Kristen Zollbrecht, a sophomore business and theology major at Walla Walla University, is serving as a student missionary in Arizona from August 2020 to June 2021. Zollbrecht recently shared highlights from her experiences working with members of the Navajo Nation.
Kiersten Ekkens: What does an average day look like for you?
Kristen Zollbrecht: I start the day with God reading my Bible as well as journaling. Then Martessa and I make and eat breakfast together in our trailer. Mornings are spent planning for meetings and home visits, or writing radio scripts and the letters that we send out weekly. Every week we write, record, and edit a six-minute radio segment that is aired across the reservation on Sunday. Three days a week we have kids meetings at the church from 12 to 1 p.m. where we do music, stories, and crafts. On the other days we visit several families at their homes and do Bible studies. I enjoy these the most of all. Exactly at 4:15 p.m. the 8-year-old native boy who lives on campus knocks on our door and we play hide-and-seek, tag, and other games with him for half an hour or so. In the evenings Martessa and I enjoy playing our instruments and singing, journaling, and calling friends and family.
Ekkens: Are there any Bible stories that have really come alive for you this year, if so, which ones and how?
Zollbrecht: When Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall, his enemies tried to get him to come down from where he was laying bricks and stop working. But he said, “I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3 (NKJV). God has given each of us a great work to do. It might be kids ministry like I am doing here or simply finishing a degree in school. Satan tries hard to distract us. Nehemiah had the focus and guts to give a straight “no” and that has inspired me to narrow down what my focus is and be okay with saying no because it allows me to say “yes” to my great work.
Ekkens: How does communication with your family and friends go?
Zollbrecht: In a lot of ways, it is isolated being a student missionary. I don’t interact on a regular basis with anyone else my age except Martessa. I’ve had to be intentional to reach out to friends back home, which I’ve found to be important for my mental health. Thankfully Martessa and I get along beautifully, and I have some great friends who reach out to me. The Wi-Fi and cell reception are not great, but I am able to call and text my family several times a week. We also FaceTime, but sometimes the video cuts out. We are only an hour ahead here compared to WWU.
Ekkens: What are some of the things that you think you'll miss most when you return to WWU?
Zollbrecht: This is a tough one because I don’t want to think about it yet! I am going to miss the sunshiny days and the stunning rock mesas and canyons. I am also going to miss the hugs from the kids and the native boy on campus banging on our door. I am going to miss the pastor and his wife; they are so kind. And I am going to miss the sense of purpose and ministry that I have here for the people.
Ekkens: What have some of the highlights been?
Zollbrecht: The highlights have been when I see positive changes in the kids I am working with. There was one little girl, about 8 years old, who, when Martessa and I first visited her house, had a scowl on her face and was very grumpy. After the first few weeks, that scowl turned into a smile. She would run out to greet us with a big smile and an energetic hug. She loves to sing and follow the actions and she listens when we tell Bible stories. It’s great to be able to bring a little joy and fun to these kids as well as teach them about Jesus. We are the highlight of their week.
Ekkens: What advice would you give students looking into a year as a student missionary?
Zollbrecht: Invite your friends along! Seriously, when I decided to come to Chinle and I knew there were two positions, I suggested to my roommate, Martessa, that she should come along, and after much prayer and thought she decided to come too. Having her here has been an absolute blast and has deepened our friendship more than anything could have. We have been so much stronger working together than we would have been separate. Reach out to a friend who you would like to work with and invite them to apply. You never know if they will come along too!
Ekkens: How have you seen God’s hand at work?
Zollbrecht: There is one lady who Martessa and I study with every week. She had her son taken away from her about two years ago. She has been praying that he would be able to come home. Just a few weeks ago her prayers were answered and that little boy is now back at home. God really does answer prayers.
My time here has challenged the way I pray and how much I trust that my prayers will be answered. Prayer has become more of a first go-to rather than a last resort. I’ll be working with an uncooperative kid or with an adult who shared some heavy problems with me and I don’t know what to say and now I know that a quick plea to God can fill in where I am lacking.
Posted March 10, 2021