When I was just a young girl, in the early 1950s, The Banner, had a scrapbooking contest, for which the children who participated were to make scrap books about the Navajo or Zuni people. Back then, The Banner often had such contests to get children interested in missions. It worked for me! I got very excited about participation in this particular project. The fact that my aunt and uncle had just gone to work at a CRC mission chapel on a Navajo reservation also fueled my interest. My mom read their letters to me and I was captivated. I can’t remember if I won that scrapbooking contest, but I will never forget how much I learned about the Native American people. As I glued each picture and wrote each caption, it was one more thing I discovered.
Because of my immersion in this childhood project, I remained interested in the Navajo people, but gave no thought as to how this interest would affect my life.
In retrospect, Jeremiah 9:11 has been absolutely true. “I know the plans I have for you says the Lord.”
He did indeed know, even when I didn’t have a clue. It’s exciting to look back and see how he put all the pieces together.
When high school graduation grew near, I was a bit afraid of going on to college. But I had to do something. My parents encouraged me to go to Reformed Bible College where I received a diploma in Bible and Missions. Low and behold, at RBC I met several students from the Navajo Reservation. My mom invited them to come along with me for Sunday dinner. Some of these students were married with children, which meant a lot of guests! But even though I’m one of eight kids, there was always room at our table for everybody. Warm and lasting friendships were formed in this way.
Every student needs a part time job, so I worked at Bethany Family Services and it seemed natural to continue there after I graduated. But after just a couple of years, I was contacted by someone from CRC Home Missions to see if I would work in Salt Lake City with a native American group from the Navajo nation. He knew of my friendships with the students at RBC and how much I already knew about Navajos. He offered me a job as a long term volunteer with Navajo women and children. I took the position as missionary assistant with great anticipation and joy. My joy increased daily as through my work on the mission, I grew in my personal relationship with the Lord. Personal faith, I learned, is not inherited, nor is all about what I know about doctrine. But it’s about faith and trust in Jesus Christ. It’s about a relationship with him. I learned these lessons as I immersed myself in a different culture. These people weren't CRC, nor did they have a Dutch heritage. But many were indeed believers in Christ and part of his church.
After three years, I finished this mission assignment and went back to GR to figure out the next thing I could do for the Lord. Sometimes people asked me if I ever thought about marriage and a family. I did think about it. But I was content without it, and the Lord led me along a different path. Since I was back in GR, I thought I’d drop by RBC to change my address and say, “Hi”, to everyone. The Dean saw me there and told me about a teaching job at a small Christian school in Canada. Once again, God put me in the right place at the right time and led me to a new way of service. While teaching in Canada, I realized that in order to keep teaching, I would need to become certified. Soon I had earned an elementary education and a certification from Barrington Christian College. On the day I began my scrapbook, or even while I was at RBC, I never dreamed I would end up a fully certified elementary school teacher. But an even bigger evidence that God was directing my path, was the letter I got before graduation, offering me a fulltime teaching job at Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico near the Navajo Reservation. Even if we aren’t looking when it happens, we often turn to see that it is the Lord who orchestrates our lives.
After a few years of teaching children who began school with little or no basic language skills, (in either English or Navajo), I understood that becoming a reading specialist would be helpful. I went on to work for 30 years in both Native American and public schools in the area. Twice I was nominated for teacher of the year by Gallup/McKinely County schools of New Mexico. This award was especially meaningful as the nomination was made by the parents of my special students. My years at Rehoboth were a blessing as I saw my students grow, not just in knowledge but also spiritually. In both the Christian and the public schools, the Lord gave me many opportunities to share my faith.
Today I am the Ambassador for Rehoboth Christian School. My job is to get churches interested in giving and to get young people, retirees, and even families on vacation, interested in working on the Navajo Reservation. There are always summer projects and work to do year round. There is much for me to do to help the people of the CRC never forget the Native American people and the Rehoboth School.
I Corinthians 9:9 & 10 has truly been demonstrated in my life, “However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him' but God has revealed it to us by his spirit."
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
By Mary Feyen, as told to Margaret Broersma
If you would like more information feel free to contact Mary Feyen firstname.lastname@example.org.