Grandmother, am I really going to go to the school where my brothers are?” little Krystal asked.
“Yes, child,” Grandmother said.
Krystal left home when she was still quite young to study at Holbrook Indian School, a Seventh-day Adventist school for Native American children. Many nights she cried for her family, but in time she was able to enjoy her classes and her new friends at the school.
She enjoyed going home during school breaks, but began to feel torn between her family’s traditional beliefs and her growing faith in Jesus.
Today 16-year-old Krystal is the only Christian in her family. “My family follows traditional Navajo culture and beliefs,” Krystal explained. “The Navajo religion is closely tied with the natural world. According to Navajo beliefs, everything possesses a spirit, and the Navajo strive to live in harmony with each other and the world. Medicine men perform ceremonies to mark milestones in a person’s life or to bring healing.”
At school Krystal was encouraged to compare her traditional beliefs to what she was learning about God. “I felt the pull to follow the ways of my ancestors,” she said. “But as I learned about Jesus, I prayed and asked God what He wanted me to do.”
It wasn’t easy to make a decision to follow Jesus. Can I be a Christian and still be Navajo? she wondered. “As I read the Bible I began to see that salvation includes everyone, including the Navajo people,” said Krystal. “This helped me to decide to follow Jesus.”
Krystal knew she had to tell her family of her decision to follow Christ.
Her grandmother was surprised but she agreed. “If it is what you truly want to do, I am happy for you.”
Krystal wanted her grandmother to tell her grandfather, but Grandmother shook her head. “No, my child. You must do that yourself.”
Krystal wanted Grandfather to understand why she wanted to follow Christ, but she feared his rejection. He had taught her most of what she knew about her Navajo heritage and beliefs. She decided to tell her grandfather in the Navajo language about her decision. She practiced the Navajo words many times before she felt ready to speak to her grandfather.
Krystal shares her faith in God with her family every chance she gets. “We often talk about my beliefs, and I pray that they understand that following Jesus is not just for the White man.”
It isn’t just her family that Krystal wants to reach for Jesus. “When I was little, groups of people would hold Vacation Bible School for us children,” she said. “I decided that I want to do that too.”
Native Americans are scattered across the United States and Canada. Many of these people have never heard the story of Jesus. Krystal’s dream of telling other Native American children about Jesus became a reality when her school invited her to join a team of Native American youth to teach other Native American children about God through Vacation Bible School programs.
The team of young people uses music, skits, crafts, and stories to teach children about Jesus and living a healthful life. “Many Native Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs,” said Krystal. “Others suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. I want to help people know that simple changes in their lifestyle can make them healthier.”
Krystal now knows that she can be Navajo and a Christian. “Being Navajo is my identity; it’s who I am. I can be proud of that,” she says. “I’m also a Christian, and I can be proud of that, too.”
As Krystal prepares to graduate from Holbrook, she looks forward to a brighter future. “It’s time to work toward making changes in our Navajo nation,” she says. “I want to help others understand that Jesus is God’s Son, not a human invention. I want to continue my studies and then return to live among my people and help them. I want them to know that Jesus loves them and died for them.”
Krystal’s life was changed during the years she studied at Holbrook Indian School. Through Holbrook’s program children from several Native American nations are learning that Jesus binds them as brothers and sisters. And our mission offerings help make this possible.