Lennox Letters: Summer 2019 – PCA General Assembly Edition

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Painting of Chief Rain in the Face by brother and friend, Mark Little Elk (Lakota)

Dear Jesus Follower,

We are Patrick and Regina Lennox – MTW missionaries to Native America. We met at a Bible college in 1995. Together we have been in ministry for over twenty years. I (Patrick) am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS Orlando, M.Div, 2014). From 2004 – 2014, I served at a Reformed church in Sanford, Florida as the director of education, youth, and local missions. Eight of those years, Regina and I led short-term teams to serve among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC. From 2017 – 2019, we served at the Mokahum Ministry Center on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bemidji, MN, working with fellow Native brothers making disciples and training leaders in Indian Country. We are members of our sending church, Orangewood Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Maitland, FL.

Big Story!

IMG_20190627_132853_866 (1)It’s official. We are partnering with Third Millennium Ministries to bring biblical education, for the – Native American – world, for free. It has been a long time coming, but the Lord has brought it to pass. We are very thankful for this new chapter of outreach. Please continue reading to learn more about our new ministry journey and how you can be a part of it. (You can read about how it all began in Behind the Scenes of Providence).

 


To be clear, we are still MTW missionaries. All support continues through MTW. 


The Need

Corn

Corn we grew at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Minnesota.

To give perspective, there are currently 573 federally recognized Native tribes in the U.S. plus the many other yet-to-be recognized, plus the tribes with state recognition. Add to that the 634 First Nations recognized by Canada, and you begin to understand that the indigenous people of North America are a diverse people. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, there are 5.2 million Native people and 1.4 million in Canada. That is 6.6 million Native image-bearers of God from the more than 1,200 federally recognized people groups with distinct cultures, languages, histories, present realities and futures. The people are diverse. The fields are ready. The Lord of the Harvest bids us go and reap the harvest.

 

Churches need planting · Pastors need training · Believers need discipling

Sound familiar? Yes, these are perennial needs that will exist throughout the world until Jesus returns. But in the corner of the world where the Lord has burdened us, the challenges are greater than in non-Native communities. Native Christians need well-trained Native pastors. We have personally lived with the fallout of what happens when untrained pastors do not properly handle the Word of Truth. The people of God suffer from lack of biblical discipleship. Jesus deserves more than that. Let’s make sure He gets what He paid for.

Although statistics are hard to come by, the consensus among Native leaders and our experience on the field shows that most Native pastors are bi-vocational, and many of those lack proper biblical and theological training. It is also recognized that many of those Native pastors desire more biblical and theological training, yet are unable to leave their work, families, and churches to get it. That is where we come in.

Our Response

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Dear friends, Craig and LaDonna Smith of Tribal Rescue Ministries

By God’s good providence, we have been able to meet and work with many Native Christian leaders and laity over the years. We plan to continue to build on those relationships and establish new ones that we may gain inroads to find those pastors and prospective leaders who want biblical and theological training.

First, we will establish study cohorts of three or four men each to engage in a class utilizing Third Mill curriculum. We already have the core of a cohort ready to begin studying using Third Mill’s series The Apostle’s Creed. Pray as we begin in August.

 

Leo Czarina Regina

Leo Bird (Cherokee, Mokahum Ministry Center), Czarina (Ojibwe, MMC student), Regina.

To build up these cohorts will require a lot of travel. It is our goal to make Third Mill curriculum available on every one of the 325 U.S. Native reservations and surrounding communities, as well as Canadian reserves and communities. This is too much for us. Obviously, we’ll need help. But we serve a big God who can do abundantly more than we could ever ask or do. Dream with us as we face this monumental task.

During our time at Mokahum, we used Third Mill curriculum with our students. They were deeply moved by what they learned and appreciated the clarity and depth of the material. We are convinced that Third Mill provides the best biblical and theological curriculum for distance learning and will greatly grow the church of Jesus Christ among the various tribes, tongues, and nations in North America.

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Rev. Samson Occom (Mohegan, the first ordained Native American Presbyterian minister)

Secondly, for many years we have had a deep desire to establish a study center for Native disciples not unlike Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri model. We believe a discipleship center to “Discover the God who is and your place in his kingdom” would meet a pressing need in Native America. The campus would serve both Native laity looking for more intentional discipleship unavailable to them in their present setting and for those Third Mill students who are able to attend for short periods of time. Space will not allow for us to elaborate on all that we envision, but please pray and track with us to see if the Lord establishes the Samson Occom Institute for Biblical and Theological Studies and the Occom Discovery Center.

Let’s keep talking.

 

Our Challenge to You

You have made it to page three. You have moved from mere curiosity to interest in what the Lord is doing in Native America. We are asking that you would move beyond momentary interest to continual prayer. We ask that you beseech the Lord and ask him if he wants you to join us for the long haul.

We need a team of praying and supporting partners.

We need to raise additional support. By nature of our ministry, our travel costs will increase as well as other ministry costs.

Please consider joining our support team. Pledged giving is most helpful as we plan for the future. But all gifts are helpful and appreciated.

Please help us spread the word about what the Lord is doing in Native America.

Please pass this newsletter along to someone on your church’s mission committee.

Please pray for us as we strive to serve in Native America, and follow us on our journey at www.LennoxLetters.com.

If you would like to partner with us, there are multiple ways to do that.

Give us a call. Let’s talk about it.

Sign up for our newsletter. Text us your contact info and we will sign you up.

For His Kingdom,

 

Patrick & Regina Lennox #14241

MTW Missionaries to Native America

(p) 407.416.1482

(blog) http://www.lennoxletters.com

(e) lennoxletters@gmail.com

(t) @patricklennox

(fb) /Patrick.r.lennox

(Instagram) /patrick_lennoxletters

Skype: LennoxClan5

 

[This post is a revised edition of a hard-copy newsletter in June 2019 for distribution at the PCA General Assembly]

 

 

 

 

A Better Way to Build: Lessons from an Angry Pastor

building house - bricks and project for construction industry

There is an age-old technique pastors have used to give their church a sense of unity and mission. It’s called the building campaign. Trust me. I have heard about it, read about, and have seen it. Now don’t get me wrong. This is not the case with all building campaigns. Even as I write this, my home church is doing a long overdue renovation and is engaging in a long-term building plan. In fact, they put off an expensive building plan for many years in order to support more missionaries on the field.

So What Exactly Does Compulsion Look Like?

We have visited a lot of churches. I will never forget the most awkward church service I have ever attended. It was immediately after we began our journey as missionaries. Up until that time, I only heard about such things, but that Sunday, we actually heard it with our own ears. It was a pastor chastising the congregation for not participating in a capital campaign. To be clear, he wasn’t chastising them for not fulfilling a pledge; he reprimanded all those who chose not to pledge to the campaign. He proceeded to tell his congregation that he was “angry, saddened, and vexed” when he thought of all those who didn’t give. More than that, he told them that he knew the names of everyone who didn’t pledge.

boss scolding his employees and these will run

This particular capital campaign was an effort to pay down the mortgage debt earlier than scheduled. The rationale for the quick retirement of the mortgage was so the church could increase its missions budget. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with that rationale. The backstory, according to a member, was that the congregation already heard that before while worshiping in their original building. Shortly after that mortgage burning, the decision was made to sell the church and embark on a new building campaign.

If that chastising were not bad enough on that Lord’s Day, the really strange part was that the pastor proceeded to preach on 2 Corinthians 9:7 only hours later at the evening service. Let’s remind ourselves of the passage:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (ESV)

I don’t know how that preacher handled this passage that evening, I wasn’t there. But I can assure you that what he did that morning was a betrayal of the passage. If that was not compulsion by the pastor, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident in the Lord’s church. As a follow up, I was there the following Sunday evening as he continued his series on 2 Corinthians 9, where he recognized his hearers may have thought he had a harsh tone, only to double down on his statement, without any hint of apology.

WWPD — What Would Peter Do?

Now I agree that pastors must admonish their congregation to give to the work of the kingdom. Of course, someone may call upon Acts 5:1-11 where Peter rebukes Ananias and Sapphira for not giving all they declared to have given. That was a pretty severe situation and ought to put the fear of God in us. But I don’t recall Peter expressing his personal anger to them (not that Peter was incapable of expressing his frustration with people). As far as we can tell from that passage, Peter dealt with them in a straightforward fashion declaring how the Spirit was going to deal with them. Yet even if Peter did indeed express deep vexation towards that lying couple, we have seen enough of Peter to not emulate him during his emotionally extreme moments.

According to studies most Christians don’t give anything that resembles a tithe, while so many give sacrificially. Our requests for support are turned down time and time again because churches have really tight budgets, or even more, they are operating over budget. Let me emphasize my appreciation for the pastors who give their all and encourage their flock to do the same for the kingdom. We know many of them.

Lesson Learned

Mood swings in a girl

This                                                                                        Not This

Like angry pastors, I, too, can get frustrated. I would much rather be serving on the field with all our funds raised right now rather than waiting for folks to cheerfully give to our ministry. But we are on the Lord’s timetable not mine. He moves the hearts of people, not me. And He doesn’t need me scolding His people for not giving to our ministry.

As painful as it was to watch, I am thankful that I was able to be there that particular Sunday. By God’s providence that year, I was able to witness something I wouldn’t have believed if you told me. The Lord used that occasion to remind me how not to raise funds even though that scolding worked–they ended up meeting their goal, and they never did decide to partner with us. All by God’s grace!

Are You a Cheerful Giver?

I don’t know who is reading this post. I don’t know your financial situation. I don’t know your heart condition. I don’t know who you are, and even if I did, I promise I won’t publicly expose you for not giving to our mission.

I cannot tell you that the Lord of the Harvest requires you to give to our mission, but I can tell you that He requires you to give to the Great Commission. We can only hope He moves on your heart to give in our direction.

hand nurturing and watering young baby plants growing in germination sequence on fertile soil with natural green background

We don’t have anything to offer you except our prayers and reports from the field of what Jesus is doing in Indian country. We don’t have any forecasts or projections of how Jesus will give you a really good ROI (return on investment).  But God’s word tells us that we should not despise small beginnings (Zach 4:10). Some plant, some water, but we are assured that it is the Lord who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:7). Our ministry does the watering. Please consider our small beginning and see how the Lord increases the fruit of our labors.

If you would like to talk to us about our ministry and how you can be part of our support team, please contact us. We are always available to talk to you.

Now You Know: Answering the call to Native America

Not Feeling It?

freedomWhat motivates you to give to a particular missionary or ministry? We continually ask people to pray to see if the Lord is calling them to join our team. The question is, what would it take for the Lord to show you that you should be a part of this effort to reach Native America? What is keeping you from giving?

For some people, it is simply a matter of finances. Money is tight for a lot of folks. We understand that. Really. We’re feeling it, too.

For other folks, it is a matter of simply not feeling it. But what does “feeling it” feel like? Do you give based on a personal benefit or fulfillment that you get from a particular ministry? Do you receive educational/edifying materials and/or a sense of community from that ministry? Simply put, do you get something out of it?

Or do you give based on a sense of urgency about a particular mission field such as feeding the hungry or giving medical attention to the poor? Or is it adventure based? Are you driven to give to a missionary based on an element of danger like venturing into a hostile nation or perhaps going deep into uncharted parts of the world?

The Home Court Disadvantage

I believe the Native American mission field is suffering under a home court disadvantage. For many folks, it just doesn’t seem like a valid mission field anymore. It’s too close to home. For more than ten years, I have heard Christians question the legitimacy of missions to Native America. Much of mainstream Christian America simply doesn’t recognize Native Americans as distinct people groups. Comments like, “They’re Americans, aren’t they?” or “Why don’t they get off the reservations and come to our churches?” or “Make them assimilate?” or “They have their casinos. They’re doing fine,” or perhaps the saddest of  them all, “Do we even have Indians anymore?” The worst part about those comments is that they are uttered in our churches. But I can assure you, there is still a harvest in Indian Country.

forest picture frame on dry ground texture Nature Conservancy co

Greener on the Other Side?

I firmly believe if we were talking about the indigenous people groups in foreign lands like Brazil, Central America, or somewhere in Asia, it would be a different conversation. There would be a greater sense of urgency and adventure. But here at “home,” I truly think there is an apathy and cynicism towards missions to our indigenous neighbors here in the U.S. and Canada. Perhaps Native America is not exotic enough for us. Have our Native neighbors become too familiar? Are they not “indigenous” enough anymore?

What We Thought We Knew

hollywood-staaapPart of the problem is that most Americans believe they have a real working knowledge of Native Americans and have relegated them to the past. I can assure you that if your knowledge of our Native neighbors comes mostly from a high school text book (Christian or public), news media outlets (conservative or liberal), and movies (Hollywood or otherwise), then you have an impoverished understanding of your Native American neighbors. And that was no accident.

I am certainly no expert on Native America. Even with my intentional studies over the last few years, annual trips to Cherokee, NC since 2006 (and other reservations), friendships with members from many tribes, I remain simply an informed novice. The real history of Native Americans and their continuing story is much more than what we can passively glean from our cultural sources.

What We Do Know

We already know that Jesus wants to make disciples from among Native American and First Nations peoples. He said “Go, therefore to all nations…” (Matt 28:19). There are 567 in the United States and another 634 in Canada. So there is no shortage of harvest. But there is a shortage of workers. They are few, so we are told by the Lord of the Harvest to pray for workers (Luke 10:2).

Here is a thought: Perhaps when you first began hearing us talk about our mission to Native America, you didn’t think the Lord was calling you to support this ministry. But let me challenge you a bit with our original question: What would it take for the Lord to show you that you should be a part of this effort to reach Native America?

Consider this:

  • Have you been awakened to the need for missions to Native America in a way that you didn’t know before?
  • Have you been convinced that Jesus’ name was mis-represented in some very significant ways in Native America?
  • Are you convinced Jesus wants to do great things among the Indigenous peoples of North America unlike any other time in history?
  • Do you actually believe that the Lord wants to build up His church and expand it in Native America?

How much of your knowledge of Native American providentially came from reading our posts? Whenever we speak to people whether in churches or privately, we hear the same response, “I just didn’t know.” If you have been reading just a fraction of what we have posted on our blog, LennoxLetters.com (which itself is very little), you most likely have learned more about Native American/First Nations peoples than most people you know.

Now You Know

Perhaps before you didn’t know, but now you turn knowledge into actionknow. What will you do with this knowledge? There is a ripe harvest out there in Indian Country and there are Native Christians who are being raised up at the Mokahum Ministry Center. We have received a call to lock arms with Christian Native leaders to make disciples and raise up leaders from among the 1,201 federally recognized nations on the North American continent.

Billy Graham said it years ago that he believed that Native America is a sleeping giant. There is good reason to believe the awakening has begun. The Lord is doing it, and he has given us the call to join him. Now you know. What will you do with that knowledge?

If you have obeyed Jesus by “earnestly praying that the Lord of the Harvest would send laborers into His harvest” (Lk 10:2), then rejoice! We are a partial fulfillment to that prayer. Now that He has answered your prayer, please consider joining us as we answer the call to Native America as we prepare more laborers for the harvest.

Please Let Us Know

If you believe the Lord is calling you to join our support team, please let us know. If you have read this entire post, congratulations, you have endured more than most readers. This proves your concern. We need your support.You can contact us anytime. Call, text, email, Skype, FB Message, however. Let’s talk about you coming aboard our support team and be part of the harvest in Native America.

To Contact Us, click here.

To Give, click here.

All for the Kingdom!

Patrick & Regina

 

*For more about cynicism and apathy towards missions to Native America, read my post Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions.

*To learn more about Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans and its affect on American culture, watch the documentary Reel Injun.

Whoever Watches the Wind

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.”

– Ecclesiastes 11:4, NIV

Thunderstorm

The end of the year is upon us, and we need to finish strong. ‘Strong’ for us means that we have a sharp increase on the pledge side of our ledger. Our barns are not yet full. From our vantage point of life under the sun, we don’t see hope for our mission. That’s why we need faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1).

Looking at the economy over the last few years and reflecting on the many trials we have endured on this long winding road to the mission field, things don’t look good. Winds of change have prevailed against us numerous times over the last couple years, yet hundreds of people persist in praying for us. But we are still waiting for the answer to those prayers. We don’t know when the Lord will allow us to reap what we’ve sown, so we continue to plant.

Planting with Pledges

With the end of the year approaching, we anticipate a certain amount of people will give us financial gifts of all sizes. End-of-the-year gifts are needed because of either regular or extra expenses. During our team-building phase of ministry, we need money to cover traveling, communication, training, and our stipend. BUT the journey to the mission field would be a whole lot shorter if people would commit to a pledge.

A pledge is the actual stepping stone that paves the way to the field. If all those year-end gifts were actually pledges for the next four years, we would probably be on our way to the field.

Missionaries never know what will come in at the end of the year. That’s why we can’t really budget according to one-time/special gifts. We need people to commit to a pledge for at least four years. So much of the end-of-the-year giving ends up being used for more travel, more communication, more newsletters asking for pledges. Again, all financial gifts are used for ministry, but we are hoping and praying that we would move to the next phase of our ministry on the field at the Mokahum Ministry Center. But we can’t do that without … you guessed it … pledges.

Regina, Patric, Huron Claus (CHIEF Ministries), Richard Pratt (Third Millennium Ministries)

Regina, Patrick, Huron Claus (CHIEF Ministries), Richard Pratt (Third Millennium Ministries)

Planting with New Partnerships

In the meantime, we are currently working with CHIEF Ministries and Third Millennium Ministries as they coordinate a special project together involving 500 Native pastors and leaders. There will be a conference for Native American/First Nations pastors and Christian leaders July 2017. Five hundred Native Christian leaders will be given an introductory thumb drive that contains nearly half of the Third Mill curriculum. That’s about one-year of seminary education for FREE with more online. Imagine the potential!

Please pray for us. We do not have a team of marketing campaigners, development officers, or callers. It’s just us. We are striving as hard as we can to reach the field, but it’s not enough. We need the Lord to move on our behalf. We need more support. We need a bigger team. We are depending on our support team to introduce us to more people who may want to join us. Please pray about that and contact us.

Just give us a call. Text us. Email us. Skype with us. Go online to MTW.org and search out our name under the Give page. On the back of this page, there are all the various ways to contact us and different ways to give. Let’s talk. Let’s get together. Consider having a home gathering with friends.

By faith we are going into another year of the unknown, yet we are confident the Lord is with us and has already gone before us. So we plod on. We pray that He is calling you to join us on our journey to Indian Country through the Mokahum Ministry Center on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation near Bemidji, MN. The King awaits our arrival. Will you join us?

To GIVE, click here.

To CONTACT us, click here.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Materialist Book Junkie

books-2

A few of the keepers

Yes, that’s me. I admit it. I am now a recovering materialistic book junkie. Knowledge puffs up, and no better way to get a fix than reading the latest book on a profound theological issue or movement.

As we are preparing to move to the field, I have been going through all the books I have purchased over the years – all of them good, and easily “justified” purchases for a seminarian, writer, ministry director,  and now missionary – but in the end, I will never read most of those impulse purchases at the seminary book store and national conferences. I could add up hundreds – yea, thousands – of dollars that could have helped a missionary or two on the field or fed a child somewhere in the world. And that is only books! What else have I wasted my money on?  

Regrets and Redemption

There is an unforgettable movie scene that ever haunts me. It’s the one at the end of the movie Schindler’s List where Schindler learns that the war is over. In that moment, the bottom falls out from under him when he realizes that he could have done more, but he didn’t. He realized that the ring on his finger or his expensive car could have bought back so many more Jews from the death camps. That scene comes back to me again and again when I consider my own efforts for the kingdom throughout the years. But it is not over. Jesus has already won the war for us, but unlike Oskar Schindler, we still have time and more resources than most people in world history. Great is His faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:23). Let’s live in mercy and not regret.

Warning:  At this point, someone may be tempted to think I hate books, and that  I am trying to guilt people out of buying books and giving all the money to missions instead. Resist that temptation. This is not either/or. Christians need to study more, and they need to give more to missions. Based on my own personal sin of literary gluttony and from observing other personal libraries, my argument is that we are way too quick to buy books we will never read, or, even worse, we will buy books that are redundant. Let’s be honest. Many of us collect books like baseball trading cards.

For a short list of books I recommend to those are interested in learning more about our Native neighbors, see my post Talking Leaves.

The End is Near!

Actually the end of our fundraising season is near.  We need to be on the field by July 2017. If you are looking for place to invest in the kingdom of God with your year-end giving, we implore you to consider us. In fact, would you consider us for the next four years? That would be considered a pledge that would move us to the mission field. Learn what a pledge is here.

Like most missionary efforts, our ministry, is focused on smaller segments of societies that are not noticed by most people. But I believe that the Lord takes pleasure in small beginnings (Zach 4:10). Unlike the big ministries, we have nothing to offer our supporters as far as goods and services are concerned, no books, no DVDs, no conferences. All you receive are reports from the field, gratitude from the missionaries, and a benediction from the Lord “well done thou a good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). Will you dare to join us? 

Be Bold in Your Prayers – Our God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps 50:10)

If you have prayed for us but have not yet pledged, include yourself in that prayer. Ask the Lord if He wants you to be on our team. Have you prayed that way yet? Go for it. No, really. Pray that right now. He just may surprise you with the funds to fulfill your desire to pledge.

We need you to join our team and send us to serve the Lord in Indian Country at the Mokahum Ministry Center. We have received the call. They are waiting for us. The Lord has cleared a pathway for us. Will you put down a paving stone with a pledge?

The learn more about the best ways to give, click here.

To give right now, click here.

To contact us, click here.

All for the kingdom,

Discipleship with Dignity: An Invitation to Native American and First Nations Peoples

A few months ago, I met Dr. Richard Pratt, founder of Third Millennium Ministries at a missions conference where he was the featured speaker that weekend. Richard’s goal is to provide biblical education for the world for FREE. Upon hearing more about what they do and how they do it, I became very excited about the prospect of what kind of impact this could have on the Native Christian church, and by extension, the rich mission field in Native America.

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Here we are with Dr. Richard Pratt and Rob Griffith of Third Millennium Ministries. Dr. Pratt was the keynote speaker at the Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church’s annual missions conference.

I suggested to Richard that he give a personal invitation to the Native American/First Nations peoples to partake of the rich biblical resources from Third Mill. But I told him that he would first have to address the elephant in the room – his name. General Richard H. Pratt was the father of the Indian boarding school movement. He coined the term “Kill the Indian, save the man” back in the 1870s. That adage was the essence of the guiding doctrine that has had devastating effects on Native families and communities.

Same Name, Different Story

I couldn’t help but see the radical differences in educational philosophy. Richard H. Pratt sought to strip the Indian of all cultural identity. Native children were taken from their families, given a “Christian” name, stripped of identity, clothes, language, and dignity and were abused in ways unimaginable. Western (American) ways were forced upon them, and worst of all, Christianity was forced upon them. If it were only the U.S. government, then my lament would be tempered; I expect that from the kingdoms of this fallen world. But sadly the churches participated as well. You can learn more about that on my previous post, The Indian Boarding School Movement.

Compare that with Richard L. Pratt, Jr., minister of the gospel. His whole ministry is designed to get biblical education to where the people are in their own cultures wherever they are in this world. They retain their dignity and study God’s word in the context of their culture, allowing the people in that culture to be led by Scripture as they make their cultural adjustments if and when needed. For this reason and others, I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for a new chapter of history. I am hopeful.

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Lunch in the situation room with Richard (and Princess) and the GO team.

Still Dreaming

A personal bonus for us is that Third Millennium Ministries is only a twenty minute drive from our home here in Florida. A few weeks ago, Regina and I were invited to sit in on the recording with Richard and dream with the GO team at Third Mill. We are still dreaming together, but for now, the main thing we want to do is get this invitation to as many Native American/First Nations people as possible. With the internet at your fingertips, you can be a part of reaching that goal.

In the Meantime

Until we get to our field, the Mokahum Ministry Center in Bemidji, MN, we are still traveling, blogging, Facebooking, and Tweeting – essentially educating the church about the rich mission field in Native America. Opportunities like the one with Third Mill remind us that we are right where we need to be in our journey to the field. Ministry is happening now. Please continue to pray for us. Please also consider joining our support team. We can’t get there without you.

To join our team as a financial supporter, click here to GIVE.

Third Mill behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Richard Patrick Regina 2

Dr. Richard L. Pratt of Third Millennium Ministries, Patrick and Regina

Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions

Jonathan_Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758), Puritan pastor and missionary to the Mohawk and Mohican Indians, and author of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Are the best days behind us? Have we missed out on a golden age of missions to Native America? The history of missions to Indigenous peoples of North America is extremely complicated with much to rejoice and lament about.  One particular lamentable observation came from the revered Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century while reflecting on his predecessors. He said, “The English of Massachusetts were too interested in fixing the Indians…than giving them the gospel.” How true that was then, and sadly, that sentiment was an underlying motivation for many churches all throughout the history of missions in the U.S. And where has that actually brought us?

Why bother?

I’ve been reading Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life lately. It is truly one of those books that makes you want to pray. Really. I have been recognizing my own personal shortcomings in prayer. One thing in particular that Miller points out is that many of us have become cynical regarding prayer. After pondering that idea, it hit me. I realized that I was able to identify something I have been sensing over the years regarding a common attitude toward Native American missions. I just could not put a name on it, but now it is clear — cynicism.

Too often when I bring up the topic of Native American missions, I continually hear the predictable mentions of casinos, animism, alcoholism, and government handouts. When folks hear of the plagues in Native America such as alcoholism, addictions, violence, and suicide, they are so quick to attribute it all to government handouts that are keeping Native Americans lazy, which in turn causes them to drink because of all the time on their hands, and so goes the vicious cycle.

With that as the accepted backdrop, the shrewd potential donor would ask, “What is the point in sending missionaries to Native America? They are not really poor, just lazy.” I don’t have enough space to address that position, but if I am reading the tone correctly, it seems that many Christians simply have become cynical regarding Native American missions. Why do we keep giving to them? Is it really helping? We will never fix them.

Then there others who, although seemingly hopeful, speak very fondly of a short-term mission trip to a reservation where they helped build a porch, paint a house, or met some other material need. I hear those stories again and again, and I rejoice with them.

As much as I wholeheartedly believe in those outreach efforts, I am afraid that that is all those people imagine Native American missions to be about. I am proposing that they, too, are affected by cynicism without knowing it. They don’t really think there is anything else to do but to ease the pain in Indian Country with mercy ministry efforts. Is it that these folks don’t really expect anything more out of Native Americans other than to be passive recipients of a generous church group?

Let’s fix our perspectives

How about this? Let’s stop trying to “fix” people. Let us not be condescending or paternalistic. Let’s come along side our Native American brothers and sisters and walk with them. Let’s expect great things from the Native Christian church. Is it possible that such a suffering people empowered by grace can display and proclaim God’s kingdom in ways that we have not witnessed in a long time? Let’s believe that God can heal the brokenness in Native America.  Let’s believe that the Native Christian church can strengthen the rest of the body of Christ and teach us something about forgiveness and perseverance. Let’s actually believe that the best years are ahead of us starting today.

To learn more about how can help serve Native America, click Five Things You Can Do.

To learn how best to give to our mission and support us, click GIVING.

Footnotes:

*Source: Jonathan Edwards DVD series by Dr. Stephon Nichols, Ligonier Ministries.

**Tribal sponsored sign in the Crow Nation. Source: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com