The Navajo Nation where La Vida Mission is located has had the longest lockdown in the entire country. Since March 20 this year, A “Stay at Home” (Shelter in Place) Order and later, a 57-hour whole week-end curfew have been in effect for all residents of the Nation, requiring individuals to limit their movement within and outside of their immediate communities and to limit contact with individuals who are not in their immediate household.
Thankfully on August 16, this Stay at Home order was downgraded to a “Safer at Home” order and a partial 32-hours weekend lockdown was implemented making Sabbath a non-curfew day and opening the door for us to do drive-in church services in the church parking lots both for La Vida Mission and Crownpoint. But it was short-lived because on September 22, Navajo Nation, having experienced a rise in positive COVID-19 cases again has re-issued the Shelter in Place order and 57-hour weekend lockdown
Why is the Tribe’s order more restrictive? When this coronavirus pandemic struck, millions of people were impacted and sad to say, the Navajo Nation has been hit so hard that at one point in April and May, it had the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate in the country, even surpassing hot spots like New York. Thus, this long lockdown and stay-at-home order as well as nightly and whole week-end curfews were implemented throughout the Nation to slow down the spread of the virus and to flatten the curve.
But while these measures are attempts to provide safety to everyone, it undeniably makes life a little harder for our Native people in terms of mobility and securing food for their daily needs, especially on weekends. Adding the loss of numerous jobs and the resultant income, many families are struggling.
During this dark and difficult time of pandemic and lockdown, La Vida Mission continues to shine and remains The Light on a Hill, bringing the love of Jesus not only to the Dine’ community but to everyone. The Mission campus and its various ministries have never shut down but have continued to bless the Navajo community through emergency relief operations providing food (canned and dried as well as fresh produce) and free propane refills to those impacted by this ongoing, seemingly never-ending, pandemic.
How is La Vida Mission able to continue to do this? To date, we have completed eight significant rounds of COVID-19 Relief Operations since April and have helped more than 1,200 families with about 1,350 food boxes and emergency relief packages and free propane refills. Praise the Lord! The God of the impossible and endless possibilities and opportunities has continually enabled us to do this.
The small food bags delivery to our local neighbors that we initiated in April from our meager resources on hand has been multiplied and transformed by the Lord into a huge, ongoing relief operation. La Vida Mission has become a “depository” of God’s blessings sent through numerous long-time and new partners in ministry such as Norma Nashed and Restore a Child, Colorado Springs and Montrose Adventist Churches, Southwest Paleontologists Society, Sharing Ministry in Colorado, Edwin Gurule Family, other private and individual donors and lately, the Partnership with Native Americans that delivered to us 20 pallets of groceries, assorted food, essentials, personal care and many more items, plus 200 cases of fresh produce that almost filled our gym for our 7th Relief Operation held on September 3.
Four weeks later, PWNA delivered another 200 cases of fruits and veggies for our 8th Relief Operation on October 1-2 in Nahodishgish Chapter and at La Vida Mission, respectively. We hosted this 8th Relief Operation in two places so as to make it accessible to our local people. Most of them have challenges with transportation and bringing these foods closer to them has enabled them to more easily obtain much-needed food and produce for their sustenance during the coming week-end lockdown curfew.
Along with this physical food give away, La Vida Mission continues its spiritual programming. Local members are connected to the church through its Facebook page and the Radio Ministry Partnerships of AWR, Pacific Union, Arizona Conference, Rocky Mountain and Texico Conference with broadcasts coming through the four Radio Recording Studios in Holbrook Indian School, Windowrock, Gallup and La Vida Mission.
Seeing two native young men give their lives fully to the Lord and be baptized in a horse tank at our Mission’s Tree House Park by Pastor Steve Gillham, La Vida Mission president-director, has inspired our La Vida Mission community. When partial weekend lockdown was implemented in August, we grabbed the opportunity to conduct drive-in church services both for La Vida Mission Church and Crownpoint Company, at 10am and 4pm on Sabbaths, respectively. But when the Navajo Nation re-issued the Stay at Home order and week-end lockdowns and were continually prohibiting public gatherings of more than five people, the Mission staff went back to our Tree House Park Church Service to continue worshipping the Lord under the trees and amidst nature.
Our school has also opened and operated a hybrid class that meets once a week every Tuesday and daily via learning modules, Kindle Fire tablets and the internet. God is faithful and has been faithful to us. While many services around us are “closed” (and we’ve received several calls from people and agencies who told us that but that they’re happy we’re open and they could channel their donations through us), we truly praise the Lord for keeping La Vida Mission, this Light on a Hill, shining and making a difference and impacting the lives of our Native community in this dark time of global pandemic.
Dorie Panganiban is La Vida Mission’s office manager and outreach director.