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A sign reminds Navajo Nation members to stay safe during the pandemic. Photo: Video still.

Church resumes outreach to hard-hit Navajo Nation

The coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on Native American reservations, such as the Navajo Nation in Arizona. “When you go there, I promise you it is a different world,” Pastor Scott Watson of River Bluff Fellowship in Ozark, Mo., told the “Springfield News Leader.”

A number of factors are making the problem worse.

  • Between 15 percent to 30 percent of households do not have running water.
  • Only 40 percent of residents have electricity.
  • The Navajo Nation, which is larger than several states, has only 13 grocery stores
  • The nation has only 12 health-care facilities and a total of 200 hospital beds
  • Most families live in small houses in multigenerational units.
  • Many Naïve Americans have underlying health issues, such as diabetes.

Members of River Bluff Church have ministered to the Navajos for the past 12 years, and they are planning to return in a time of crisis. “Our team will drive in and drive out,” Watson said “We did not want to contribute to their anxiety.”

Navajo leaders have taken stringent measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus and protect their people. The Navajo Nation has by far the strictest closure laws in the nation: a 57-hour weekend lockdown, curfew every night, closure of nonessential businesses and a $1,000 fine for violating these ordinances. Church members know how much their visit will mean to residents.

“They get to know you,” said Lucy Tartamella, 16. “At the end of the week you sit them down and pick out a backpack and take them aside and pray for each kid. They get so excited about getting a backpack with school supplies.”

Her father, Jamie Tartamella, in past years has driven a van to pick up Navajo children for Bible school. “There is so much that touches your heart,” he says. “Some of the houses do not have windows.”

This year, the church is asking for pandemic-related items: Lysol or Clorox wipes, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, bleach, masks, gloves, rubbing alcohol and empty spray bottles. Anyone interested in helping the church in its mission can find out more at the church website.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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