North Church


Back to Zuni in a Volvo 240

Well, we made it out to Zuni once again. This time it was just Drew and I cruising in the mighty white Volvo 240. More people were planning to join us but wild schedules and demands changed the strength of our entourage. Regardless, in the words of Matt Ellison, our mission’s coach, it was a serendipitous trip. 

To tell you the truth, we drove towards Zuni without knowing what to expect. 

We cruised into the heart of Zuni and met Kent Bosma, our organizer and Michigan based host for the day. 


He introduced us to Kathy, who has been the principle of the Christian Reformed Church Mission School for the last 20 years. Looking towards retirement, she asked if we knew anybody who would be willing to take her place for the next school year. During the short amount of time that we spent with her, she read a letter from a Zuni parent stating how thankful they were for the school. Afterwards, she spoke about the intricacies of fear, guilt, and shame that Zuni wrestles with on a day to day basis. And then, just like, that she hopped out of her seat, said good-bye, grabbed her hot lunch, and ran off to teach a class.

After she left, Drew and I were offered a plate of Spanish rice, a beef taco, and a couple of cookies. We grabbed our hot lunch and sat next to a group middle school boys. We only had a couple of minutes to ask them the hard questions of life while in the cafeteria. Where do the nerds sit? Where do the jocks sit? They identified themselves as the hardcore kids and pointed out the emo kids while chuckling. Then without saying goodbye they ran off to recess.

We finished our lunch and drove to the visitor center. We were greeted by a Zuni lady named Arlene. We let her know that we wanted to take an official tour of the village and old catholic mission. She discouraged us from touring the village because of the wind. However we convinced her otherwise by stating that I was from Zia and was familiar with the lonely, sandy pueblo wind that ends up in your hair, eyes and mouth. 

Pueblos restrict visitors from taking photos or filming their land, villages and people. But not on this trip, the visitor center sold photography and video permits. Arlene hooked us up with everything we needed to capture Zuni. 

For over an hour, she sat us down to explain the history of the Zuni people. She taught us about their early interaction with the conquistadors, their commitment to their ancestral beliefs, their clans, their language, and their religious calendar. 

She then walked us through the old catholic church and explained a mural of painted life size kachinas. The kachinas were divided on two walls. One wall represented the winter kachinas and the other wall represented the summer kachinas. We were surprised to find out that visitors were welcome to watch most of the kachina dances that took place during the year.

From the church, we zigzagged through the wind stricken pueblo learning more about their kivas and dances. By the end of the tour, our friend and guide, Arlene, explained to us how Zuni uses their bread ovens in multifaceted and superior ways than Zia does. As a side not, she also shared that she may have once seen a U.F.O. She wasn’t exactly convinced about the U.F.O sighting but a Japanese film crew did document her story.

As Drew and I drove back to Albuquerque in the mighty Volvo, we talked about the unexpected take away of the trip. It was the Zuni people. Go figure. Those hardcore kids on their way to recess and Arlene the guide won our hearts.