Why did I go? I couldn’t quiet the voice in my head, urging me into the unknown. I had
never been on a mission trip, and am fascinated with American Indian culture. Here
were the Navajo, asking St. Matthews for help. I signed up. The voice stopped.
We leave technology behind except cell phones as cameras. They asked that we not
swear, bring liquor, or wear skimpy tee shirts with nasty slogans. Not too difficult. We
challenge ourselves to live by the golden rule in everything we are about to do.
We travel in borrowed pick-ups about the same distance as Denver. St. Christopher’s
Mission is 1 ½ miles from Bluff, Utah where we see: “The Episcopal Church Welcomes
You.” Turning on a dirt road in the desert, we see a tall teepee-shaped building
silhouetted against a large red rock formation. The Chapel! Several natural stone
buildings with arched construction are scattered about the grounds. A small orchard of
apple and peach trees is dwarfed by nearby giant cottonwoods for heavenly shade. The
San Juan River is at our back. So quiet and peaceful . . . I want to stay forever.
We accomplished 3 small tasks in 3 full days.
Cleaned and mopped six guest rooms in the stone Retreat Center. We moved in
donated beds and furniture. When finished, it will host 12 people for retreats or families
and individuals for a short stay.
Relocated Pastor Kay’s 0ffice to one end of a huge room in another building. First
cleaned it, then moved, sorted, and shelved books, files, and her furniture. Next, set up
her office. For the first time, she has a window to see people arriving. We moved
couches and chairs to the other end creating a welcoming space for meetings and
We cleaned, sorted, and re-arranged everything in the Sacristy. Polished chalices –
borrowed robes to launder, and hem to fit the clergy. Laura was finishing up when 2
sheep and their dogs tap-danced down the steps into the Sacristy. She’ll tell you the
Navajo stonemasons constructed these buildings in 1944. Inside they are in dire need
of repair, as is a large commercial kitchen. Everything must be brought up to code. A
long term renovation plan is in its infancy to improve the retreat center and perpetuate
the original mission to serve the Navajo, locals, and tourists. Bluff is central to several
The Navajo hosted a dinner for us. They made Navajo Tacos the traditional way. Yum!
About 20 came - All generations. - Grannies, teens, college kids, families from age 65 to
2. Our group of 10 ranged from 80s down to 9. We lacked teens and twenties. We
talked and learned. Several Navajo joined us for Evening Prayer.
Families and clan are everything to the Navajo. All generations live close to one
another. Not scattered. They are friendly, gentle, relaxed and smiling. Most are
educated and bilingual. They raise well behaved children. Many are unemployed
because there are no local jobs. A few follow construction, but live at home.
Margaret is a wise, gentle Navajo grandmother who visited us every day; answering
questions and proudly telling of their culture, with a shy smile. She works part-time at
the Mission, and teaches computer technology to 4 th , 5 th and 6 th graders on their IPads.
Walter, was our foreman and Navajo storyteller. He was born at the clinic at St.
Christopher’s, went to elementary school there, and has returned as the handyman and
groundskeeper. He joined us under the Shade Shelter for Morning Prayer.
We gasped at the sight of the chapel interior - a natural cedar ceiling soars high above
us to the point. A Navajo rug floats just above a free standing altar. There are pews for
150 people, but now 20 come on Sunday and average plate collection is $40. For
several years, Rev. Kay Plummer serves as priest with Deacon Paula, Walter, and 2
others. Kay is a retired park ranger, and with her dog, they are permanent residents at
The well-being of St. Christopher’s Mission, and its people matter to us. We gave our
honest selves. And like the hummingbird, we brought our drop of water. I believe St.
Matthew’s should continue this mission. We can do this.
Margaret sent everyone this message: “Thank you for coming. We will miss you, so
please come back, and send others from St. Matthew’s.”
Here’s the good news: This fall, you’ll all get to know Walter. He has agreed to visit St.
Matt’s and share his story. He believes: “St. Christopher’s is a Place to Come and
Change Your Heart.”
Laura, you gave us Leadership, Insight, Energy, Fun, and Prayers. You
shared the heavens and the earth and gave us a lifetime of memories. Thank You!