October 16, 2020

In the U.S., Volunteers Provide Food, Water, and Fuel for 800 Native Families

Dorie Panganigan, for Mid-America Union Outlook, and Adventist Review

Staff members and friends of La Vida Mission have been working hard to serve Navajo individuals living in New Mexico, United States, during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the summer, we conducted several COVID-19 relief operations at the flea market of Crownpoint, offering free propane tank refills, food, and water.

One of those operations took place in July 2020. When we arrived at the flea market at 8:00 a.m., the long line of cars and trucks waiting for help was impressive — four hours before the giveaway was scheduled to begin, evidence of how desperately people need relief during this challenging time of lockdown and loss of jobs and income.

La Vida Mission staff and our church members initially planned on serving 125 families, but the number quickly increased. By the end of the day, 250 families had been blessed.

The event could not have taken place smoothly without the Navajo Nation Crownpoint Chapter team’s help, headed by chapter president Rita Capitan, who arrived early to set up, organize, and direct the flow of traffic. The team also contributed fresh produce to our food giveaway.

Nations Gas Technologies, a Native-owned gas company on the reservation, provided propane bottle refills to 170 families. Approximately 80 families came for food and water only. Adding to the fair-like atmosphere, the Crownpoint City Fire Department brought two engines, and firefighters patiently stood side-by-side with the propane tanks to ensure everyone’s safety.

People have been asking how we were able to do this.  On our own, we cannot — it is impossible with our limited resources. But with God, all things are possible if we trust Him and act in faith. We have seen how His promise of opening the windows of heaven was fulfilled in front of our eyes.

When we started this relief operation in April 2020, we never thought it would be a huge ongoing activity for our church and the mission. We started small with what we had: rice and beans from our cafeteria and bags of fruit purchased by our meager church outreach funds and delivered to peoples’ homes around La Vida Mission.

However, when Neal Kelley and the Montrose Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colorado heard what we were doing, they came with a truckload of assorted foods and bakery products from the Sharing Ministry. We were able to deliver food boxes instead of merely food bags.

When I posted our activities on the church Facebook page, we gained more supporters. Sherman Mohler of Southwest Paleontological Society started a GoFundMe fundraiser. Claire James — one of La Vida Mission’s teachers — started a Facebook fundraising campaign that generated enough money to do a mass drive-in distribution of food boxes to 150 families in May.

Just as we were finishing our drive-in relief operation, I received a call from Pastor Mike and Brenda Maldonado of Colorado Springs Central SDA Church. They read in the Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) newsletter about what we were doing and wanted to join us in helping our Navajo community. They asked to come the following week to deliver supplies of food and water. That enabled us to do our fourth food distribution on June 5 to another 125 Navajo families.

With a little money left from all these fundraising donations — and after talking to some local native leaders and friends about what the people needed — we hosted our fifth COVID-19 relief operation on June 29. This time, in addition to free food and water for 125 families, we added free propane bottle refills as serviced by Nations Gas.

We thought this community relief event would be the last such help provided. But we received several messages from Crownpoint, a small town 30 minutes away from La Vida, where the mission has been conducting outreach programs. People expressed their needs and requested prayers for the mission to consider extending help in Crownpoint.

I prayed when I received these requests, and, in my heart, I felt it would happen. God opened the windows of heaven to us again! Assistance came from RMC Adventist Community Services director Cathy Kissner, who promised that the conference would contribute funding for purchasing food.

Then, another generous donation arrived from a Facebook donor. With those donations, we knew we could do another COVID-19 relief operation in Crownpoint.

But God wasn’t finished with His blessings. He opened them wide when Restore a Child ministry sent us generous booster funds to help our relief operation for the Navajo families, providing more food, water, and propane.

During the past four months, the Lord has given us the joy of serving close to 800 Native families with food, water, and basic household necessities.

Even as I write this, another ministry partner called, offering to help deliver 150 emergency relief packages and boxes. And yet another mission donor sent a check to help with our relief operation, which we will use for a propane refill event to go along with the emergency relief packages.

Community Feedback

Dozens of people have sent us messages to express their thanks. Here is a sample.

“La Vida Mission is an awesome place where caring and love is poured out with God’s tremendous blessings. Thank you to all the donors” (SP, from Farmington).

“Thank you for helping out our people; we love you. Be safe and bless La Vida Mission, and all the staff. We can’t wait to go to the Bible study again” (HC, from Crownpoint).

“La Vida Mission has been very helpful to us Navajo people. Thank you to the awesome team for helping the community! God bless you in abundance” (EL, from Lake Valley).

“Thank you, La Vida Mission, for the free propane for our people; many blessings back to the church and your donors” (JM, from Dalton Pass).

The original version of this story was posted by the Mid-America Union Outlook.