Summer in Nevada County – a time for relaxation, rest and a lot of laziness. But for one Grass Valley youth group, video games and hang time just weren’t enough. They were moving onto more important things.
On June 22, 16 youth and six leaders from the First Baptist Church of Grass Valley made the long trek down to Kaibeto, Ariz. A caravan of five vehicles strung out across more than 500 miles of barren road, their mission was simple: lend a helping hand.
“We take one main trip a year,” said the Rev. Chip Anderson, “and this year it was to the Navajo reservation in Kaibeto to perform service for the residents there.”
Joining a group from Cedar Ridge Baptist Church, the Grass Valley group began its trip toward the more remote area of a lonely state to repair 56,000 homes for 150,000 Navajo people, who were living in conditions long overdue for drastic change.
The workers’ spirits were dampened when they assessed the labor to be done. Even with 280 more workers from all over the West Coast, the task would be nearly impossible. From roofing and cleaning to painting and building, every residence needed something different. But, dividing themselves into crews of nine or 10, the teams began their task with diligence and speed.
“On one day, my group painted an entire inside of a house,” said Sharon Rick, 19, of Grass Valley. “The next day, we were laying linoleum in a completely different home.”
Conditions were demanding. If extra supplies were needed, they had to be brought in from Page, Ariz., almost 30 miles away. It was a struggle to communicate with many Navajo tribe members, who used broken English. The squads worked almost all day, stopping only for meals and shelter from unexpected sandstorms.
Even with the strain of temperatures higher than 100 degrees, the groups remained optimistic. Their persistence remained, and the acts of service were a success. More than 50 different jobs were completed in just four days.
Between the hammering and pounding, the youth made time to take in the Arizona atmosphere. Hiking to the Slot Canyons, visiting Lake Powell and devotional sessions were included in the five-day trip. Nick Fisher, 13, recalled going with a small group to a youth-initiated gathering one early morning.
“On Wednesday, we got up at, like, 5 a.m. to share Scriptures with each other as the sun came up over the mesas. It was really cool,” he said.
The Navajo, whose households were improved for free, warmed up to the church members quickly, the workers said. Several workers said when they were tired, homeowners brought them fresh fruit and water, and showed them shady places to rest. Four grateful families cooked the nearly 300 workers traditional Navajo tacos from scratch to thank them for their efforts.
Throughout the week, the massive work squad had minimal problems, group members said, and there was little or no complaining. Building bonds with another culture was worth every drop of elbow grease, and the group members agreed they could never have imagined the emotional growth the mission brought.
“The experience,” Anderson said, “was amazing to witness and be a part of. We live in an area where we are so blessed that we take the little things for granted. We fail to realize that there are still people out there who don’t have the basics. It is a whole new kind of culture shock that opens the eyes of our youth to the realities of our world.”
Katie Hight is a 15-year-old Nevada City resident. She will be a sophomore at Nevada Union High school in the fall. Write her in care of Youth Page, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945.
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