Navajo Hopi Garden Project

With love and persistence, missionaries working on a garden project have provided an important path toward self-reliance for Native Americans in the Tuba City Arizona Stake. Members and nonmembers are taught the basics of growing their own food by dedicated senior service missionaries. Sister Elaine Olson relates the following from their mission experience.


Sister Elaine and Elder Ronnie Olson

Elder Olson has been working this year with 67 new gardeners and many previous gardeners. All of us need an encouraging word and praise for doing an amazing job and continuing to plant, which the majority of our previous gardeners continue to do.

One of our returning gardeners is Mae. She was hesitant to do anything on her own three years ago, but now she is literally stepping over her squash plants. She and her husband mentor three other participants who also continue to plant.

Lee and Rose are a couple who began planting a little late, but their garden has done very well. They plan to expand their garden next spring and are already looking forward to doing that. Rose does not speak English, so her daughter translates for Elder Olson. He does still speak Navajo, but having someone translate makes things a lot easier.

Other returning gardeners are Selina and her husband. They did such a great job last year and are now pretty self-reliant, which is one of the goals of the program. Their previous efforts at gardening had not been very successful. They happened to be visiting with another participant last year and heard of our program, then asked Elder Olson if he could help them too. He helped them get started, and they had an amazing harvest. This year they did it all on their own with minimal help.

Last week brethren from Salt Lake came to visit and check up on what we are doing in the Tuba City Arizona Stake. I was able to put together a PowerPoint presentation with about 50 slides of both gardeners and those who come to the family history center. The presentation went well, and we visited as we viewed the slides. I always get a little anxious before they come, but having gone through this several times, I am not sure why. They are always so positive and so generous with their compliments about what we are doing and how amazing the gardeners and their gardens are doing. During their visit we expressed our concern about not having as much support as we could use out here and how housing is a challenge. When I see senior couples traveling through with big RVs, I want to follow them and tell them about the opportunities to serve here.

I love the flexibility of our mission. After being trained, we get to set our own hours. We can work as long as we want. At the end of the day we are tired but find ourselves ready to go again in the morning. The best thing is that we get to love and serve our fellowman.

From our mission, we have learned a lot about ourselves and our testimonies of the gospel. We have learned to trust the Lord more and have more patience with ourselves. We have learned to love the people more every day and appreciate the challenges that other people go through. We have found that our challenges don’t seem very big at all.

I hugged a sister last night who had begun to sob. I just held on and asked if she was OK. She said it was her mother’s birthday this week. Her mother had passed away unexpectedly just a few months ago. I told her I did not have words, but I did have hugs. She said, “You hug just like my mom!” Sometimes you are blessed to respond to the Spirit and be in the right place at the right time.

I love each of you who read this message and pray that you will feel of the Savior’s love for you.