By KELTON BROOKS
About 15 years ago, Annette Frank, Donna Hageman and others were on a church bus heading to a statewide Women of Faith Conference when they began to discuss something that First Christian Church was missing.
"I spoke to the women of the church and said, 'Our church doesn't have a chicken noodle dinner, our church doesn't have a pancake dinner, our church doesn't have a ground hog dinner, and our church doesn't have a spaghetti dinner,'" Annette Frank said. "And I thought we should start something up."
Frank, who comes from a Mennonite background, said she knew of fundraisers that were happening in Montezuma, and her Aunt Florence went down to the four corners — the point in the Southwestern United States where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet — where she did missionary work.
When her aunt came back, Frank said her aunt learned how to make fry bread from members of the Navajo tribe and passed it on to her.
And like a light bulb flash of an idea, Frank thought to herself, "Beans, flour water, meat, we can do that. Let's make a Navajo taco," Frank said.
Thus was born the annual Navajo Taco Dinner — a mountain of meat, beans, cheese, tomatoes and onions all piled on fry bread. The first year the dinner was held, Annette Frank said, it was run by the women of the church. But as the demand was growing and more help was needed, the men joined in year three.
"Several church members were in on it, and we wanted to do something a little different than what other churches were doing," said Gale Frank, member of the church and Annette's husband. "But we are all here to serve and help the community. Once we learned how to make the bread, it just grew from there."
After another successful Navajo Taco Dinner on Sunday, Gale and Annette agreed that the biggest difference from 15 years ago was growth.
"The first year, I think we had 200 or 300 people, which was good. But now, we get around 1,500. Even from the beginning, we wanted to give back to the community and charities. We went from a few roasters to over 20, cooking in the kitchen to having a cook shack made. We just kept growing," Gale said.
"When you serve the Lord, good things happen."
Those good things have been a combination of good food and a great atmosphere that has brought the church and the community together.
"Being with my church family, the camaraderie, working with each other, seeing everybody and doing something for the community — aren't you the happiest when you serve?" Annette said.
The Franks said the Navajo Taco Dinner always has been in the basement of First Christian Church. Gale and Annette, who are considered the ringmaster of the dinner, said around the fifth annual dinner, a taco fund was created to continue the annual event.
"If something was to happen to us, we wanted to make sure it could float on it's own," Annette said. "We want the next generation to keep this going and going."
As the community was chomping down on their Navajo tacos and pies Saturday, smiling and talking with one another, the two agreed that fellowship and people in the community is why they, as well as others, work hard to keep the annual dinner going.
"Meeting and greeting the public, seeing people that's happy to be here, that's a high note," Annette said. "Seeing faces I haven't seen in a while and see them eat and tell us how good it is, as long as these girls keep baking these pies, we'll keep the dinners coming," she said and laughed.