By Tommy Thomas, Northern Arizona Church Planting Catalyst –
It is a beautiful Sunday morning in the Tuba City area of Northwest Arizona with the sun reflecting off the multiple colors of rock formations and landscape. This area of the Navajo Nation has its own beauty and challenges in reaching people for the gospel.
I arrive at our new church plant in Coppermine 30 minutes late only to learn that I am the first to arrive. For the first hour, I am greeted by a small herd of dogs and cows. The first people arrive about a hour later and our attendance grows to over 30 with older adults, younger adults, and children.
Pastor Jesse Billy and wife Josephine are the lead planter and wife for this new work. Jesse also pastors the First Southern Baptist Church of Tuba City, where he has already raised up three men who share the preaching schedule and help with the development of this new church plant.
Coppermine is an area located on the old highway between Tuba City and Page. This highway was recently paved and more families, particularly young families, are moving back to this area. The Coppermine Church, which is the first start of three new church plants, is also referred to as the “First Windmill Church” because distances in this part of the reservation are often measured in windmills. Services are conducted in Navajo, though many of those in attendance speak English as well. For some of these families, the Coppermine Church is an opportunity to come back home, as many of them were born and raised in this remote area. They are thankful for the presence of a new church.
Pastor Jesse’s salary is supported by the North American Mission Board and Arizona Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program, along with support from the Grand Canyon Baptist Association, Village Park Baptist Church of Oak Creek and the Northern Arizona Church Planting Region. First Southern, Tuba City, is now sponsoring a new Native American Bible Institute, training up indigenous leaders to help plant future new churches and strengthen existing churches. Our Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team will be doing renovation on an abandoned church building now being made available to the Coppermine work. This is the only church of any kind in this area. In partnership with the new All Nations Church in Flagstaff, Korean youth teams are planning to conduct Vacation Bible School and other outreach projects this summer.
So, while dogs and cows are always welcome, the Coppermine Church is proud to provide the opportunity for Navajo families to gather and for the opportunity to reach many people for Christ. Thank you for your support of this new work.