So goes the overriding sentiment behind the missionary work of Herman and Cynthia Nells, a Navajo couple ministering to the First Nations people in Canada.
I met with Herman and Cynthia at Solomon’s Porch, the café at Calvary of Albuquerque. The Nells were in town to visit their children, share of their ministry, and visit friends and family for the holidays.
The Nells are members of the Navajo people and served as pastors on the Ramah Navajo Reservation, a group south of Gallup, New Mexico and east of the Zuni Reservation in western New Mexico; though Herman and Cynthia are originally from Dilkon, Arizona.
Herman was the senior pastor of the Ramah Nazarene Church for over 12 years before he and his wife were called to Canada as missionaries.
In Canada, The Nells minister in a city named Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, a tiny island off British Columbia. There, Herman is a chaplain at the local hospital.
I asked Herman and Cynthia about the move.
“We felt called as missionaries in January of 2007. I had returned from a men’s conference and felt the Lord tugging at my heart. We ended up leaving Ramah, New Mexico in February 2008,” Herman told me.
“At first I didn’t know what to do. We just obeyed the call and left. Now, I am ministering as a chaplain at a hospital. The Lord has opened up some great ministry opportunities,” Herman continued.
I asked Herman and Cynthia about some of the biggest obstacles.
“Probably the greatest obstacle is the havoc that the Eurocentric people imposed upon the First Nations peoples. There is a lot of animosity and anger against the European culture,” stated Herman.
“Of particular interest is what is called the Canadian Genocide,” Herman said.
The Canadian Genocide was a series of events where the Canadian government imposed upon the First Nations People western ideals. These included residential schools, government land grants, the state church, etc., with many, many First Nations People dying and being persecuted.
“It is a sore, sore subject in this region of Canada,” he finished.
The people in the region are known as the Nuu-cha-nuulth. The Nuu-cha-nuulth are composed of 14 bands of First Nations people. The largest band runs around 2,500 individuals, and the smallest band has less than 100 people.
I then asked Cynthia and Herman about some of the blessings they’ve experienced.
Cynthia replied, “There are so many. But the biggest is being able to share the Gospel with people — building their trust in us as Christians.”
Continuing, she stated, “We are becoming acquainted with the First Nations people in our region, and I think the relationships we are developing are causing many of the folks to reconsider what it means to be a Christian. That being a Christian is not about a church, but about a relationship with the Creator, Jesus.”
“Think of it! Here we are as Navajo Native Americans, and yes the American government was not the greatest to the Native populations, but here we are — as strong Christians — ministering to other Native people. It is a great witness.”
Here, Herman jumped in. “Where we see the greatest fruit is through our conversations and interaction with people at the hospital. One young man, who is very angry with the Canadian government, stated that he needs to learn to forgive as Christians do. Another First Nations woman stated that she should look for a church where people want to follow the biblical Jesus, not just a tradition or a denomination.”
I asked both Herman and Cynthia about some of the struggles they’ve faced as missionaries.
Cynthia replied with some very practical insight, “I think some of the main things are for us to adapt to the climate and culture, such as the currency and other things. But beyond that, it is being away from family and trusting the Lord for basic needs that are always a stretch in our faith.”
Herman added, “But the blessings far outweigh the struggles.”
I asked the two of them how this was so.
“Well, just being around the First Nations people, showing God’s love to them. Also, the Churches (two Nazarene fellowships) in the area have been very accommodating — offering a wonderful community of Christians to support our efforts.”
Concluding his thoughts, Herman stated, “It is about the ministry and open doors the Lord provides for us that matters the most.”
“We became involved in missions after a man named Dana Walling brought a work and witness team to our church in Dilkon, Arizona in April of 1987,” Herman stated. “We had just recently lost a baby in miscarriage and were grieving. But when Dana’s group came, they ministered to us daily.”
Herman continued, “Although we were already involved in the church, that one week changed our lives. Dana demonstrated the love and grace of God to us. Because of God connecting us to Dana, we were able to join Point Loma Nazarene University’s annual short-term missions program — and the rest is history.”
“Our family is about ministry — giving back and showing God’s love. Our Native churches have received so much from the work and witness teams over the years that we wanted to begin giving back by helping other churches in need. Our efforts in Canada are just an extension of what the Nells family stands for,” Herman finished.
With this, I thanked Cynthia and Herman for sharing their inspiring story with me. We shook hands and I left, realizing I had gained a deeper appreciation of the beauty of the body of Christ.
For truly there are no walls that separate those who are in His love. No ethnic, racial, or gender separations — we are all one in Christ.
This story was originally published by Assist News. www.assistnews.net