SWAU Leads Mission Trip to Navajoland

April 10, 2024

KEENE, TEX. – “The Navajo are a proud people, historically steeped in tradition, a culture of kinship and clan and thoroughly endangered, less from technology than from the ideas and attitudes of the Eurocentric/Western world,” says Randy Butler in his paper “Some Thoughts About Navajoland and Its People, the Dine.” The Navajo Nation, otherwise known as Navajoland, is a reservation that lies between four surrounding states: Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. It’s within these 25,000 square miles of land where the Navajo practice and preserve their culture and traditions. It is also here where Butler, Susan Grady and other sponsors, joined by a number of alumni and students from Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) and Chisholm Trail Academy, traveled over spring break on a mission to serve the Navajo people.

​These annual trips to the Navajo Nation began in 2003 after a group of SWAU faculty saw the opportunity to serve there. Beginning with just two sponsors, Butler, former faculty member Phil Hieger and five students set out on this mission adventure, not expecting the trip to become a tradition. In recent years, the participation has grown to a steady 35-40 faculty, staff, students and alumni.  This year’s team was excited to return to visit their old friends in the Navajo Nation for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Butler identifies the two most important purposes of this trip as serving the Navajo Nation and its people and providing students with a life-changing mission and cultural experience. The team ran aVacation Bible School programs for young Navajo children, organized fun events for the youth in that area and volunteered at a Navajo senior center.  They also did light construction, landscaping and maintenance projects for a community center and a couple local churches. In addition to serving this community, the team was exposed to the Navajo culture through Navajo-guided tours of canyons, museums, ancient missions and churches, lectures and other activities.  

Butler believes it is imperative when visiting the Navajo Nation to earn the trust and respect of the Navajo people while learning about their interests and traditions. He describes his time at the Navajo Nation as “a lot of hard work,” while also saying it’s “the most rewarding experience.” He enjoys work alongside the Navajo people and to experience a different culture, way of thinking and unique approach to life. “To immerse yourself in the Navajo culture, you can’t help but enrich your own life experience.” 

Grady describes these trips as satisfying her desire to serve. “I feed my soul by serving,” she says. “This trip gives me a great opportunity to do that because I feel like I serve our students as well as the Navajo people. It’s all about the students learning how to serve, and the Navajo people reaping the benefits of that service.”

​SWAU is appreciative of Butler, Grady and all others who have supported this trip, whether by attending, sponsoring or assisting financially. The university looks forward to continuing to offer this unique experience each year as it fulfills its mission of inspiring knowledge, faith and service.

Southwestern Adventist University is committed to offering high-quality education in a vibrant, faith-based campus community in Keene, Tex. SWAU offers opportunities to thrive and succeed while making lifelong connections. Learn more about how to attend SWAU at SWAU.edu/enrollment or email enroll@swau.edu.

By Anthony Caballero

Student Writer