Monday, April 04, 2005

Gateway of the Solid Rock

Gateway Of The Rock

What rock? Shiprock perhaps. Actually, Christ the Solid Rock of the Psalms. And the Rock upon which the wise man built his house. All other ground is sinking sand. Jesus tse’ nil dzi lii (“Jesus, the rock that does not move” in Navajo…my key board does not have a “slash l” so its not written exactly right.) When we first came to the Northwest corner of New Mexico, we were assigned to a multicultural church, which was seeking to build a congregation that reflected the culture of the area. It was a place where every tongue, tribe and nation gathered; at least it seemed that way in Walmart on Saturday. The challenge: to build a ministry, a church that represented the Body of Christ in all its colors and styles. This is what the LORD had been preparing us for. This was where we belonged. We embarked on this adventure with joy. But alas, the task was more complicated that we anticipated. One does not use the word “racism” in Farmington, New Mexico.

And the pledge to the New Mexican flag contains the words, “perfect friendship among united cultures,” but there is a very strong feeling of “us and them” out here. We were told by two gentlemen, one Navajo and one a missionary who had been here for years, that they (meaning the Navajos) would never accept us or like us because we were white. I honestly never felt white before. And although my husband looks more like a burly Russian than a native American, his grandmother was ½ Navajo, and used to tell him stories about her home land. To him coming here was like coming home, but there was no welcoming committee. The church actually did grow under our leadership. We went from an average attendance of 12 to an average attendance of 35 in 4 months. We partnered with another church of the same denomination in town with our midweek children’s ministry. And our greatest success was our Christmas Pageant; 15 kids, half and half, performing two nights, one in the church in town, the other in the church on the edge of the rez. Perfect friendship among United Cultures. BUT, “our” church was on a mission compound, and the powers that were decided that they needed a Navajo Pastor. We were told we needed to leave. Our congregation, including some very respected, very Navajo, people argued on our behalf, but the committee listened to the Navajo leader of the mission, and we were sent packing. Eventually we took over leadership of a small congregation in Farmington, mostly White and Hispanic, became a home fellowship/micro church which became Gateway of the Rock, a ministry of Open Bible Standard churches. Due to some family problems, and a subsequent need to heal, we directed our “flock” to another area church, and moved to Shiprock, a lovely little city on the Navajo Reservation, where we are currently worshiping and working with Four Corners Community Church. Those gentlemen who warned us that we would never be liked or accepted by the people, the Dine’ were wrong. The people there are our family.

Pastor Art still has his credentials and license with Open Bible, and still does some “independent” ministry under the Gateway of the Rock banner. And still we hold to the promise and the vision that we were given when we moved here in 1998. Every now and then, I start to believe, that someday we will move back onto the compound where we began our ministry here. It is all but abandoned now, over run with weeds, tagged by gangs. It’s web site hasn’t been updated in over a year. I think the denomination that sponsored it is still supporting it. But nothing is being done there. I drive by it often, and pray over the place. It was dedicated to the LORD 53 years ago and seems to be going to waste. How I would love the Isaiah 58:8-12 promise to apply to our ministry at what used to called the AIBM (American Indian Bible Ministry). For now this pastor without a church, without a flock, and his school teacher wife, continue to seek first the Kingdom of God and pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Yes Lord, even so, Amen.

Submitted by Maryellen Brokop

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