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An Interview with Jonathan Dazen
by Anna Sherod, Kingdom Workers' Field Manager
On Sunday March 22nd, the Apache Lutheran church band sang at their first church service and their first wake (two day long time of remembrance for a deceased community member). During the fall, they had focused on singing at the Lutheran substance recovery group in Whiteriver. The band’s lead guitarist, Jonathan Dazen, is enthusiastic about the band’s recently expanded venues and his motivation for singing the gospel.
Jonathan had played the guitar in church prior to this re-start of the church band, before struggling with a recent relapse into alcoholism. He says, “One of the greatest ambitions I’ve had for my life is to help out in relaying God’s word to people who are struggling through music.” Jonathan was one of seven participants in a music mentoring trip from the White Mountain Apache reservation to Crosswalk Lutheran Church in Phoenix, organized by Kingdom Workers on November 16th, 2014. This trip served as a catalyst for starting the band up this winter. Below is Jonathan’s take on his experience, and his message for the family of Christ:
Q: How did the music mentoring trip to Crosswalk in Phoenix guide the band? A: Crosswalk Lutheran’s music director, Jonathan Favorite, gave me an idea of how to get this project off the ground in a way that was different than I would have done. I was just going to pick certain [talented] people, but Favorite encouraged me to get everyone possible involved. I also learned about picking songs that are easy enough to sing, and how important the lyrics are.
Q: How important is being involved in worship to you?
A: Being involved in the church is the most important decision I’ve made. I have to get involved despite my struggle with alcohol. As I get older, I realize that I really want to go to church. Life is short, and I have to stay in touch with my God.
Q: Why did the band start by playing at a substance abuse recovery program?
A: It was a good place to start - for one thing, the audience was mixed and many of them were not regular church goers, so we were playing for more than just Lutherans who have been Lutherans for a long time. I felt comfortable playing for those people because they know my background. I’ve partied with most of those guys. I wanted to show them that “no matter what you’ve done, anyone can praise God. If I can do it, you can do it too.”
Q: Why do you want the band to play at wakes?
A: The reason for playing at a wake is to spread the gospel through music – that’s the bottom line. People like music around here, or anywhere, I guess. The other groups that play at wakes always play the same songs. We played newer music and maybe it made people listen. We can take the old songs and play them a little differently too. Lyrics are the most important thing, so we want to make sure people are listening.
Q: How can Lutherans far away from the reservation be helpful to Lutherans here?
A: They can tell us their experiences. Tell us how they do their work out there, in big cities or other countries. I want to know how we can empower people in our community to be ready to use their gifts, especially for making music.
Also, If anyone has advice on how to respond to a person who’s grieving or fighting alcoholism…I deal with that a lot. People come up to me, and ask “How did you stop [drinking]?” I tell them the truth. I tell them what I was thinking and feeling and doing. As Christians we should be looking forward to Christ’s second coming. Thinking about that hope made me get away from that stuff (alcohol).
Q: Final thoughts?
A: Back when I was playing just secular music, I always wanted to spread the gospel, and now I have another chance to do that – to tell people the simple message of what God did, how God works, and how he’s still working on me. I’m going to do that now… I’m not going to wait 10 years and see how things work out. The time is now, we can get going today and use God’s gifts for his kingdom.
Please consider supporting Kingdom Workers financially as we connect Lutheran lay people to praise the Lord and share the message of the gospel. Your gifts make it possible to recognize and individually encourage lay people like Jonathan and his band, as they proclaim the gospel here on the Apache reservation.
“[Christ] died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11)
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Insights from the field manager
Interview: Manda Dazen