Nazarene quilters shine light through the darkness
Light switchplates on the wall are as foreign to the Rev. Justin Johnson and his wife, Elizabeth, as hot and cold taps on their kitchen sink. They have neither.
An oil lamp provides the only illumination each evening in their Navajo Nation home in the rural village of Cornfields, Ariz.
Without electricity or plumbing, life on the reservation is far from easy. The unemployment rate is more than 70 percent in the impoverished town of about 2,000.
But the community looks forward to spring, when a powerline will be extended to the residents.
“Oh, we are excited about this,” Elizabeth says. “How wonderful it will be to just switch on the lights.”
A waterline still is too expensive, though. They’ll continue to haul water for household use.
Justin drives 40 miles to minister to the Nazarene church in Nazlini, Ariz., and Elizabeth manages a chapter house of the Navajo Nation government in Cornfields. It serves about 12,000 people from the surrounding region.
She describes it as a town hall with the focus on community development. The town also has a group home for its older citizens and a Head Start program for children. Gas stations and convenience stores are a 15- to 45-mile trip away.
In 2009, the Palisade Church of the Nazarene raised more than $5,000 through a quilt show and Navajo rug sale to help pay travel expenses for American Indian cancer patients who need treatment in Albuquerque, N.M., or Phoenix — a drive of 200–300 miles.
Those funds, dispensed in $75 increments, have assisted 11 cancer patients with gas, food and lodging for them and their family members, Elizabeth Johnson says. Three are school-age children, and all are from low-income families.
Indian Health Service pays for the actual medical treatments but not for associated expenses, she says. At times, patients are required to stay two weeks for radiation or chemotherapy or complications.
“Most have improved their medical condition because they’ve been able to keep every appointment,” Johnson says.
But her recent financial report sent to the Johnsons’ Palisade sister church shows that the $5,000 is nearly depleted, and she is asking for more assistance.
Johnson will bring 20–30 handwoven Navajo rugs, jewelry and some quilts made by Cornfields residents to the Grand Valley. These will be offered at silent auction from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Palisade Church of the Nazarene, 3595 Front St., Palisade.
The event is sponsored by the Nazarene Sisters Quilters of the Palisade church. Shirley Hill leads the group of 12, which meets every other Thursday.
Between the Palisade quilters and some other church-goers, 60 baby quilts and some craft items have been made as a fund- raiser for another charity, The Pregnancy Center in Grand Junction, according to Nazarene Sisters Quilters member Gyneeta Roe.
The Pregnancy Center is a nonprofit organization that provides free pregnancy tests, counseling, alternatives information, referrals, maternity clothes and baby items, and a post-abortion support group. There are two locations in Grand Junction.
Most of us are lucky enough to live in homes with all the newest 21st century appliances and gadgetry.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that others in our world are troubled, even in despair. Longing for light, they wait in darkness — figuratively or literally. But the Palisade Nazarene Sisters Quilters have not forgotten the less fortunate, and their intent is to shine a light through that darkness.
Bless them for that.