Located on the southern edge of Phoenix’s sprawling metropolitan area, a small church and school embody the missionary spirit that harkens back to the beginning of work in the Southwest. The Maricopa Village church was founded on Gila River Indian Community tribal land in 1936, and the Maricopa Village Christian School (MVCS) followed 10 years later as a mission to serve the native people.
“Margie the Matriarch” has been a passionate advocate of the church and school for 76 years. When there has been no elder or pastor, there was always Margie.
Margie’s parents, Phillip and Grace Monahan, raised six children in a one-room mud house. Grace Monahan joined the Maricopa Village church first and learned about the power of prayer from Elder Follette. When her son became gravely ill and doctors had given up any hope of recovery, her faith in prayer was put to the test.
“If it’s really true that you can do anything, I will go to church on Saturdays if you heal my son,” Grace prayed before going to sleep. When she awoke, her son was up and playing. Grace kept her part of the bargain and brought her family to the church and enrolled Margie and her sister in MVCS.
Margie eventually went to Holbrook Indian School and graduated from eighth grade before continuing her education at Thunderbird Adventist Academy. Despite her hard work baking bread, cleaning houses, and working in the Thunderbird Furniture Factory, Margie was unable to afford finishing at Thunderbird. But she studied and passed her GED, got a nursing degree, and had a 32-year career at St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Phoenix.
She never stopped serving her home community and continued to help the mission of the Maricopa Village church. She visited houses to pass out bread, invited people to church, and helped Elder and Mrs. Berg with Native American camp meetings. Now she sees the same passion for service in Al and Carolyn Chatman.
“I thought Elder Al and Carolyn would leave like many others did after a few months. But they have been here 10 years,” she said. “Elder Al works here in the heat after his full-time job in IT. Carolyn is our angel and great with children. They fought for us.”
The respect is mutual. “’Margie the Matriarch’ is the glue, the champion of the school,” Carolyn said. “She is Elder Al’s right hand in all things needed at the church and school.”
As was the case with Margie, the Maricopa Village Christian School community allows students to grow, develop, and continue their Adventist education despite challenges.
Many of the Native American students that attend MVCS for elementary school come from impoverished and traumatic situations. Slade Notah is currently a sophomore at Holbrook Indian School. But he faced adversity, including losing a close family member, his 16-year-old cousin, who was shot and killed in 2018.
“Growing up,” Slade said, “we prayed for seven years before 11 of us family members moved into new homes and out of our small house that was built for three.”
Slade continued, “I am so grateful to Elder Al, his wife, Carolyn, and Pastor Eddie Turner for their support.”
While attending MVCS, Slade developed an interest in law when he participated in the Court Works program. The youth enrichment program, hosted annually at the Federal Courthouse in Phoenix, introduces students to careers in the legal system, and Slade is now considering becoming a lawyer.
“We look for what motivates kids to finish, but God’s work is the ultimate goal,” stated Al Chatman.
Nahzoni Haycock attended MVCS for her elementary education and recently graduated from Thunderbird Adventist Academy.
“Elder Al and Carolyn are my Christian mentors,” Nahzoni said.
Nahzoni was actively involved in National Honor Society, Campus Ministries, and the Student Association while at TAA, and she plans to study biophysics at Andrews University.
Much like Slade, Nazhoni and her siblings faced challenges. The kids moved between their mother’s and father’s houses across states. However, in 2014, they moved permanently to Arizona to live with their dad. “It was tough shifting to mom’s house with alcohol and cigarettes and dad’s house with church,” Nahzoni recalled.
“God brought the kids back to me,” Larry reflected, “and brought us all back to the church through the school. The Maricopa Village church shows love.”
By Tennille Feldbush and Jeff Rogers