The launch of Hope City’s mission program was an absolute success with a team of 11 amazing brothers and sisters traveling to the Navajo Nation in Shiprock/To’koi, New Mexico. Of all the places to begin team missions, it was most befitting to carry this ministry of reconciliation to the “first nation” Native American people. We partnered with Experience Mission and Pastor Herman Harrison at Victory Life Fellowship in To’koi. Pastor Harrison is an incredibly humble man of prayer; the spirit of meekness emanates from his person. We could not have asked for a better Pastor and brother to help lead us in this journey with the Navajo people.
The trip was truly God-ordained every step of the way. We witnessed each team member flow effortlessly in their God-given gifts and talents. Even the little things—such as their passion to worship without hindrance—brought life and freedom to the atmosphere! Thanks to each person’s “yes,” we were blessed to see Jesus move in incredible ways every single day.
Just hours after our arrival and getting settled into the church sanctuary at Victory Life Fellowship (where we shared sleeping quarters with two other mission teams—a total of 29 people!) a few of our worship leaders began to do what they do—worship our King! We couldn’t help but pause and breathe in the presence of God after 14 long hours of travel. Shortly thereafter, Pastor Carl had a word brewing in his spirit to share with everyone. Mary vs. Martha, a perfect word to keep us focused as we began our journey of service to the Navajo people. So perfect, in fact, that two of the Experience Mission staff began weeping as they realized they had become so busy working that they lost much of their personal devotion time somewhere along the way. They received prayer and times of refreshing as we continued in worship until “lights out.”
On Monday morning we awoke bright and early ready to embrace the day. We gathered for prayer before breakfast and work duties. This formed our model for every day thereafter: Unity of mind and spirit with one another, staying focused on the purpose of our mission. Our duties this day consisted of helping to clear the grounds of the church. A burden that Pastor Harrison and his wife (who is currently awaiting a new kidney!) bear on their own throughout the year. Surrounded by nothing but dry, desert land, the church definitely has its work cut out with the amount of tumbleweeds and other desert plants that overtake the grounds. But I tell you what! I have never seen a more joyful group of people than our team, laughing and praising God in the middle of the 100-degree desert while digging up weeds!
Although service projects are an important work on the mission field, we were soon brought face to face with our purpose. To pray. Pastor Harrison approached us in the field with a request. He shared the need of healing for their local Chapter President (similar to our city mayor), a woman who often attends his church, is influential in her role and a blessing to their community. We gathered the team together, alongside Pastor Harrison, to pray and intercede for her healing and restoration. The Spirit of God started to move among us and the men began to pray for Pastor Harrison himself—for strength and refreshing in the Lord. As our time of prayer came to a close, bro Darnell released a sound of worship and there we were…worshiping the Lord with all our hearts…in the dirt…in the heat…sweaty and stinky. Yet full of the love and grace of God, surrounded by His glorious presence. It was this moment that bonded us with Pastor Harrison and formed the kingdom family relationship that continued to grow in love throughout the following days.
Two of the days on site, we engaged local children from the ages of 6-15 with Kids Club. We led them in prayer and worship, shared the stories of Jacob and Joseph’s lives, and even had a pretty intense game of impromptu baseball. I will admit, we have some highly competitive people on our team! In the end, however, the children had a blast and we were reminded of the simple things that have great impact.
The next two mornings our group prayer time turned into intentional worship time, not only for our own souls to be refreshed in the Lord’s presence but also for those that were with us. Each morning a different group of people were impacted. The Experience Mission staff one day, and teen members of another mission team the next, received personal ministry and prayer as God directed our devotional time. Each person was evidently touched and brought to tears through all that the Lord was speaking over and working in them.
After lunch on Tuesday afternoon we had another prayer gathering for the family of the Chapter President who was in the hospital. Together with Pastor Harrison and members of the mission team from NY, we again interceded on their behalf. As we dispersed back to our duties, one teen girl from NY was overwhelmed and weeping as she told me, “I’ve never experienced anything so powerful!” Truly the LORD was making Himself known in a very real way to people who have never encountered His glory. Thank you Jesus!
Tuesday night was the highlight of the mission for me and many others on our team. We were extended an invitation from Pastor Harrison to join him in prayer and intercession at the site where an 11-year-old Navajo girl was murdered only a couple months prior. As we followed him off the main highway that evening, down a bumpy dirt road with nothing in view but some mountains in the distance, we wondered where he could be taking us. Then he stopped. We piled out of the van and stood overlooking a small memorial covered in flowers and ribbons. Pastor H shared the horrific tragedy that came upon this child and her family, the brokenness of his people and the strongholds that keep so many in bondage. He knew he was to come and pray but had been waiting, waiting for people to come with him. Yet he had no one…until now. He said he knew we had been sent there not to work like the other teams but to pray. That this was our assignment. We could not contain the tears as he released this great honor upon us, “As a Navajo, and a steward of this land, I give you my permission to intercede on behalf of my people in this place where blood was shed.” The heaviness of that moment was unspeakable. We slowly walked down a small hill, closer to the memorial site—nobody knowing even how to pray in such a moment—then the weight of the glory of God fell and instantly we were all on our faces in the dirt, crying out for the Navajo people.
The weeping for the Navajo turned into mourning for the injustices done to all Native Americans. Bro. Darnell fell on his face before Pastor Harrison, crying, repenting for all that was done to them. Pastor Carl joined the two and healing and reconciliation among the races went forth in the power of the Spirit. For hours we prayed until the weight of glory lifted and we ended our time there with great rejoicing, dancing and worship unto our God! Pastor H shared that the heavy burden he didn’t even know he was carrying had been lifted and he literally felt lighter, freer! If there was one reason we were sent to this land, we knew that THIS was it.
Day 4 led us into Wednesday night’s church service. Our amazing worship team was granted the lead over the service. They stewarded their gifts well and ushered in the presence of God. One young man from NY expressed afterwards how he was changed in his worship perspective as he had never before experienced such free worship. Pastor Carl also released a word of blessing and declaration over the Navajo locals that gathered at the altar for prayer. It was a beautiful time in the Lord!
Thursday morning we were again granted an opportunity to go pray with Pastor Harrison. This time, he took us to a “high place,” a plateau overlooking the whole town of Shiprock. It was here that we engaged in spiritual warfare and intercession for the land, then released declarations of truth and freedom as the Lord brought them to each individual team member. Songs of deliverance were sung over the city. As there were 12 of us there that day, 12 stones were built up and anointed as a memorial to what the Lord had done.
On our way back to To’koi from the high place, we stopped at the gas station for what we thought were our own needs, but come to find out Jesus had a plan! As He always does. While we were waiting for a couple team members to finish up inside, two men approached our van looking for change. One was on an extended journey, traveling from Denver, CO to Flagstaff, AZ by foot! Hitchhiking and walking long distances, we learned on this trip, are prevalent among the Navajo culture. Though we had little to offer in change, we had much to offer in Christ. Several of us began to minister to the two men, then the two turned to three. We broke off in small groups and ministered to each of them. One man was brought to weeping right there in the parking lot as He encountered God’s love for Him and received great hope in the Lord. Another proven moment that it is the Lord who orders our paths and directs our steps!
As the evening approached, a large number of locals gathered at the church for Community Dinner night. Navajo Tacos! It was a relaxed time to hang out and fellowship with the locals, visitors and other team members. After dinner, two men (brothers) who did not know Christ as their Savior were ministered to. Though they accepted Jesus, it was evident that deliverance was still necessary. In fact, as bro Jaquante and bro Jordan were praying over one man, a demonic manifestation began in his body. Jaquante felt it move from his back to his stomach! I joined them in deliverance prayer and in a few moments, sis Cassandra also joined us with a song of deliverance over him. The anointing of God fell and the man received his full deliverance. He lifted his hands in praise and expressed how FREE he felt! Glory to God! Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty! Following that, he received further prayer for the infilling of the Holy Ghost to keep him. He and his mother committed to continue attending Victory Life Fellowship thereafter. What a glorious testimony of the faithfulness of Jesus to seek and save that which was lost!
Overall, our trip was filled with so many moments like these that it would take hours to share. Hearts were touched and transformed all around, from our own to Pastor Harrison’s to the other mission teams to the locals themselves. We were beyond blessed to be chosen for such a mission and humbled at the mighty hand of God through it all. We learned to trust Him more faithfully and love deeper than our human selves ever could. Through unity, faith and the love of the Father, this first Hope City team mission trip set a foundation for what’s to come as we go into all the world to proclaim the gospel!