Navajo Mission

Shepherd of the Hills works with Pastor Tim Norton of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church and Mission in Navajo, NM. This inter-generational mission trip helps with sports camps, VBS and other needs in the Navajo Nation. Our Navajo Mission Trip was on July 22-26, 2021. 

Matthew 10:42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. 

The above verse is sometimes stretched beyond its context to mean giving things to non-believers so they can hear the Gospel within an act of Mercy. This verse, contextually speaking, is not describing an act of mercy leading to witness (although there are plenty of other verses that contain mercy and witness.) It is, however, talking about disciples giving children a gift because they are in the Body of Christ. Strictly speaking, it is a Life Together verse and one I think works very well for the recent mission trip Shepherd youth and families took to Navajo and our sister congregation, Shepherd of the Valley. 

I have been on a lot of mission trips with various ages of Christians throughout my life. I wanted to share a few things that make a great mission trip. These are not in any order, but they are all important in varying degrees. 

“An army marches on its stomach” and a mission trip fellowships around food. It is a lesson Jesus Himself uses when He feeds disciples and crowds while teaching them. One of the most important pieces of a mission trip is to make sure food is not only good for your troop but also for those you are serving. This year at Navajo, we tried a new idea that worked well. After our children’s VBS, we decided to have a community meal for the adults who came to pick up their children; this included the rest of their families as well. This year was a little difficult as Navajo was coming out of Covid shock, but it was a refreshment from the Lord to see our kids and families interacting with Navajo’s kids and families all around food. Usually, we are treated by the congregation to a meal after worship services; this year we treated them, and even though the fare might have not been fancy it was hearty and the company wonderful! 

Another key I have picked up for mission trips is “less is more.” So often we try to bring our hectic city lives to the families we are ministering to and all they really want is to build relationships. The more events and activities, the more difficult it is to connect deeply with people, whether they are in South Denver or in Navajo. Having a more simplified VBS, music, and schedule allowed for more relationship interaction. One adult commented that it was a blessing to have a more low-key mission trip and that the congregation and community appreciated it. Our team and the people there could have more time just to be with each other, laugh, and have fun. 

A vital key to our Navajo Mission trip is a sense of continuity and longevity. Shepherd has had a relationship with Shepherd of the Valley for many, many years. We are an extension of their congregation and are definitely their brothers and sisters in Christ. On top of that, there is the steadfast service of Pastor Norton and his family, who have integrated themselves with the Navajo community and their congregation as family. The Nortons have created a stable worship and teaching environment that the congregation and their community love. Long-term continuous mission ministry lays a foundation that is built upon each successive generation, and it is amazing to see how the congregation has grown spiritually and in love to each other and their neighbor! One child asked before we even arrived when Shepherd was coming, and another child said with joy as we left that he will see us again in the future. 

The mission team is also a key to success. The purpose for our mission is to give families who are very busy in the Denver area a chance to go outside of their comfort zones for a weekend to put on a VBS for the congregation families and their community. It is designed to have our kids, both young and high school age, the opportunity to interact, sometimes even one-on-one, with the congregation and community children. We get to see the joy of the Lord in the children’s excitement, and they get to see the love of Christ from people not of their culture. I literally and figuratively got to see our mission team give cold water to young members of the Body of Christ in love for them and for our Lord. 

There are many other great ingredients to a good mission trip, but I thought I would highlight these few I feel important and also give a shout out to our wonderful servants who went this year. We had seventeen people with 5 adults and 12 youth of various ages from grade school, middle school, high school and even college! 

Thank you to our wonderful congregation, Mission Committee, and generous members who have supported our Navajo Mission trips. Thank you to Sara for such great food for our team and the church. Thank you to Chris for loving children with piggyback rides and Tina for great leadership throughout the event. Thank you to Jen for the quiet faith conversations with our team and with congregation members. A special thank you to Adam, who has served our congregation and youth these last 10 years as a hardworking and loving volunteer. He has made so many relational connections to the youth with his relaxed and consistent loving style. Thank you to Owen, the Seminary intern, who was the on-site servant for our team. Thank you to Tim and Heidi Norton for the great mission work on-site at the congregation and building up the saints at Navajo. Thank you especially to all our youth who represented Christ and were living disciples for our Lord in a place and culture that is somewhat different from ours. And, finally, thank you to Shepherd of the Valley, the congregation and their people who loved us in Christ and who were so gracious to our whole group! 

May the Lord Bless and Keep all of you! 

Your Fellow Servant in Christ, 

Pastor Zillinger 

Check out the Shepherd of the Valley Church's Facebook page.