|Dzil na odillii Sunrise|
As I've shared here on more than one occasion, Kim and I are part of the Navajo Work Camp Program. We travel to the Navajo Nation to do community service work as people of faith. We hope to share our good works with the Dine people and to learn about their culture and faith experiences in a cultural learning setting.
That first year for Kim and I was so exciting as we were going into an unknown world that we both possessed a heart felt passion for sight unseen. We knew no one else among the group of campers and so we had no idea what to expect.
Early on it was apparent that one gentleman in our band of travelers, George, was a bit standoffish, unusually quiet and not very approachable. I remember that Kim and I even mentioned it to one another. We commented on how this man seemed to have no real interest in being part of the group. We had prejudged him and labeled him. Why would someone with an attitude like his come on the trip if he didn't have the same sort of zeal and interest that we did?
Monday and Tuesday's community work had been rewarding. We were learning lots about the Dine people and their culture. However, by the end of the day we'd realize that we were also learning about ourselves.
Midweek we took time to immerse ourselves further into the history and the beauty of the landscape with a day trip to Chaco Culture National Historical Park; the site of Chaco Canyon. Again, we noticed George and how he seemed aloof.
Later that evening we came together as we do each night during the week for a time of reflection and sharing of our experiences and encounters. Everyone is divided up into small groups at the beginning of the week and each group is responsible for conducting an evening vespers time. That night it was the turn of the group that George was part of.
There may have been a prayer to start things off, but all I remember now is the picture of George, sitting there stone-faced with a bible in his lap. Slowly he began to read the following:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." -Micah 6: 6-8 (NIV)
As he finished, tears began to well in eyes and then he began to tell all gathered there in the circle about why he was there. You see, several weeks earlier, George's wife, secretary at the church where they attended, had suddenly died of a heart attack. We learned that George's pastor, Steve, one of the leaders in our group was the reason George among us. At Steve's persistent coaxing, George finally, but reluctantly, relented and decided to go. George's reluctance, as I've already mentioned was very evident those first couple of days.
His quiet voice filled the large community school room. Everyone sat silent listening to him pour out his grief. Around the room the sniffles and tears being shed soon became audible. George was in pain, but his pain and grief were checked by his faith. At some point George had had the opportunity to be alone and ask God the question, 'what do you require of me'? He said that he'd had conversation with his deceased bride and God and that in both instances he received the same answer. He knew had to move on with his life and that all would be OK.
'To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.'
George understood that he was right where he needed to be with other Disciples committed to walking humbly with God. This was after all George's first mission experience.
We lost touch with George, but as I said, the impact of the story was great. Then one day in November 2005 I was thumbing through a copy of the now sadly, defunct 'DisciplesWorld' magazine. I began to read a piece of how a giving loving couple had traveled to New Orleans in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina to help out in whatever way they could. The man was asked by the writer how was it that he and his wife were able to give so much of their time to the recovery effort as apparently they'd been back and forth to home several times in their RV. The man answered, saying 'it was where God intended for him to be' to help others in their time of need. The man, now remarried was our friend, George Smith. You talk about a lump in your throat as I finished reading that article?
I've had the opportunity to talk to George since then on one occasion and thank him for giving me such a spiritual lift that I treasure everyday of my life. I'm glad I can share this story again as I have so often done since that warm Wednesday evening, now almost 9 years ago.
Both the story and scripture are powerful testimony. Love and hope always trump fear of the unknown. All we have to do is 'To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.'
NOTE: If you or someone you know is interested in participation in the next Navajo Work Camp trip to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org