This morning I spoke in church. I had 10 minutes, but took more (sorry pastor.) Below are the notes I started with... in my actual message I elaborated the points a bit more.
About 18 months ago I was sitting in one of these pews and I saw in the bulletin that men were needed to be Dorm Leaders at the Southwest Indian Ministry Center in Arizona. I really had no interest, but knew that God wanted me to go. Why? Arizona isn’t exactly a 3rd world country. But I listened and went. It was a nice experience, but I didn’t think it was life-changing. Then God got to work on me.
While being a dorm leader I got to know 12 boys. Some of them gave their hearts to Jesus. But I soon realized that although they had had a great week, they were going back home for 51 weeks where no one would be taking them to church or answering their questions. I began to have great concern and decided to go back and take my family with me.
After making this decision, it became clear I was to stay longer than a week. So we planned on a month and due to the generosity of this church and the many prayers we were able to go.
People asked us why we were going. What would we be doing? I didn’t really have an answer other than I felt I was supposed to go and we would be exploring life as a missionary… doing whatever was needed of us… which I knew included 2 teen camps and probably cleaning some toilets.
I could talk up here for an hour and would never be able to fully explain the blessing of the experience. Everything fell right into place… we met so many amazing and wonderful people along our journey… we felt so much peace during the entire trip.
So what is the American Indian Field?? On the outskirts of Phoenix, there was a Native American Boarding School… now called the Southwest Indian Ministry Center. The boarding school is now closed but it is the site of many camps, conferences, and home base for missionaries. It has dorms, meeting spaces, a gym, cafeteria, offices, apartments, chapel, etc. This is where the 5 of us stayed in a small apartment with 1 bathroom. (Not 3rd world, but smaller than what we are used to.) There are other missionaries who stay out on the reservations that surround Phoenix. Most are bi-vocational, meaning they have a job with the tribe as well as being a missionary. Working for the tribe is the only way a non-Native is allowed to live on the reservation. The Southwest Indian Ministry Center plus all of these other missionaries surrounding make up the American Indian Field.
So, why did God send us? Why did we go?
Could He have sent us to meet and build relationships with missionaries? We did.
Could he have sent us to show two boys, who live 3 hours away in the middle of nowhere, that I care about them enough to travel across the country to see them again in their tiny village?
Could he have sent us to support the groundskeeper of the SIMC who at the age of 70-something travels these 3 hours every weekend to be the pastor of a small church?
Could it be for the Native people we met, some with very troubled pasts, who are now exuberant and on-fire for Jesus. Just amazing testimonies!
Could it be to see the conditions so many Native Americans live in. Roads with crosses on them where loved ones have died in drunk driving accidents. Where people live in trailers that need a lot of work in the middle of a land that has little to offer.
I’d like to share what my son, Noah wrote while we were there on our blog:
“While it’s not all this way, the road we traveled on yesterday was long and basically straight. No curves, no hills, and basically no traffic. Easy road to travel on, right? Well I will answer that by covering the first difference; there were more crosses and little memorials on the one-and-a-half hour drive than I have seen in probably all in the state of Ohio. The main reason for all these deaths is drunk driving. The reservations have no lack of casinos, so there is no shortage of these kind of incidents. As one of the songs we sang yesterday in church put it, it was a “road marked with suffering.” I wasted no time in pointing this out to my parents, and they agreed; this song really describes the situation here in Arizona. As if to prove my point, the song also says “when I’m found in the desert place” and “when the sun’s shining down on me” (most people would take this to mean when all is bright and happy, but trust me on this one: the sun really shines down on you here in Arizona, whether things are going good or not).
Now given the situation that those Native Americans are living in, with so much death, high suicide rates, and everything else, I would just like to say I was completely not ready for what met me when I met the people attending the church. These people were some of the most faithful believers that I have ever met. These people truly loved God, and you could tell. One of them said something along the lines of “if Job continued to praise God after what happened to him then so can I”. After talking to these people for awhile, I was just amazed at how even when they had rough backgrounds, they still praised God without hesitation. In fact, they never hesitated to share God’s love either, and this went for some of the others we met outside of the church. We met a restaurant owner names Mondo who always shares the love of Christ with all of his customers and how God has blessed him, a man named Marco who was a sort of taxi driver who always talked about how God can change your life, and a man who had spent time in jail, and now is trying to gain his daughters’ trust back so he can get them to hopefully come to church with him. Even when they are found in the desert place, when the sun is shining down on them, on the road marked with suffering, they never hesitate to say “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” As the song so perfectly points out, “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.”
If this type of attitude can be found on the reservations of Arizona, then it should be abundant in places like Ohio and Indiana.”
So, why did God send us? Why did we go?
Could it be for the one teenager who came to the first camp and would have been sent home, but got to stay and experience camp because 3 other boys… the Darfi brothers, and 1 missionary kid were there to experience the camp as well. And was this experience so my boys could make close friends with a Native and see that he is just like them, made and loved by God.
Could He have sent us because the second camp was full of teens and there was a shortage of staff? We taught Bible class and Cooking class as well as cleaned a lot of floors and toilets.
In my Bible Class we talked about how hanging with the wrong crowd can make it easier to sin, but hanging with the right crowd can help us not fall into temptation. We admitted that we have all sinned, and Romans 6:23 says, “23 For the wages of sin is death…” Every teen knew this meant hell. What they didn’t know was the rest… “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Did he place me at the right place at the right time? To go give water-inflatable instructions to a group of kids at the same moment an impromptu alter call was given. For me to pray and weep for them in the back of the chapel … to see many listen to God’s call …many stay crying and praying … and to find one adult short allowing me to fill the gap and pray with a youth?
Why? Why were we suppose to go? … He answered me this week. Just like my biological father used to say, “Because I said so.” Because I asked you to.
Not only does God tells us through His inspired words to go and make disciples of men. There is example after example after example of God asking people to do something… something simple… like be a dorm leader… or take the boat out a little so I can preach… and when they do, blessings are poured out… and when they don’t, blessings and opportunities to share the Gospel are missed.
So… what did we do in Arizona? We listened to God’s calling and obeyed. I now know why missionaries have trouble connecting with kids when they aren’t at camp… they live too far away, in a dangerous place, where they couldn’t spend the night if they wanted to. God has me mauling over this issue and a solution. But for now, God is calling us back. We’re trying to discern whether it is for another month in the summer or for a long-term commitment. We continue to pray for His direction and we would ask you to pray for us also.
If you’d like to know more about our trip, you can go online to thedarfusfamily.org