FT. WINGATE, N.M. (BP)–When Durk Lynch started a Bible study in the dorms at Wingate High School in 1992, he had no idea that God would use his ministry to bring the message of Christ to thousands of Native American youth.
What started out as a group of seven boys meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer has developed into a network of Christians who hope to transform the Navajo Nation with the Gospel.
But Lynch has seen that ministry to the Navajo people can prove difficult. Through more than a decade of ministry in New Mexico and Arizona, Lynch and his wife, Phyllis, who serve with Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board as Mission Service Corps volunteers, at times have met fierce resistance to Christianity in various Native American communities.
Lynch’s ministry in Ft. Wingate (a small town 10 miles southeast of Gallup) started 11 years ago when a local pastor invited him to speak to a group of students at the local high school, a boarding school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Lynch shared his testimony with 80 Native American boys in a dorm and then gave them an opportunity to respond to his message.
“After I finished, I asked if anyone wanted to talk further,” Lynch said. “Seven boys responded and said they wanted to learn more about Christianity. So we decided to start a Bible study.”
Lynch began coming to the dorm one night a week to lead Bible study for those seven boys. Within a short period of time, the Bible study averaged 12-15 attendees and teenagers began to profess faith in Christ.
“One kid … stuck around to ask, ‘How does a person become a Christian?’ and we shared the Gospel with him,” Lynch said. “He made a decision for Christ. … I heard that same kid call himself a Christian in the hall the next week and he started coming to the Bible study for Christians.”
As the Bible study grew, Lynch had opportunities to study the New Testament Books of Mark, John and Romans with the students and saw several others commit their lives to Christ. But he realized that because Bible study took place in only one of seven Wingate dorms, hundreds of students were missing out on an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
“We said, ‘You know, we ought to be praying for these other dorms. We’re only meeting in this one dorm. We ought to be praying for these other dorms that the Lord would open the door.’ So we did. We started praying.”
After several months, God answered their prayer.
“Two years ago we went and sang Christmas carols in those dorms, seven dorms,” Lynch said. “And the very next month, in January when the kids came back to school, we found that every dorm was open. … I don’t know why the Lord answered the prayer. … But we found that we could go into every dorm.”
Not only was Lynch allowed to hold Bible study in the other high school dorms, but he was also invited to begin teaching students about Christianity in each Wingate middle and elementary school dorm. Today Lynch and several other members of Wingate Baptist Church visit at least one dorm each week to share the Gospel with students.
As Lynch built relationships with dorm residents, he began bringing elementary school students to church on Sunday mornings. Many of the children have never attended a church, he said. But when they come, God uses His Word to show them their need for Jesus.
“A few Sundays ago I picked up six kids from a community called Church Rock,” Lynch said. “I picked up six kids from Wingate. Another person walked six kids to the church. And out of those 18 kids we picked up, six made a decision at church on Sunday morning.”
As Lynch followed up with the children who committed their lives to Christ, several of their family members also realized their need for salvation.
“The pastor and I went out and visited two families of kids that made decisions,” he said. “And two more people, a mother and a 25-year-old sister, became Christians. Assuredly that was an unusual Sunday, but amazing things happen.”
Through ministry opportunities in the schools, Lynch estimates that several thousand children have heard how they can receive salvation in Jesus Christ.
Despite these successes, however, ministry among the Navajo people often proves difficult, Lynch said.
Of the more than 270,000 members of the Navajo Nation, fewer than 5 percent consider themselves Christians and many are particularly resistant to their children becoming Christians, he said.
“In most cultures a pastor will come by and talk with the parents when the child makes a profession of faith and the parents will encourage them to get baptized,” Lynch said. “But the opposite occurs here. An adult, someone from the church, a worker from the church comes by and talks to the parents and encourages them to get baptized. Then you start getting resistance.”
Many Navajo parents allow their children to learn about Christianity, but they object to their children believing that Jesus is the one sovereign God, he said.
“The Navajo have 47 gods,” Lynch said. “Now some people would say, ‘OK, we’ll have 48.’ They think of Jesus as their 48th god. That isn’t of course the way we think. … The Lord is a jealous God. He doesn’t want any other gods. And the adults in the culture don’t want to let go of those gods.”
At times, the conflict between Christianity and traditional Navajo religion has produced intense spiritual warfare.
Lynch told of one family who gave him “permission to have a Bible school in their front yard. And in the back yard they put up a tee pee and they have Native American ceremonies in that tee pee, the adults do. Think of the spiritual warfare going on. … [Parents] want their children to hear about Christianity, but they don’t want them to be committed to Christianity heart and soul.”
Lynch prays that God would break down resistance and that a massive revival would sweep the Navajo Nation. But he emphasizes that the results of his ministry are in the Lord’s hands. The responsibility of a missionary is sharing faithfully the Good News of Christ, he said.
“It’s a sowing ministry,” Lynch said. “You’re trying to sow the seed, let the seed take some root so that at some time in the future it will bear fruit.”