Local Church Works To Help Members Of The Navajo Nation Hit Hard By COVID-19
The Navajo Nation encompasses three states: Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Approximately 356,000 people call the American Indian territory home. To date, more than 4600 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s one of the highest per capita rates in the country. At least 153 residents of the Navajo Nation have died from the illness.
River Bluff Fellowship church won’t be able to send a full mission team there this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still working to meet the reservation’s needs.
Pastor Scott Watson said they began working with the Navajo Nation more than two decades ago. All year, they collect items such as clothing, utensils and basic supplies to take to Kayenta, Arizona each summer.
"We're Christians. We believe Jesus said, 'hey, go into the whole world,' and, so, that's what we are attempting to do," he said.
There are a lot of needs in Kayenta, according to Watson.
"They're limited on healthcare. They're limited on grocery stores. They're limited on just basic things," he said. "But, if you live outside it's considered high desert area. It's right at the very opening of the most beautiful place called Monument Valley, and more than likely if you were to see pictures of Monument Valley, you would recognize it. It is where movies are made, John Wayne movies, lots of beautiful, beautiful scenery. And, so, there are times when some folks would come to help make a movie, but after they all leave there's folks that live all throughout that high desert area that are without running water. I've heard 30 to 50 percent of them have no running water. They have to go to a spigot miles away, fill up their bottles and jugs, take it back to their homes. Many still don't have utilities," he said.
Watson has been in touch with people in Kayenta, and Watson said the coronavirus has hit the town and the rest of the Navajo Nation hard.
"We know that within the women's shelter there that the virus has entered that shelter, and people are getting sick," he said. "Because the living arrangements out there overall--they are extremely, extremely loving people, and they are very, very family oriented, and, so, it lends to being in close proximity, and, so we know at this point that the Navajo has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the whole country right now. So, we are aware of folks that have it and the fear of it spreading."
River Bluff Fellowship decided not to send a large team of church members to Kayenta this summer. They didn’t want to add to the residents’ anxiety. And the healthcare system there is already strained. Doctors Without Borders sent a nine-member team to the Navajo Nation earlier this month—the first deployment in the U.S.
But the church is collecting items to send with a team of two to three people who will drop the items off and then leave.
"We just simply said, 'hey, that's our way to go, and if we can't do anything else, we can't even fist bump, we can wave and love them and send them some things,'" said Watson.
Donations of items such as cleaning supplies, masks, gloves and empty spray bottles will be accepted at River Bluff Fellowship, 2655 E. Farm Rd. 188, this Thursday, May 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Watson was heartened to see donations pour in during a collection last week.
"Cars just came through and handed out masks and gloves and rubbing alcohol and bleach, hand sanitizer," he said.
Watson asks everyone to pray for members of the Navajo Nation. And he said they’ll continue to work to meet their needs.
"We kind of on two levels are trying to do what is the right thing," he said. "There's a need, and we're invited to go, and, so, that's what we're trying to do."