Ministering to the Navajo Nation

( [email protected] ) Dec 30, 2003 07:02 PM EST

FT. WINGATE, N.M. – Of more than 270,000 Navajo Indians in the United States, fewer than 5 percent consider themselves Christians. That’s why North American Mission Board missionary Durk Lynch dedicated his past 11 years to ministering to thousands of Navajo students in high schools across the nation.

Durk’s ministry began in 1992 at Wingate High School in Ft. Wingate New Mexico. Lynch stood before an auditorium of 80 Native American boys to share his testimony and to give them the opportunity to respond to his message.

"After I finished, I asked if anyone wanted to talk further," Lynch said. "Seven boys responded and said they wanted to learn more about Christianity. So we decided to start a Bible study."

Lynch began coming to the dorm one night a week to lead Bible study for those seven boys. Within a short period of time, the Bible study averaged 12-15 attendees and teenagers began to profess faith in Christ.

"One kid ... stuck around to ask, 'How does a person become a Christian?' and we shared the Gospel with him," Lynch said. "He made a decision for Christ. ... I heard that same kid call himself a Christian in the hall the next week and he started coming to the Bible study for Christians."

As the Bible study grew, Lynch had opportunities to study the New Testament Books of Mark, John and Romans with the students and saw several others commit their lives to Christ. But he realized that because Bible study took place in only one of seven Wingate dorms, hundreds of students were missing out on an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

"We said, 'You know, we ought to be praying for these other dorms. We're only meeting in this one dorm. We ought to be praying for these other dorms that the Lord would open the door.' So we did. We started praying."

After several months, God answered their prayer.

"Two years ago we went and sang Christmas carols in those dorms, seven dorms," Lynch said. "And the very next month, in January when the kids came back to school, we found that every dorm was open. ... I don't know why the Lord answered the prayer. ... But we found that we could go into every dorm."

Not only was Lynch allowed to hold Bible study in the other high school dorms, but he was also invited to begin teaching students about Christianity in each Wingate middle and elementary school dorm. Today Lynch and several other members of Wingate Baptist Church visit at least one dorm each week to share the Gospel with students.

Now, Lynch heads the network of Christians who hope to transform the Navajo Nation with the Gospel. And through the ministry opportunities in the schools, several thousand children have heard how they can receive salvation in Jesus Christ.

Despite these successes, however, ministry among the Navajo people often proves difficult, Lynch said.

"In most cultures a pastor will come by and talk with the parents when the child makes a profession of faith and the parents will encourage them to get baptized," Lynch said. "But the opposite occurs here. An adult, someone from the church, a worker from the church comes by and talks to the parents and encourages them to get baptized. Then you start getting resistance."

Many Navajo parents allow their children to learn about Christianity, but they object to their children believing that Jesus is the one sovereign God, he said.

"The Navajo have 47 gods," Lynch said. "Now some people would say, 'OK, we'll have 48.' They think of Jesus as their 48th god. That isn't of course the way we think. ... The Lord is a jealous God. He doesn't want any other gods. And the adults in the culture don't want to let go of those gods."

Lynch prays that God would break down resistance and that a massive revival would sweep the Navajo Nation. But he emphasizes that the results of his ministry are in the Lord's hands. The responsibility of a missionary is sharing faithfully the Good News of Christ, he said.

"It's a sowing ministry," Lynch said. "You're trying to sow the seed, let the seed take some root so that at some time in the future it will bear fruit."