I just returned from a trip to Jackrabbit, Ariz., one of my favorite places to visit.
It is the home of NAOMI House (Native American Outreach Ministries, Inc.). I spent a week there visiting, ministering, resting, and being blessed.
And I enjoyed spending time with one of my heroes, Linda Thompson, the director of NAOMI.
Linda had served as my secretary in the early 80s at Teen Challenge of Kentucky in Louisville. She was working for me when God called her to go to minister among the Navajo Indians in Northern Arizona.
She has been teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to Native Americans ever since she arrived there.
There were 34 children at NAOMI when I was out there this month, from infants to teens. Linda and her staff care for these children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many of those children are under the age of 5.
Linda and her staff are all heroes to me. They are missionaries who are called to minister to children from abusive homes.
Many of the kids in their care have parents who are in prison or are drug addicts or alcoholics. The children have suffered abuse, physically, sexually and mentally. They have been removed from their homes by the Tribe and placed with the caring people at NAOMI House.
Most of the children are too young to even realize that they were living in a dangerous environment. They are afraid and lonely when they arrive at NAOMI, but they soon experience the love and compassion of the Christian staff. And they settle in and feel safe for the first time in a long time.
I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of NAOMI since the ministry was first organized in the early 90s. I am the vice-president of that board. But to many of the kids I'm just "Grandpa."
The need is great for ministries like NAOMI all across the country. Children are being abused and neglected in communities everywhere.
I attended a Native American Bible Conference in Holbrook, Arizona for several days while I was visiting NAOMI. There were Native American Christian leaders in attendance at the conference from all over the U.S. They were from Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma, California, Hawaii, Florida, Mississippi, Alaska and Arizona.
To hear these men and women share, you realize that abuse of every kind is rampant on the reservations in every state.
I know I need to pray for these pastors and their ministries that they can reach these hurting families with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their task is great, and so often their resources are meager. Yet, they do all they can to help their people in need.
I came home from Arizona with a long list of heroes; men and women who are giving of themselves to make a difference in the lives of others. Linda and her staff are keeping children safe with the love of God, and Native American pastors and their spouses are impacting their communities with the hope found in Christ. They are all my heroes.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.