When Irish Eyes are Smiling: A Tribute to Pastor Carl Guiney, part 1

Carl Guiney

Cold Morning
I remember walking into a church voluntarily for the first time when I was twenty years old. It was a very snowy February morning in New England. At that time I was anxiously searching for significance as a bass player in a heavy metal band. My life was a wreck in every direction. After reading the Bible for about a week or so, I decided that I should go to church. So I put on my best Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and black skinny jeans and headed off to church in my girlfriend’s car. The snow came down fast and hard. Unable get up the long steep driveway, I just slid backwards off to the side, put the car in park, and trudged up the hill on foot.

Warm Welcome
Already late, I was cheerfully met by a man who eagerly introduced himself with a smile and handshake. “Hi, I’m Marc,” he said, “Welcome.” The congregation was already singing as Marc found me a seat. The music was robust, beautiful, and joyful. As I was getting my bearings in this foreign environment, I looked over to the man playing the piano singing with all his heart. He glanced over my way and give me a warm welcoming smile. He seemed to know what the wind just blew in.

When the singing concluded, the man at the piano made his way to the pulpit. To my surprise, he was the preacher, too. There was one very impressed bass player in the congregation that morning. This was my first introduction to Rev. Carl Guiney. I later would call him pastor.

Mission: Woonsocket, RI
I could write pages and pages on Pastor Guiney’s impact on my life, which I intend to do, but for now, I want to highlight his influence on me regarding missions. Pastor Guiney had a heart for missions and it was contagious. He planted that church where he wholly gave himself to until the day the Lord took him home. That was no small task in a small New England city chock full of Catholic churches. Fresh out of Bible college, he drove from Indiana and went to Woonsocket, RI. He took different jobs to support himself and held Bible studies until a nucleus was developed and a church was born. He didn’t apply and wait for a job as a pastor; he simply planted a church where one was desperately needed. He tied himself to the mast and committed himself to serving the people of Woonsocket.

Mission: Native America
At our church we didn’t have to wait for an annual missions conference to meet missionaries. Pastor Guiney had them coming through the church all the time. I was always excited to hear what the Lord was doing throughout the world. He had them speak either Sunday morning or evening services or Thursday night Bible study. One particular missionary really got my attention as he talked about life on an Indian reservation. His name was Joe – “Injun Joe” as his Native friends dubbed him. He was actually Italian, but his heart was for Native America. He awakened me to the need in Native America. I would love to be able to say that it was that night I decided to become a missionary to Native America – that would make a really great story – but that is not what happened. I can tell you that it was because of that particular missionary and Pastor Guiney’s passion for missions that I am a missionary today.

Sacrifice
During those years, First Assembly of God in Woonsocket struggled to pay the mortgage, and sometimes even the pastor. Yet Pastor Guiney was committed to missions. Some churches would never think of giving only $25 a month to a missionary. How would that look? Always willing to give more, First Assembly was not too proud to give a little. Pastor Guiney was not concerned with appearances in that regard. He simply wanted the name of Jesus exalted among the nations.

A Reflection
To my Reformed brothers and sisters, yes, I ultimately left Assemblies of God to pursue my studies in Reformed theology. Leaving that church was one of the most painful decisions I ever made. I am a confessional Calvinist just as much as the the next guy, but I must confess that I am starting to feel a chill, only this time it is not coming from outside. Yet my heart is warmed when I think of the day when I was welcomed by Pastor Guiney’s smiling eyes (yes, he was Irish). I am grateful to the Lord for his life example of sacrifice and faithfulness. He taught me to endure and wait upon the Lord – a lesson I need to learn again and again.

Until next time…

You may further read about Pastor Carl Guiney here:
http://104067.agchurches.org/?TargetPage=4DBBF6F3-D87F-49C0-887A-86F02AAC7DA8
http://www.woonsocketcall.com/node/2436

Who Do You Think Jesus Is?

Great friends + great view, = great day

Great friends + great view = great day

Every year as we hold our teen outreach at a local community center, kids from the different corners from the reservation come out to spend their days with us. Our program is pretty simple, shoot some hoop, play some dodgeball, sing some songs, and have a time of Bible teaching and prayer, followed by pizza. Later we take a field trip into the mountains and enjoy God’s creation.

Although we have gotten to know and love many of the youth through the years, we are blessed to meet new kids all the time. During one of our trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I asked a couple of the new kids about their exposure to Christianity. I learned that one them went to church when she was three-years-old, while the other one had never stepped foot in a church his whole life. I was all the more eager to tell them about Jesus.

As we continued to drive through the mountains, I asked them to tell me who they thought Jesus was. If you recall, Jesus asked Peter the same question in Matthew 16:15. Our new friends reluctant to answer, so I carefully explained that there was no wrong answer. I made it clear that I was not asking them to tell me who He was, but rather, I wanted to know what idea they had of Him with what little exposure that they had to biblical teaching. One of them dared an answer. In that guessing kind of way, she said, “I don’t know, was he a really good Christian who fought for freedom?” I said, “Ya know, I like that answer.” As much as a guess as it was, I liked it because of the truth in that assessment (yes, of course I gently clarified the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and Christians are the ones follow Him). I like it because Jesus did fight for freedom – freedom from sin, freedom from death and God’s wrath, freedom from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Yes, Jesus did fight for freedom, and he who the Son sets free is free indeed.

We are praying for more occasions to disciple the youth of Cherokee. We want to see them set free. We are praying for a day when they share in Peter’s confession to Jesus, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16).

Native Americans: Reached, Unreached, or Mis-reached?

When the Apostle Paul set out on his missionary journeys, he desired to preach the gospel to all who have not heard the good news of the Kingdom, which at that time, the whole world was a fresh mission field. In Romans 15:20, Paul says, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” He wanted to go where nobody had yet been.

Recently I heard of two missionaries attending a missions conference where one missionary proclaimed his ministry to his country was more important than missions to Native America because his mission was to an unreached people group whereas Native America has already been reached. Essentially, using Romans 15:20 as a proof text, he declared that only missions to unreached people groups matter, or at least are superior to all other missionary endeavors.

There seems to be confusion out there concerning how we are to approach our missionary endeavors. Some have taken Paul’s desire to be the missions template. In order to conclude that, we need to ask some important questions. Do the words in Romans 15:20 represent Paul’s personal ambition for himself as a minister of the gospel, or is Paul issuing a command for all who wish to engage in missionary activities? Is it biblical to have missionaries go to where others have gone before? Tradition tells us that the Apostle Thomas went to India. Do we not go to India anymore? Once a missionary establishes a church, does that mean the entire people group is considered evangelized with no further need for additional gospel laborers? How many generations must pass and how empty do churches have to be before another missionary attempts to plant a church that preaches and teaches the gospel of grace?

Although it is true that much of Native America has has been the target of missionaries over the last 500 hundred years, it would be a failure on our part to check them off on our list of “reached” people. Are we considering each of the 566 recognized tribes, (nations) or did we lump them altogether as one people with no recognition of their own identities?

Without question, many Native Americans have been reached, but history has shown that many of the problems we face today in ministry are the result of our past mission strategies. One particular guiding principle is expressed in the old adage “Kill the Indian, save the man.” That has led to the cultural genocide of so many Native American tribes and has left the church today with challenges that could have been avoided had we not attempted to “civilize” them them by force according to Western standards of culture.

History teaches us that Native Americans and First Nations people are a mis-reached and under reached people. Missiologists are recognizing them as a forgotten people. According to my limited studies and my own life experience, I agree.

There are people in Cherokee who have idea who Jesus is. I know, I have met them. I don’t need a statistic to prove it to me. Please pray for Native peoples. Ask the Lord what you could do. Help us reach our financial goals that we may plant a Reformed church in Cherokee. Pray that that church would raise up disciples and leaders to go throughout all the reservations and the world with the gospel. Please go to our Giving page to join our team of supporters.

Native America: Domestic or International?

Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee, North Carolina

Recently I had a good conversation with a missions pastor concerning where Native American ministry fits in missiological categories. Does it fit under domestic/home/local missions category or does it fit under international/global missions? Knowing that the whole planet is actually the mission field, these categories are somewhat artificial, but that does not mean they are illegitimate. They help us map out our mission endeavors and strategies. As church mission committees seek to be obedient to the Great Commission (Mat 28:18), they will look to Acts 1:18 for guidance. Jesus told the disciples that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, Judaea, and the ends if the earth. Today we usually understand that to mean that we start at home and work your way out to every tribe, tongue, and nation – to the ends of the earth.

So where does that leave Native America from the perspective of the “American” church? Is it domestic or international? If we must use our categories, the answer is yes to both, with an emphasis on international.

Native Americans are essentially dual citizens. There are over 500 recognized tribes (nations) in this country. Native Americans were only granted citizenship in 1924 under the Indian Citizenship Act. Each tribe is considered a sovereign within a sovereign, each with its own identity, history, land, language, culture, government, and challenges.

As I write this post from within the Qualla Boundary, I am the tourist, a welcomed guest. I have no “right” to be here. If the Cherokee were to ever ask me to leave their land, I have no recourse with the governor of North Carolina. This is their land, their home.

To consider Cherokee or any other tribe as just another town in the U.S.A. would be a failure to recognize them as a people. To consider them as another ethnic group, which emigrated here would be even worse. After 500 years of missionary endeavors and only 3% professing Christians among them, it is time we reconsider how we minister to them.

The first thing to do is to recognize them as a people, something they have been asking for for centuries. Today that begins by recognizing their sovereign nation status and honoring what remaining treaties are left.

Secondly, but no less importantly, we obey Jesus’ words in the Great Commission. We GO! Building a church in a neighboring town waiting for them to come off the reservation to attend church will not do. After centuries of literal and cultural genocide, we must earn their trust and go to them as true emissaries of peace.

There are a number of Native American pastors and missionaries who believe that Native America is a sleeping giant awaiting to be awakened by the gospel and serve in missions themselves, and not just to other reservations, but worldwide to other indigenous tribes and wherever God will send them. I believe that is true, and I pray the Lord will use us in that awakening. Perhaps he wants you to be a part of that, too.

I hope this brings more clarity to the overall picture of Native America for you. If we must see things through different lenses to focus our vision for missions, please see Native America through the “international” lens. “Domestic” communicates they live in our “house,” which is true of nearly half of the Native American population living off the reservation. Yet there are many others who choose to remain on their reservations, their land, their home, among their family and friends. The invitation has been extended and the door is open to the gospel. Let’s go.