Covered in dust, 9-year-old Morgan walked over to where Nehemiah, his 11-year-old brother, stood drinking cool water from a large cup. The two boys watched as a swarm of men sawed and hammered and carried heavy pieces of lumber to the building site. The frame of the new Navajo community center was taking shape, and it felt good to work with the volunteers.
“I must have carried a hundred pieces of pipe today,” Morgan said.
“I know how you feel,” Nehemiah answered, wiping some water off his chin. My shoulder and arm are sore from hammering nails all morning. But look at the progress we’re making! The frame of the building is almost done!”
Nehemiah and Morgan are Native Americans. They are descendants of the original people who settled North America thousands of years ago. They live in the southwestern United States with their parents, who are planting a church among the Navajo people. The brothers work alongside their parents to show God’s love to their neighbors and friends.
It’s not easy for Native Americans to choose to learn about Jesus. For many generations the Navajo people have followed traditional beliefs that include a deep respect, something like worship, for the earth and all the life forms on it. When a person believes something is the truth for a long time, it is hard to change and believe something different.
And when the White settlers moved west to carve farms out of the new land, they often treated the Native Americans poorly. Wars broke out over land ownership, and the Native Americans were forced to move off their land and onto reservations. It’s little wonder, then, that the Native Americans wanted nothing to do with the White people or their religion.
Nehemiah and Morgan’s parents are working to change that. They want to show their Native American friends God’s love in ways that they can understand. The family has helped rebuild people’s hogans [HOH-guhns, Navajo traditional homes], treated their medical needs for free, and made friends with them. While their parents talk to the grown-ups about God, the brothers find ways to tell their friends about Jesus.
“My friends spend lots of time watching television and playing video games,” Nehemiah adds. “I try to help them see that our bodies need to run and jump, and our lungs need fresh air to breathe. So I invite them to spend time outside. We play and explore the desert around our home.”
The Navajo own large flocks of sheep. Morgan and Nehemiah sometimes volunteer to help herd the sheep. “This is a good time to talk to our friends about how God created the world and the animals,” Nehemiah says. “We point out the beautiful rock formations around us, the animals such as owls, lynx, fox, and bobcats, and tell them God made each of them. This helps our friends see God’s work and understand His love.”
Nehemiah and Morgan know there are many ways to tell their friends about Jesus. When their parents hold health programs to teach the Navajo people how to live more healthful lives, Nehemiah and Morgan help. “Our parents hold cooking classes, stop-smoking classes, and diabetes education classes,” Nehemiah says. “Morgan and I invite people to attend the classes, and we talk to the people about how they can have healthier bodies and happier lives.”
They’ve helped with Vacation Bible School programs. And when Christmas comes, the brothers enjoy helping wrap gifts that have been donated to the children and adults living on the Navajo reservation. “Most of the gifts are practical things, such as towels, bedding, coats, and shoes,” Morgan says. “And we help pack food baskets for the neediest families.”
Jesus loves the Navajo children and wants them to be with Him in heaven. Let’s pray for Nehemiah and Morgan and their family as they tell the story of Jesus to the Navajo people. And part of the Thirteenth Sabbath offering on December 24 will help Nehemiah and Morgan’s parents plant a church among the Navajo in Arizona.