“The Navajo are a proud people, historically steeped in tradition, a culture of kinship and clan and thoroughly endangered, less from technology than from the ideas and attitudes of the Eurocentric/Western world,” says Dr. Randy Butler in his paper ‘Some Thoughts About Navajoland and Its People, the Dine’. The Navajo Nation, otherwise known as Navajoland, is a reservation that lies between four surrounding states: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. It’s within these 25,000 square miles of land where the Navajo practice and preserve their culture and traditions. It is also here where Dr. Butler, Susan Grady, and other sponsors, joined by a number of alumni and students from Southwestern Adventist University and Chisholm Trail Academy, will be traveling this coming spring break on a mission to serve the Navajo people.
These annual trips to the Navajo Nation began in 2003 after a group of SWAU faculty saw the opportunity to serve there. Beginning with just two sponsors, Dr. Butler and former faculty member Phil Hieger, and five students set out on this mission adventure, not expecting the trip to become a tradition. In recent years, the participation has grown to a steady 35-40 faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
This year’s team is excited to return to visit their old friends in the Navajo Nation for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Butler identifies the two most important purposes of this trip as serving the Navajo Nation and its people, and providing students with a life-changing mission and cultural experience. The team will run VBS programs for young Navajo children, organize fun events for the youth in that area, and volunteer at a Navajo senior center. Plans are to complete light construction, landscaping, and maintenance projects for a community center and a couple of local churches. In addition to serving this community, the team will be exposed to the Navajo culture through Navajo-guided tours of canyons, museums, ancient missions and churches, lectures, and other activities.
Dr. Butler believes it is imperative when visiting the Navajo Nation to earn the trust and respect of the Navajo people while learning about their interests and traditions. Dr. Butler describes his time at the Navajo Nation as “a lot of hard work,” while also saying it’s “the most rewarding experience.” He is glad to work alongside the Navajo people and to experience a different culture, way of thinking, and unique approach to life. “To immerse yourself in the Navajo culture, can’t help but enrich your own life experience.” Ms. Grady describes these trips as satisfying her desire to serve. “I feed my soul by serving,” she says. “This trip gives me a great opportunity to do that because I feel like I serve our students as well as the Navajo people. It's all about the students learning how to serve and the Navajo people reaping the benefits of that service.”
SWAU is appreciative of Dr. Butler, Ms. Grady, and all others who have supported this trip, whether by attending, sponsoring, or assisting financially. The University looks forward to continuing to offer this unique experience each year as it fulfills its mission of inspiring knowledge, faith, and service.
Southwestern Adventist University is committed to offering high-quality education in a vibrant, faith-based campus community in Keene, Texas. SWAU offers opportunities to thrive and succeed while making lifelong connections. Learn more about how to attend SWAU at swau.edu/enrollment or email email@example.com.