KAYENTA, Ariz. (BP)–The first time Rick and Debbie Bond saw Kayenta, they wondered who would want to live in such a remote little town on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northern Arizona.
Thirteen years later, Rick Bond is pastor of First Baptist Church in Kayenta.
“I am amazed at how God works it all out and gets you where he wants you to be,” Bond reflects.
Kayenta is home to approximately 7,000 people, 95 percent of whom are Navajo. Attendance at First Baptist is about half Navajo and half Anglo.
“If we didn’t consciously keep our focus on our (Navajo) people,” Bond says, “this church would easily find itself becoming an Anglo church on the reservation, and we don’t want that.”
Bond uses community involvement to make the love of God known in the Navajo town. For example, he serves on the board of a local battered-women’s shelter.
Projects established by Bond have also served to open doors in some of the smaller outlying communities, like Chilchinbeto, about 25 miles southeast of Kayenta. Shortly after his arrival, Bond was denied permission to conduct a Vacation Bible School in the chapter house, a tribal government meeting place. After a year of assisting in government projects in the area, Bond asked again and was granted permission.
He often arranges projects for youth groups from churches in Arizona and from as far away as Arkansas and Hawaii.
Ramps have been built, a broken sidewalk replaced and a foundation poured for an elderly Navajo man’s hogan. The latter involved hauling water and mixing cement outside in a bathtub. Bond regularly sees the man in town and says they are building a relationship that would not have been possible before.
Another community ministry transforms the church building into a shelter for homeless men. The men can shower any time and sleep once a month in the church, which provides them with blankets, pillows and peanut butter sandwiches.
A portion of Bond’s salary is provided through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions. In addition, First Baptist’s worship center was constructed by Arizona Southern Baptist Builders, with financial resources from the Arizona State Mission Board’s mission project fund.
Rick and Debbie began praying for First Baptist after their first mission trip to Kayenta in 1993, when Rick was youth minister at a large California church. They brought a youth group to lead Vacation Bible School and do odd jobs.
Subsequently, the Bonds felt called into cross-cultural missions. After completing the necessary paperwork and interviews with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, they found the door suddenly closed in each country they considered. Then, on another trip to Kayenta in 1995, Rick was struck by how cross-cultural the work was there.
Later, as one more door was closed — this time in Hong Kong — the couple was convinced they needed to pray about serving in Kayenta.
Bond telephoned Virgil Stoneburner, then-director of evangelism/missions for Fourcorners Baptist Association, to express their possible interest. To Bond’s surprise, Stoneburner said since the couple’s first mission trip to Kayenta two and a half years earlier, he had been praying for Bond as the person he felt God wanted as Kayenta’s next pastor.
The Bonds moved to Kayenta in 1996. They live in a manufactured home, purchased with their own funds, on the church property with their three children, Tim, 7; Alyssa, 4; and Joshua, who turned 1 in January. Debbie has a degree in elementary education and teaches first grade at the public school.
“My first mission experience when I was a freshman in high school was in Chinle and Many Farms (small communities on the reservation). So, in a way, I’ve come full circle,” Bond says. “I can see how God has been preparing me for this.”
Bihn is publications coordinator with Baptist Senior Life Ministries, a freelance writer and photographer and a member of Mountain Ridge Baptist Church, Glendale, Ariz.