Paulette lived in a small tribal apartment on the Navajo Nation with her 3 children, her mother Rena, and her brother. After four years of working and saving for a house for her family, she could only afford the concrete foundation. She was discouraged about ever owning a home—until this past summer. Her prayer was answered when 28 volunteers in a multi-congregational youth mission trip came to help.
Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Chinle, AZ, hosted the youth and adults for the week. Upon arrival, one youth participant asked,
“Is this going to be like a field trip, or are we going to make a difference?”
They were motivated by God to serve, and ready to begin their work.
“Usually we provide labor—the host churches or families provide the materials. This trip was way different,” said Mike Eyer, trip organizer, “Through sponsors and fundraising, we bought trusses for Paulette’s house, drywall for Rena’s house, material for the deck at Trinity’s bunkhouse, lumber, and insulation. We framed and installed the trusses on the foundation that Paulette had been able to build. We insulated and dry walled a new addition in Rena’s house and replaced a ceiling damaged by a roof leak. We also performed other landscaping and maintenance at the host church.” Mike also believed that “money kept falling from heaven to further the project.”
With God taking care of the finances, Paulette, her family, and the team accomplished a great deal.
While the trip was filled with hard work, there was also time for worship and play. Lorraine Eyer, another trip organizer, explained, “On Thursday afternoon of our work week, we had our group worship inside Paulette’s house. All of Rena’s family was there. Rena, Paulette, and Robert Woody (from Trinity Presbyterian Church) sang hymns and Jesus Loves Me in Navajo (click here to watch this video). Paulette talked with our group about her life. She shared about her difficult past, and her current faith walk. We wrote blessings on the walls of Paulette’s house. It was a special time.” Paulette made Navajo tacos for the group’s final supper on Friday evening, and she showed the kids how to make fry bread. The youth participants craved these personal faith encounters as much as the fry bread, and God provided.
A recreation activity was built around the location’s resources, and Chinle offered the spectacular Canyon de Chelly. The group hiked into the canyon, camped out under the stars, ate, explored, shared communion, listened to stories of Navajo and Canyon history, and sung songs that bounced off the canyon walls. Mike calls this particular mission trip, “the perfect storm” because of the unique location, inspiring and necessary work, an excellent group, and spectacular recreation.
After the summer trip, there was still more work to be done. Trip participants, along with some new friends, planned another trip to winterize the unfinished house in September. When the second group arrived, they discovered Paulette had been walking to work to save enough money to buy materials and continue the progress on her home. Together, they added walls, fascia, doors, windows, siding, eaves, and gables. It was a heartfelt moment to hand Paulette the keys.
“This kind of trip has a tremendous impact on the people who go and serve,” said Lorraine, “Many times people who want to go on these trips are not regular churchgoers, and may even have serious questions about who God is, but they want to help others. So we’re not just demonstrating God’s love to the people we go to serve, but to those who go to serve as well.”
As long as these trips continue to create disciples for the transformation of the world, Mike and Lorraine Eyer plan to help organize them. The 2015 trip is already in its planning stages. Some volunteers want to go back to Chinle, but only God knows what’s in store. Perhaps another storm is brewing.
Editor’s Note: Participating churches in the 2014 Multi-Congregation Youth Trip were: Liberty UMC in Buckeye, Mission Bell UMC in Phoenix, Dove of the Desert UMC in Glendale, Spirit of Hope UMC and Spirit Song UMC in Peoria, and 2 unnamed non-denominational churches. For information about organizing a hands-on, multi-congregational mission trip with a personal touch, contact: Mission Bell (Phoenix) at email@example.com, Spirit Song (Peoria) at firstname.lastname@example.org, Liberty (Buckeye) at email@example.com, or Spirit of Hope (Peoria) at firstname.lastname@example.org.