Annual Conference Mission Project: Water for the Navajo

Each day in my prayer life I center on gratitude. I know that I am immensely blessed in so many aspects of my life. I have my sons and their families. I can’t hug them right now, but we can be in virtual contact through this time of social distancing. I have a new grand baby. I have a home, a job. Friends to call when I am feeling isolated and alone. And… I have running water.

Running water. I’ve taken that fact of my existence for granted, never questioned its presence. Of course I have running water. Doesn’t everybody who lives in our country? Perhaps not for a period of time – a bill went unpaid, or a system broke down – but surely, soon… it returns.

However for some, its not returning because running water was never there in the first place.

We are clearly aware of several facts. Frequent washing of our hands impacts the COVID – 19 virus’ capability to exist. It stops the virus. For 30% of the people living on the Navajo reservation, they do not have access to indoor plumbing or running water. There is no washing of your hands for 20 seconds. There is no regular access to drinking water – essential to health. This lack of a fundamental resource impacts physical and mental health in these challenging times.

There are approximately 173,000 Navajos who live on reservation. That means approximately 52,000 people go without access to water except what they can purchase, whether for yourself, your children, your elder or even your livestock. Purchasing water is no easy task either, depending on where you live, how far away the store is, and what restrictions you’ll face when purchasing water or other items. Let alone the knowledge that one faces that when they must shop, they expose themselves to greater COVID-19 risk. So the two problems exist: the paradox of staying home to be safe, and the necessary purchase of water for washing hands.

As people of faith, for United Methodists it is in our DNA to help others.

We are called to serve others:

  • He washed His disciples’ feet: “After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:5).

We are called to love others as Christ loved us:

  • “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

We are called to care for the stranger amongst us, as one of our own:

  • “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

We are called that by serving others we are actually serving God:

  • “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

Returning to gratitude… I had concerns about whether to even have a mission project this year. I was concerned about you. People have been furloughed. People have lost jobs entirely. There is fiscal uncertainty about everything from our savings to the return of economic health and growth. Our churches are not meeting in person – we don’t have the ability to “pass the plate”. And yes… some churches are struggling. In talks with colleagues, the one theme that kept returning was the HEART of the Desert Southwest Conference. That we, as one body, recognize our faith practice of helping those in need, the vulnerable among us.

I can return to gratitude easily – because of the heart of the people of the Desert Southwest Conference.

With that said, we continue to pray for the Navajo people. As I write this, some 22,000+ people on the reservation have been tested for COVID-19. Positive cases equal 4,002. Confirmed deaths stand at 140 (05.17.2020) Over half of the positive cases are in Arizona. I know from a recent conversation with Rev. Kathleen Day who serves both our campus ministry at NAU and works as a hospital chaplain, the situation for families who have a member hospitalized is grim, heartbreaking.

So as we pray, as we donate to the mission project, we remember these good words from Matthew: “…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

To donate and affirm your gift to the mission project and your church, please go to the following link:   https://dscumc.org/secure/payments/

Your donation will support emergency relief aid needed so desperately during the pandemic. Please send your donation to the Conference office no later than June 10th.

Note: Our Conference is honored to be working with the Navajo COVID-19 Command Center, Window Rock, in the distribution of water humanitarian aide regarding all Conference donations for the Navajo Nation. Questions? Please contact Billie Fidlin at bfidlin@dscumc.org 



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Author: Billie K. Fidlin

Billie K. Fidlin is the Director of Outreach & Justice for the Desert Southwest Conference. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University and attended Claremont School of Theology for religious studies. Ms. Fidlin currently serves as the President of the Arizona Faith Network in her second term. She is President & Founder of Whisper n Thunder Inc., and sits on various boards including the Justa Center and the Phoenix Police Department's Faith Advisory Council. Her awards include the UM Foundation for Evangelism 2004 Distinguished Evangelist; 2016 Church Women United / United Nations Human Rights Award; 2018 Servant Leader Award AZ Faith Network; 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center Certificate of Recognition; and 2022-23 Class of Who's Who in America.
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