About once a year, the Presbytery Records Review Committee examines the Session minute book and the register (roll book). The minute book contains minutes of the Session meetings including decisions that keep the church operating, when members join, die, baptisms, weddings, and information for members that transfer to another church.
Recently, the review was held at the Vah Ki Presbyterian Church on the Pima Indian Reservation near the village of Bapchule of Vah Ki. They are about 20 miles south of Chandler. You take I-10 to Casa Blanca road, turn west going toward Maricopa and maybe 20 miles north of Casa Grande. In Spanish the adjective follows the noun so Casa is house and Grande is large. Blanca is white, for a white house, but I do not remember seeing a white house set aside for the road to be named Casa Blanca.
About five miles from I-10 on the south side of Casa Blanca, something caught my eye. It was an Indian cemetery. The graves are mounded up with dirt about a foot or two, high. I do not know if there is a hole dug or if the body is placed on top of the ground and covered with loose dirt. Think about it; it is easier to bring in loose dirt than to dig a hole six feet deep. The down side of the project is if a summer monsoon flood comes into the cemetery, the loose dirt “goes with the flow” and so do “them dry bones”. I heard this happened in Sacaton east of I-10. This might be spooky if one is driving home at night near the rushing water. No telling what one might see. So, I stepped on the gas to get away in case of a flash flood.
On down the road, I see an old but well kept small church with natural desert landscaping with a sign saying U.P.C.A. (United Presbyterian Church America) and pointing north to the church, which was a couple hundred yards. I pulled into the huge dirt desert parking lot. My first thought was these people get their shoes muddy when it rains, but they attend church to worship God and not their shoes. To the south of the traditional church building was an open, on three sides, tin roof shed with pews that would sear maybe 200 people. The Presbytery worship service and meeting was held there as the sanctuary would not hold the crowd that day. This open meeting place is just fine in good weather, but cold on a winter day and dusty when the wind blows as there is no grass to hold the dirt down.
There were more Indian church people helping with the meeting arrangements than the Peoria church has in worship, sometimes. They were so helpful. I asked a young lady where the water fountain was and she brought me a bottle of water. In the kitchen, there were several people, all kinds of fresh fruit, pastries and etc. What a treat they provided. Outside, people were stationed to tell you where the restroom was and etc. They probably had their own water well as there were o towns or water companies around. In other words, they were great hostesses and hosts.
Now, for the sad news. There is a problem with alcohol and drugs, especially with the youth. There is not much for the youngsters to do except I did see a basketball hoop made from a bicycle wheel with the spokes removed and the rim fastened on a pole. There are all dirt ball fields, but sometimes we need something else to do when night time falls.
I was told the Pima Tribe were farmers in earlier years raising grain to sell to the U.S. Army Cavalry to feed the horses. They had water for irrigation from the Gila River that originates in New Mexico. Sometime back, maybe a hundred years ago, white men dealt the Pima people a dirty deal by building Coolidge Dam several miles to the east on the Gila. This left the Gila River dry, going through the Pima Reservation. However, the white man has the water to irrigation fields in the Coolidge and Casa Grande area and the native Americans have dried up farms gone back to desert vegetation instead of fields of wheat to sell to the US Army Cavalry.
I came home with thoughts going through my mind; we worry or complain if the sanctuary is not cool enough or the lawn needs cutting while the Pima’s at Vah Ki and similar places of worship, are thankful for what they have with the dirt blowing through worship on a windy day on the reservation as they worship the same God as we do.