Missionary Work in Navaho Land

Monthly medical missionary column.

By MARVIN WALTER, Bureau of Home Missions Worker, Arizona Conference

Rrrrr, Brrrrrr, Brrrrrrr! The telephone shrieked.

"Hello, John. A sick baby ? Something wrong with its chest ? All right ; I'll meet you at Seba Dalkai Good-by." The telephone re­ceiver banged on the hook.

"Do we have any mustard, dear? Sounds as if the baby is well on the way to pneumonia. I hope not !"

In a few minutes the faithful old car rolled out of the yard, and half an hour later stopped in front of the Seba Dalkai Government Day School. John, the Navaho bus driver and care­taker at the school, climbed in beside me, and we were on our way toward Black Medicine Butte. Off the main road for half a mile, past a corn patch in the bottom of a dry river bed, and up a short hill the car bounced its way to the hogan. (The native home is made of juni­per logs, with one door in the east and a smoke and light hole in the top, and is plastered inside and out with adobe mud.)

As we stooped in the door, Charlie, a medi­cine man, and Tso, the baby's father, motioned toward the sick baby lying on a sheepskin at the back. The labored breathing and deep cough­ing told us the baby was very sick. A young girl about fifteen, who had been at school a few years, was an apt pupil and watched closely how I prepared the mustard plaster for the little six­months-old patient. After the treatment the baby fell asleep. How I longed for a place where we could take such a sick baby and give it hydrotherapy treatments.

Two days later Charlie drove into my yard and tied his horses. A broad grin covered his old wrinkled face as he told me in broken Eng­lish, "White man medicine stronger than my medicine." Little did he know of the power behind the white man's medicine, but his eyes were beginning to see a new light stronger than the power of the devils, which he believed were the cause of all trouble.

Several weeks later we visited Charlie's sum­mer shelter, made of juniper boughs on three sides and open to the rising sun. Charlie's little ten-year-old boy sat on a sheepskin by the open fire, trying to keep warm, for it is cool even in summer at six thousand feet. The pale, pinched cheeks and hacking cough told us he was prob­ably on the road to tuberculosis—the scourge of the Indian country.

"Why don't you let me take your boy to the hospital, Charlie ? He is sick. The doctor may be able to make him better," I pleaded. The old man shook his head. I knew he was practicing his own medicine on the boy and probably would not call us until it was too late.

Six weeks later rumors came in by "grape­vine telegraph" that Charlie's boy was dying. Someone said Charlie had even gone to Tees To Trading Post and bought new clothes in which to bury him. Still the flicker of life would not go out. His uncle called me by phone and pleaded with me to take the boy to the hos­pital. We called the Ganado Hospital and told them the history of the case. Doctor Brown told us they would take him on one condition, and if we could fulfill it, they would do all they could for the dying boy.

When we entered Charlie's hogan and saw the poor dying boy, another victim of heathen­ism in North America, our hearts bled, for we realized it could have been different. For nearly two weeks the boy lingered in the hos­pital before he fell asleep. Now the old medi­cine man is extremely friendly, for did not the white medicine man take care of his boy and bury him after all others had given up and left him to die?

Then there is Ellen, whose hogan is about a mile north of Dilkon. Early one morning she came to the house to tell us her baby boy had a sore on his leg and her girl had a sore on her face. Accompanied by two of our visiting brethren from the conference office, I drove over to see the sick children. One glimpse of the girl's oozy, scabby sores all over her face told us a story common to the Navaho Indian camps—impetigo. Baby John­son had a deep infection on his little fat leg. We loaded them all into the car and drove back to the mission. It was not long before Baby Johnson was getting a good hot treatment to his infected leg, while his sister was having her face treated for impetigo. In the weeks that followed we treated them daily until they were well. The mother could read English, for she had been to school for a few years. As we treated the children's sores we told her the meaning of the troubles in our world today. Now she is reading the Signs of the Times.

Our hearts rejoiced when we received word that an appropriation had been made with which to buy a house trailer for a clinic. Because of the war and building restrictions, we are. unable to lease any reservation land or put up any buildings. But with the house trailer for our clinic, we now are equipped to care for many common ailments.

From our present location it is forty miles in any direction to the nearest doctor. Doctor Salsbury and his staff at the Ganado Mission and Hospital, a Presbyterian institution, have been very kind and have helped us in many ways. We could not ask for better co-operation from anyone.

The medical work is truly the "entering wedge" and "the right arm of the message." The instruction found in Isaiah 58:6, 7 is our marching orders : "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the op­pressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house ? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" A great work is yet to be done among this, the largest tribe of North American Indians, numbering over 55,000. God's Spirit is truly at work among this needy people. "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few."

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By MARVIN WALTER, Bureau of Home Missions Worker, Arizona Conference

November 1943

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