‘Not a white man’s religion’
MESA, Ariz. — "Fry bread! Fry bread! Mutton stew! We’ve got…
After 26 years, Paul Ghee’s mission trip to the Navajo Nation has ended.
The longtime missionary died May 29 at a hospital in Flagstaff, Ariz., after suffering from blood clots and pneumonia. He was 60.
A memorial service is scheduled for June 8 at the Tuba City Church of Christ in Arizona.
Ghee and his wife, Ann, moved to Tuba City in October 1987 to work among the Diné (the preferred name of the Navajo people) and the Hopi. The semi-autonomous, Native American-governed Navajo Nation covers 27,425 square miles in northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico. The population surpasses 250,000, according to the Navajo Nation Government’s website. The homeland of the Hopi people is completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation.
The Ghees, both from Nashville, Tenn., trained for ministry at the White’s Ferry Road School of Biblical Studies in West Monroe, La.
Mike Kellett, a minister for the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, described Paul Ghee as a “great friend and soldier who plowed the hard ground.”
Here’s some information about their ministry from the website of the Tuba City Church of Christ.
Though the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are in the backyard of the United States, it is a culture and a mission like any one overseas. The tribes have their own laws, their own government, their own language and their own culture. Here, actions speak louder than words.
The couple — who entered the mission field in their mid-30s — moved to the Navajo Nation in 1987 with their two daughters, Patti, 11, and Pam, 13.
The Ghees initially committed five years to working with the Tuba City Church of Christ, with a membership of one family who met in two single-wide mobile homes. One week out of the year, the church would sponsor a summer Vacation Bible School.
Since then, however, the congregation has grown — both spiritually and physically. It relocated in 2003 to a two-acre lot that allowed the church to build their own facilities. Additionally, the church hosts dozens of youth groups each year, whose work in the community has helped establish the church itself as a fixture in the community as well as draw locals to the congregation.
Further, the church has also served as a mission-training field for the more than 500 youth who visit annually.
If you ask Paul and Ann Ghee what their philosophy on life is, why they are on the Navajo Reservation and what their reasons are for being there, you will get one answer: Jesus.
It is because of Jesus that they moved to Tuba City, Ariz. in October 1987 to begin their first mission trip that, up until this point, has lasted
It is because of Jesus that The Tuba City Church of Christ was granted a 96-year lease for free from the Navajo Nation to build a church on two acres of land.
It is because of Jesus that the Ghees remain there today, continuing their work in the community — be it in roles as a minister, a contractor, a police chaplain, a grave-digger, a friend, a youth leader, a hand-holder, a wood hauler, a family member or an example.
There is but one goal in Tuba City: Teaching Native Americans to be Native American Christians.
When the church in Tuba can sustain itself, when there is a Native American minister in the pulpit and Native American elders and deacons on the benches, then perhaps the Ghees’ work will be finished.
But until then, until Jesus says “you are finished”, then they will continue to do what they do everyday — serving God by serving others
In 2005 we featured on of those Native American Christians — Eric Kee, who served as a missionary in Italy. Kee spoke about the role the Ghees played in his life and faith:
For Kee, adjusting to life in Italy was no less of a culture shock than adjusting to life outside the Navajo reservation.
Navajos constitute the second-largest tribe of American Indians in the United States, behind the Cherokee, with a population exceeding 269,000. Nearly 25 percent are unemployed, and about 42 percent live below the poverty line, according to the 2000 census. More than 30 percent lack plumbing in their homes.
The few missionaries who live among American Indians say that the reservations are among the most under-served mission points in the world. Paul and Ann Ghee, who built the Tuba City Church of Christ to serve Navajos, host youth and college groups for short-term missions on the reservation.
Though raised by Christian parents, Kee didn’t consider baptism until age 19, when he encountered a mission team from the Ham Lane Church of Christ, Lodi, Calif. Youth minister Ken Shackleford baptized Kee in the freezing waters of the Colorado River. Paul Ghee began studying with the young Christian and encouraged him to become active in the Tuba City church.
Kee said he was impressed by Ghee, who has worked patiently since 1987 among people who rarely trust outsiders.
“One thing he told me that has stuck with me for a long time was that getting a chance to preach the Word to a nation other than your own and overcoming the culture barrier is an accomplishment,” Kee said.
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