When Nancy Crosby walked onto the Kayenta church property on a sunny day in July, it was like being jolted awake from a long sleep. For the past 14 months, the Navajo Nation, where Kayenta is located in Arizona, had been under rigid COVID restrictions; no one had been allowed to gather at all. Now, the church was bustling with 77 volunteers from the Ultimate Workout, Maranatha Volunteers International’s annual mission trip for teenagers. To Crosby, the sight, noise, and energy of so many people was startling in the best possible way.
“When I came there the first time and I saw all those kids—I can’t even describe it. It was just so beautiful,” said Crosby, who is the Native Ministries coordinator for the Nevada-Utah Conference. Crosby had been praying for this moment for years. After the devastating closure of Monument Valley Mission School, located 25 miles away, she dreamed of opening a new school in Kayenta. She shared her idea with Maranatha, and the organization made an initial site visit, but there was no funding in place to move forward.
Then, in early 2021, Maranatha needed a domestic location for the Ultimate Workout when the overseas trip fell through because of COVID. While Maranatha does not fundraise for projects in North America, a donor offered to fund the Kayenta school project and provide a service opportunity for the youth. It was the first of many miracles that occurred in the process of organizing the project.
On July 15, teens from all over the world arrived in Kayenta. Using the church property as base camp, the volunteers spent the next 10 days constructing the walls of the school, running a health education program, coordinating a Vacation Bible School, erecting a greenhouse, and completing a variety of tasks at 13 homes, such as painting, gardening, and building fences.
“Your work, your effort, what you did here is making a really big impact for generations to come,” said Lorraine Whitehair, member of the Kayenta church, to the volunteers on Sabbath. “Know that we appreciate all the effort that you put into this community, and we just love you to pieces.”
Crosby says that the project energized the members, even piquing new interest in those who had stopped coming to church. But it wasn’t just the local community that was impacted. The volunteers, who engaged in intensive worship each day, were also transformed. At the end of the mission trip, 17 teens gave their hearts to Jesus during a beautiful baptism in the San Juan River in Mexican Hat, Utah.
“Maranatha’s mission is to build people, and we do that through the construction of urgently needed buildings. I can certainly say we have accomplished our mission for this project,” said Lisandro Staut, director of volunteer projects at Maranatha. “People’s lives were built—the local people, volunteers, and each one of us—as we all experienced spiritual, physical, and mental growth thanks to the work of God in Kayenta.”
By Julie Z. Lee