Fire destroys Southwest Native American District church
Monday, April 17, 2006
Kaibeto, Arizona

Southwest Native American District Superintendent John Nells had just sat down to begin a Nazarene Youth International District Council meeting in Flagstaff, Arizona when he received a call saying there was an emergency on his district.

On the line was Juanita Johnson, wife of Dennis Johnson, who is the pastor of the Kaibeto Church of the Nazarene.

"Juanita was almost shouting, saying `The Kaibeto church is on fire!'" Nells recalled.

Juanita continued, telling Nells that the afternoon Arizona winds were making matters worse, and "the church was engulfed with an uncontrollable fire."

The Kaibeto Church of the Nazarene is located 30 miles south of Page, Arizona near the Arizona-Utah state line in northern Arizona on a remote Navajo Indian Reservation.

It took the local volunteer fire department more than 30 minutes to respond to the fire, and by that time it was already too late.

The fire destroyed the entire structure of the church, leaving charred cinder block walls built nearly 46 years ago by self-appointed missionary John Spohn.

Nells was able to visit the site on April 2, the day after the fire. He stated that church members gathered under a brush picnic shelter to share testimonies.

"In spite of the loss of their sanctuary the church people were encouraged," Nells reported. "Several prominent tribal leaders stopped by and one even reminded them that they, `the Christians,' were the real church."

One week later, the Navajo Tribal president, Dr. Joe Shirley, encouraged everyone to become involved in rebuilding the church. Nells reports that several churches on the Southwest Native American District are rallying together to do clean-up work and are anxious to help rebuild the church.

In 2004, also on the Southwest Native American District, the South Tucson (Arizona) Church of the Nazarene sustained severe damage caused by a fire. According to Nells, this small congregation, pastored by John Williams, still needs the building torn down and rebuilt.

For more information regarding the Kaibeto or the South Tucson church, please contact the District Superintendent John Nells at (928) 657-3491 or (928) 699-2033.
--USA/Canada Work & Witness, SWNA District

WNA District

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