without a vision…” Prison in his past; I can only pray that he can find a future and a vision worth fighting for in Christ.
I stumbled upon a brother and sister who were taking care of a grandchild. Thomas was his name and his sister’s name escaped me by the time I got back to the car. Joan is doing a study with two girl while I wonder “Would they do a one minute bible study with me?” They stared at me hard and finally Thomas said Ok as the grandson was hoping I might play with him. They knew about church and knew they should be there but life was busy and difficult. Talk turned to the work of raising the grandson, education and his future. Moved on without any commitments; but the word of God went forth.
Went to the park where I found Colin and Cornell sitting in the shade of the shelter. I politely, as a diplomat for Christ, ask them if they would please do a one minute bible study with me. I am surprised at the exuberant “yes”. Colin picks “clear mind” and away we go. They both work at Burger King (a Burger King manager would be at church the next morning). Colin volunteered his checkered pass of being in and out of church. He knew Pastor Aragon and had been part of the Chinle church at one time. His wife and his kids are living in Kayenta and he has migrated here doing what he can do to make things happen. He can’t access the free housing because of his criminal record and you can feel his frustration; yet he sees this as an opportunity to change his fortunes. He would share his phone number with me and would text me several times about quitting drinking and getting back into church along with his family. He is in contact with the pastor at this point. Joan and Nellie would be doing studies with several girls in the park.
Pastor Holiday is a together man. He pastors the church while working for the Navajo utility company that serves Kayente. The opportunities to make a life work exist here. I ran into two men who came across as very together to me. I came up to there house. It was the trucks, the tools and the confidence that I felt radiating from them. They heard my request, they paused and gave me a counter offer. They would do a one minute bible study with me if I would go to a Peyote celebration with them that night. I am 62, I did some peyote when I was in my early 20’s. I didn’t fly and I didn’t touch God. I said as much but that was the end of the conversation. The deal could not be made. I would mention this the next morning in my sermon to much knowing laughter in the church.
Finally, we stopped the car as a young man parked his bike. He slipped into the house before I could get to him. I started back to the car, then back to the house and stopped and decided to go and knock on the door. The young man had disappeared within. Jason, an older brother, came to the door. He picked “clear mind” and as I read the scriptures he teared up. As I finished, he wanted to pray. We prayed a salvation prayer. The church is right around the corner, he was familiar with it. His phone wasn’t working but I gave his address to the pastor.
We went onto dinner with the Pastor Holiday and his charming family. His little man son is Anthony. Erriel, the younger daughter still remembers our Erriel from our trip to Monument Valley. They would have a gift to give to our Erriel from their Erriel. Good fellowship, but what a great group of children. Well behaved and able to converse. One of the fruits of no television.
We would return to Monticello to return the next morning for church in the morning and that evening. During the afternoon we would share a meal of Navajo tacos with the family and head over to the most well preserved and elaborate cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan People. We would catch it during a thunderstorm with hail. Pastor was the ultimate host, taking after Pastor Aragon, he had gifts for us as well as a planned adventure. Dennis and Bonnie would head down to Flagstaff and we would join them after the evening service.
After church that night we went out to do one minute bible studies with the church. Joan would talk to a few people including some French tourists, one saved girl and one unsaved girl. We ended up at the park where a spirited basketball game was going on. To get the ball rolling I did one with a young man named Cornell who gave me and the pastor his phone number. I then did one with a father and son who was interested in visiting the church because he had heard good things about it. I then addressed about 8 guys resting after the game finished. The older of them suggested the 10 rules of dating for the sake of all of the young men there. I read the scriptures and wasn’t getting much give and take as I would expect from young guys. The older man explained to be that they were traditional and that’s why they could listen to what I said.
I didn’t know what to say at the time. I mentioned something about all religions have a right and a wrong. He agreed. Since then I thought about the creation stories of the Navajos as well as other tribes. I realized that it is just a story. They could listen to me because it is just a story. Their story has creation and a flood. My story has creation and a flood. Their story has a bad guy, my story has a bad guy. They are just stories about something that no one can know for sure.
But, “without a vision, the people perish”. Or as Pilate said “What is truth?” Is there a “truth” among all of the stories? For me the answer is “yes” for him the answer is “maybe”. Tough to build a firm foundation of life on “maybe”.
In the meantime the pastor’s disciple did two bible studies and prayed with one person for salvation. The pastor also did two bible studies. One of them was with a woman who had come to his church that morning. She was early and the hours weren’t posted so she left just before we arrived at 10:15. Kind of cool, if you know what I mean. Not bad shared the word of God with about 20 people in half an hour in the town of Kayenta.
We said our goodbyes and headed to Flagstaff. Spent the night, enjoyed a morning Starbucks, headed for Prescott with a tourist stop in Williams along Route 66.
Had a great conference!