By Kay Harms

Approximately 1,500 Zona Camp students and sponsors gave $10,000 this summer to help clothe and equip children in the Havasupai Elementary School.

This record offering was donated by a larger-than-usual youth camp attendance, but Zona team member Josh Tompkins says the gift represents more than an increase in camp size.

“Each year, the students seem to really give of themselves,” said Tompkins, associate pastor at Hillside Baptist Church, Phoenix. “I’m continuously amazed by our students, and this [sizable gift] really shows the future heart of Arizona Southern Baptists. We have students who have big hearts and who care about unreached people groups.”

Tompkins referred to the Havasupai Elementary students as unreached people because they live in Supai, a Native American village located within the Grand Canyon. This isolated village can only be reached by an eight-mile hiking trail or an eight-minute helicopter ride.

“We’ve done ministry in Supai for about 20 years and have wanted to plant a church there, but the Lord hasn’t opened the door for that,” reported Tommy Thomas, North American Mission Board church planting catalyst in northern Arizona. “This might be that open door.”

Members of the Zona planning team had learned about the poverty, extreme lack of supplies and deficit of teachers in the Havasupai school from a March 2017 article in the Arizona Republic.

News writer Alden Woods revealed that Havasupai Elementary — the only school in Supai — holds the distinction of being the worst school in the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education system. For instance, the students test in the 1st and 3rd percentiles in reading and math respectively. Those are the worst test scores in the country for a single school. And, statistically, only 20 percent of the Havasupai students will eventually graduate.

When Zona team members contacted Havasupai Principal Jeff Williamson about their ideas for the yearly offering, he expressed amazement at their desire to help. According to Tompkins, Williamson reported that the school had received many negative responses from throughout the nation after the publication of the news article. The principal talked as if the Zona initiative was perhaps the only positive support offered to date.

Principal Williamson attended the Zona worship service the last night of camp and greeted and thanked the youth for their generosity. According to Thomas, “[Williamson] was just blown away.”

Initially, the Zona team had intended only to buy sturdy shoes for all of the Havasupai students, since they all walk to school and many have been wearing shoes that do not fit or that have been duct-taped together. However, because the offering was much more substantial than anticipated, the students will also receive long-sleeved t-shirts, bearing both the Havasupai Elementary logo and the Zona Camp logo.

The team hopes to purchase textbooks with the remaining money. Presently, students must share most textbooks, alternating the nights they take books home to complete homework.

You can find out more about the Havasupai Elementary School by reading the original Arizona Republic article online: http://bit.ly/2wrBBsK.