I'm getting ready to go on a vacation for the first time in several years, and I'm really getting excited as the time draws near for my departure date. All of us here in the newsroom are taking time off within weeks of each other, so we are all sharing in each others excitement.
John is going to Bolivia, Sherri is going to Gulf Shores, and I'm going to Northern Arizona to a little spot right along I-40 called Jackrabbit. The only things there at that exit are a little store that sells gas and souvenirs, and then there is NAOMI (Native American Outreach Ministries, Inc.), where I will spend my time away from home.
NAOMI is a children's ministry that I've been affiliated with since the early 90s. I serve on the board of directors as the vice-president, and even though I'm unable to make it out there as often as I'd like, it is one of my favorite places in the country to visit. I'm going out there this week to attend our annual board meeting.
NAOMI is an oasis of Christ's love in the middle of the high desert that sits just off the Navajo Reservation. The interstate highway is on the north side, the railroad tracks on the south side, and to the east and west are barren desert, sand, dust and weeds. But, in my eyes it is a beautiful place. A resting place.
The children that reside at NAOMI House come from the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache tribes, and each of these little ones come with their own story of misery and abuse. But at NAOMI they find a caring family atmosphere where people are eager to comfort them, train them, and bring healing to their broken hearts.
The director and president of NAOMI is a dear friend of my family, a wonderful, warm hearted woman named Linda Russell. She worked as my secretary years ago in Louisville, Ky. at the Teen Challenge ministry where I served as director.
Linda attended a missions conference at a local church one weekend and came away a changed person. She walked into my office one day shortly after that and told me that God was calling her to head out west and go work amongst the Navajo. I hated to see Linda go, but understanding the call of God, I gave her my blessings, and she soon left for Arizona.
That was back in the early 80s, and over the years God has fashioned Linda's heart and her ministry into a haven of hope for so many troubled children. It has been awesome to watch the ministry there grow over the years, and to see the kids grow up into some fine young people who have found life with a purpose.
The support for NAOMI comes from all across the country, and those of us who serve on the board of directors come from different corners of the US as well. We are a diverse group of Christian people from a variety of denominations with one goal, and that is to share the love of Christ with precious children who are needing a safe place to call home.
Every time I visit NAOMI I am once again challenged in my faith, refreshed by the hope I find there, and encouraged to be a better man and a stronger Christian.
So I'm excited about going on vacation. I'm not going to fly overseas to another continent like John, or drive to the beautiful, lush tropical gulf shores of Alabama like Sherri, but I'm going to the barren desert of Northern Arizona to a spot on the road called Jackrabbit. And it's there I find hope.
Doug Dezotell is the education reporter for the Times-Gazette, and writes features and covers other news. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .