Arizona: Planting Seeds in the Desert
by Hailey Bryant, Journalist Intern
For several years Lipscomb Missions has had the desire to broaden its’ outreach to the largely neglected Native American community. After months of researching several locations, the Lipscomb Missions staff was led to minister/missionary Nick Rice and his wife, Heidi, in Arizona, who work with the Kayenta Church of Christ. “Nick’s vision for ministry and his ability to be a host partner on the ground for a mission team seemed to line up with the goals and purpose that we have for our trips,” says Mark Jent, Director of Missions Outreach. “It’s been exciting to see this intentional initiative come to fruition.”
Senior Melissa Wardwell stepped up as the student leader for the trip, “I never thought I could lead a mission team on a trip like this,” she explains, as she learned a great deal about her leadership ability. “From watching this team start from scratch, to learning about and loving the Navajo culture, God really challenged me spiritually through this trip,” says Wardwell.
Partnered with Nashville-based ministry Healing Hands International, one of the focused efforts and main objectives of the trip included hosting gardening workshops as the team worked alongside members of the community to build a sustainable community garden that will provide fruits and vegetables thanks to a drip irrigation system.
Freshman Rebecca Carden had an interesting reason for her choice of the Arizona Navajo being her first ever mission trip. “My mother is Native American and I always wanted to see what the culture was like, so when I saw this trip, I thought it would be an awesome way to get to know my family culture while serving,” she explains. Albeit a team of nine may seem small to some, this ended up being a blessing as the team worked together, “I think the fact that our team was so close is the reason our trip was so successful,” says Carden.
The Kayenta church consists of about 50 members, which is one of the larger churches on the Navajo Reservation, which spans 27,000 square miles across three states. Rice shared that his years spent in Arizona have been rewarding, but not easy, “The work here is challenging and never-ending. We have all of the challenges of any church work, but with none of the workers or support staff or resources. Mission teams such as Lipscomb’s are an encouragement and give us a boost of energy to carry on in the work.”
For team member Melissa Everidge, not only was this her first mission trip, it was also her first time to fly! “The best part of the trip for me was to hear one woman say ‘when you guys come back next year,’” said Everidge. “This helped me feel confident in that all we had to do was be present in the community, helping where we were needed and being open to learn from them as we represented Christ.”
In 2013, Lipscomb has nearly 20 of the 51 mission teams that have been serving in the same location for 10+ years. Another 15 teams have been on the ground between 5-9 years. “When we launch a new trip such as this, our hope is that we’ll be serving alongside the church and community for many, many years to come. We find that in efforts such as this, the greatest impact for the Kingdom is when you take the time to build upon those relationships trip after trip, year after year,” says Jent.
Although the University’s first trip to Kayenta is only mere days in the rearview mirror, Lipscomb Missions is already looking forward to building upon this newfound ministry partnership in 2014 and beyond.