Going to the laundromat is a weekly ritual that I dislike, but it’s a necessary part of life on the Navajo reservation. So I try to make the most of the situation by starting a “laundromat ministry.”
I tuck into my laundry basket some Radiant Native Health magazines and other literature for my Navajo neighbors and place them on the tables and chairs in the laundromat.
I’m a people watcher, so I enjoy watching people react to the free magazines. Some read them cover to cover; others take them home. Still others just push them aside.
On this day, however, I had brought some new booklets called Walking With Jesus [Steps to Christ in Navajo]. I left some in the laundromat and kept some to give out in town when my laundry was finished.
I was looking specifically for Navajo women, and my first stop was the grocery store. When I arrived at the store, I saw four Navajo women sitting outside the store around a snack table. I knew that they were hoping to get some money for food. These were four of the many homeless people who stay drunk as much as possible. They sleep in the municipal park and are usually avoided by most people in town.
But they also get hungry. I had $5 left from my laundry money, and I wanted to buy them some food. I counted out four of the Walking With Jesus booklets and started to get out of the truck. Just then the Holy Spirit impressed me to take an extra booklet. I grabbed another and walked over to the table and sat down to visit with the women. Before long one of the women asked, “What do you have in your hand?”
“Oh, I brought these for you,” I said. “This booklet is written in Navajo and English.”
“Oh, good,” the woman said. “I don’t read Navajo.” Each woman took a book and flipped through it.
As we talked, I asked them if they were hungry and offered to take them to a local fast-food restaurant, where we could get a burrito for less than a dollar. They were eager to go.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a man, probably a tourist, behind me. Apparently he had been listening to our conversation, and he asked, “Could I see the book you have?” Suddenly I realized why God had told me to grab an extra copy. Gladly I gave him the book. He thumbed through it and then reached into his pocket and pulled out a $20 bill. “This is to help with your ministry,” he said.
I was amazed, and all I could say was “Wow! Thank you!” I turned to the women and asked, “Now, where do you want to eat?” The women named several places and soon agreed on KFC, another fast-food restaurant in the area. They all piled into the back of my truck for the ride to the restaurant.
We arrived and placed our order at the drive-through window, and then we drove to the park where they stay. We sat down at a picnic table, and I bowed my head to thank God for the money to buy the food. I wanted to bring these women’s minds to the Creator. Then they ate as if it was the most bountiful feast they’d had in months. We enjoyed our time together. They finished eating and thanked me for the food and the books. Then I left with a wave.
The park where they slept was their home; the picnic table was their kitchen table. The few moments I had spent with them were like those of a guest. I am deeply saddened by the way God’s precious children live, and I’m keenly aware that all I can do is be kind to them, pray for them, and maybe treat them to an unexpected meal.
During the summer up to 40 Navajo make the park and empty lots in Page, Arizona, their home. That’s a lot for a community of about 8,000. Not all return to the reservation when cold weather returns. During the winter they live outside, warming themselves with alcohol before they fall asleep. Some never wake up, but die from exposure.
We may never be able to solve all the problems these people have, but with God’s help we can offer them a better life and let them hear the message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ. ⎭
Kelley Fowler and her husband, Allen, are planting a church among the Navajo in northern Arizona.