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.

More than Tourists

I am a tourist. I got my passport and fist full of Euros. For years I have been watching Rick Steve’s Europe preparing for such a time as this. I am reminded of my status every day as I navigate the greater Brussels area.IMG_20160701_185422598_HDR

But something happened during my walk back to the apartment in Diegem with my family. I had an epiphany. I realized that I was not living and commuting in a tourist trap, but rather in someone else’s hometown. Belgian streets may have postcard appeal, but ultimately they are home to ordinary people just like us. From that moment on, it all suddenly became ordinary — mundane. The thrill was gone.

But we don’t depend on thrills (as much as missionaries are ready for adventure). Ultimately we need to live by faith and not by sight nor by feelings. We need to see the world through kingdom eyes. More than anyone, we should be able to enjoy our Father’s world, even in its fallen condition. Still we should be able to recognize all the good culture has to offer, while searching for opportunities to communicate the gospel.

Seeking God’s Glory in the Mundane

IMG_20160629_150959022In God’s grammar of redemption, the Lord has chosen the mundane things to point us to heavenly realities. In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter draws upon the common building material of his day to describe the people of God, calling us “living stones…built up as a spiritual house.” God, our “architect and builder” (Heb 11:10) is building a dwelling place for himself amidst his people.

The common building material in Belgium is brick. As you walk the streets, behold the abundant variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns. Each brick has its own character. In every wall there is a story. Consider the ZavCenter where we are currently training. Originally a factory, there are parts of the building that date back to circa 1248 A.D.  From then until now, there have been additions, demolitions, renovations, and repairs. The 13th century brick layers had no idea their bricks were being used for a missionary training center nearly eight centuries later. Today the story continues.

Living Bricks

I don’t think we would be stretching Peter’s metaphor to compare us to bricks. Unlike Pink Floyd’s popular refrain, we are not “just another brick in the wall.” Our God knows who we are. We are not numbered but named, and he has carefully placed us exactly where we belong. Much of our work in missions is mundane. We may feel insignificant at times, but we have no idea how the Lord will use us as he builds his church.

IMG_20160709_153445543_HDRAs we walk the streets of Europe captivated by the great cathedrals and other architectural achievements, don’t let your wonder get snagged in the spires — however high they may reach. Let your wonder ascend into praise and adoration as you remember that God is building us into a “spiritual house” in which he will dwell forever.

Patrick Lennox

Note: This was written while we were in Belgium for cross-cultural ministry training.  More than Tourists was originally posted in our weekly newsletter for our fellow MTW missionaries.

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

Hopeless in Native America

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It was eighteen years ago when I got the news from my auntie that her little brother, my uncle Allan, was found in dead in a hotel room. He was just at her house on Christmas day. But by the next day, he was gone. He took his own life. Rather than opening the Gideon’s Bible, he took his guidance from a book from the Hemlock Society. I don’t know the statistics on suicide rates on the day after Christmas, but in my broken family, that number is too high.

I haven’t interviewed anyone else in my family, but I, for one, continually thought of suicide from the age of sixteen to twenty years old. I hated myself and nearly everyone else as well. I wanted to live, but saw no good reason to keep trying to reach for something that I could never grasp. It seemed that carving out an existence as a musician was my only hope to bring me into the next day. During a season of feeling really depressed, I made attempts at writing goodbye letters, but I couldn’t finish them. As I would write out my story, I sank deeper into depression. I made a pact with myself that if I was not a successful musician by the time I was twenty-two years old, I would end it.

Shortly afterwards, by God’s grace, I came to know Jesus when I was twenty years old. He showed me that I was accepted in the Beloved. I had life, meaning, peace, and especially, hope. As a musician I had a new song in my heart. As soon as I became a Christian, I was burdened to reach the lost and rejected. By virtue of my lifestyle and the company I kept, I knew lots of people who had similar stories as mine. Some took their own lives, some had them taken. I wanted to reach them all with the gospel through music.

Click here to read ‘Fade to Black’: Of Irony and Redemption

Never Ending Stories

Throughout my years I have personally known others who have attempted and succeeded at suicide. The memories that haunt me the most involve two young men I once knew from my years as a youth leader. The first one was a pastor’s kid who felt more pain than what his father was willing to take seriously. In a moment of desperation, he threw himself off of a bridge with a note in his pocket. The other young man was a grandson of a pastor. Although he knew how to debate theology, but he did not know how to deal with the pain in his life. He finally threw himself to the bottom of a lake with cement blocks tied to his feet. It was devastating to everyone who knew and loved him. You wonder how you missed the signs—and there were signs. As a youth director, you feel failure, guilt, and shame. You question if you should even be in ministry.

Epidemic in Native America

Today Regina and I are striving to reach Native America. Suicide rates among our Native neighbors are the highest in this country — as much as two times higher than the national average. On some reservations, such as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the numbers are even higher, especially among the youth. It is an epidemic with seemingly no end in sight. Read more about Pine Ridge here.

But There is Hope

Humanly speaking, there are many things that can be done to prevent this, but ultimately, it is only the saving power of Jesus that can breathe life back into a person. True hope awaits all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to see the life giving message of the gospel to reach every corner of Indian Country. We want to see the hopeless, abused, and rejected come to Jesus who is mighty to save.

We have accepted a call from the Mokahum Ministry Center in Cass Lake, MN. Mokahum is a place where Native American and First Nations Christians receive personal discipleship and leadership training that they need serve the Lord in their communities. We invite you to help us train up Native American and First Nations people to serve among their own people who have given up all hope. Please pray for Native America. Please consider partnering with us. Click here to learn how you can Give.

Click here to read more about suicide in Native America on PBS.org.

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‘Fade to Black’: Of Irony and Redemption

no-hope-beyond-point(Below is an appendix to larger and more important story, Hopeless in Native America. Please read that story.)

I remember running up to my room when I was six or seven years old. I was crying, angry at my mother. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember being so upset that I took a belt and wrapped it around my neck and yanked on it a couple of times. I remember cursing God and telling him how much I hated him. As far as I know, that only happened once, but I will never forget it. Later in my teen years, strong feelings of suicide would return, only this time they would relentlessly assault me.

I was hopeless. For brevity sake, I won’t speak of all the conditions that led to that, but suffice to say, drug usage only exacerbated problems that were already there. The point of no return for me was during a trip on LSD. One particular effect from LSD is that you are unable to lie. Amid all the hallucinations, there was one illusion I could no longer maintain – my life. While staring at myself in the mirror, I was awakened from a dream to the nightmare that I was not who I thought I was, nor was I going to be what I wanted be. Of the billions of all the other lost souls in the world, I was just one more nobody called Patrick Lennox. It was a moment of truth for me — a big ugly truth. Hopelessness penetrated my core. For the next four years I vainly attempted to create meaning and value for myself through music.

James Hetfield Fade to Black lyricsIronically it was a song about suicide that gave me hope. It was ‘Fade to Black,’ written by James Hetfield, songwriter, singer, and founder of Metallica. Let me carefully explain what I mean by that lest anyone take that in the worst possible way. First of all, in defense of the song, it does not prescribe nor recommend suicide. It is diary in song written by someone who has seen a lot of pain in his life. Hetfield grew up in a Christian Science home. His father left him when he was young, and shortly afterwards his mother suffered from cancer. Due to her Christian Science beliefs, she was not treated and finally died from her disease.

Although I did not know Hetfield’s story during my dark adolescent years, it became apparent to me through the song that he must have been writing from something deeply personal. For sure, I thought, James Hetfield must have felt this song before he wrote it. The song was not just another death glorifying theme in the thrash metal industry. It was authentic. It was written by someone who knew. When I came to realize that, I didn’t feel as alone as before, and I felt there was a glimmer of hope for me. If someone like James Hetfield can rise from the ashes, then maybe I could too. My ashes were rejection from a father and friends, depression, non-stop drug use, bitterness, hatred, and dissatisfaction with what the world had to offer. Over all it was just plain hopelessness.

And the point in all this? I would never recommend nor prescribe this song as a means of counseling anyone who is contemplating suicide. It could have easily gone a different direction for me or someone else. But I cannot ignore the fact that it was during that one dark night while listening to that song, I had a little bit of hope, if only for a little while. I must give glory to God for incorporating that song (and other Metallica songs for that matter) into the ‘all things’ in Romans 8:28. Music was something I wanted to create, and James Hetfield reminded me at a very low point in my life that just maybe I could do this.

But like everything else in this created order, not even music can give meaning and worth to anyone. Within a few years in the midst of my meager attempt to be someone in the music world, the Lord Jesus Christ found me and saved me from my sins, my self, and ultimately from God’s wrath. But he also saved me to his love, peace, and eternal life in Christ.

Essential After Thoughts

It is important to know that through those years, the Lord used the love of my mother to keep me from finally ending it. She was not the source of any of those feelings during those adolescent years. Quite the opposite. But ultimately I believed I was living in a world without God. I always knew my mother loved me. The thought of leaving her and my sister in this empty miserable world often kept me from following through. But as powerful as a mother’s love can be, it cannot give life to the dead. It was the love of God that penetrated to my core and gave me new life in Christ. For that I am eternally thankful.

Patrick Lennox

 

 

In Honor of Our Native American Veterans…

In Honor of Our Native American Veterans…

In honor of our Native American veterans, I am posting Our Warrior Spirit: Native Americans in the U.S. Military by the Smithsonian for your edification as an American. It is about 2 hrs in length, but well worth your time. I hope you will take a few additional minutes to read my post What Does the Constitution Have to Do with It? Thanks.

Why Native America?

mokahum signPeople often ask me, why Native America? Of all the people groups in the world, what is it that makes you so concerned about Native Americans? Why not just pastor a church somewhere in Central Florida? The short answer is that God has given me a burden for Native Americans. Now that is the simplest and easiest answer I can give, but that does not exclude the countless secondary causes that God has providentially used in the course of my life. I will not list them here, but there are two things that compel me to serve the Lord in Native America.

  1. I believe Christ was poorly represented among indigenous people for five centuries in North America. This does not ignore the many, successful missionary endeavors of the various denominations, mission agencies, and good Christian neighbors throughout history. There are wonderful stories  But when we look at the overall scope of history, Jesus was poorly represented by His church. We must take a hard look at ourselves, identify our mistakes, learn what attitudes and thinking patterns caused those mistakes, repent, reform ourselves, and continue to pursue our Native neighbors with the love of Jesus Christ.
  2. We need Native Americans in the church. We don’t need a Native church, that is, we are not looking to create a separate Native church and/or keep the Native churches to themselves, although the location of local congregations may dictate that. All of us  in the church — both Native and non-Native — need each other. We are stronger when we are unified and diversified. That is New Testament 101. Part of the problem in the church’s mission strategy of the past (and dare I say ‘present’) to Native America was the notion that Natives need us. Well, they actually do need us, but we truly need them, too. Really! We need to be mutually edified as we unify with our Native brothers and sisters. This is where Jesus is glorified. He prayed for this in John 17. I want to worship and serve with my Native brothers and sisters and offer them whatever gifts our Father has given me to reach, serve, and build up more Native Americans for a stronger church.

I could list more reasons, but they would be sub-points to the two listed above. I will expand on these reasons in another post, but for now, I hope you would have a better idea of why Regina and I, with our family, are hoping to serve in Native America. Would it be enough to say that we just love Native Americans?

When will we get there?

We are still living in Sanford, FL until we receive our full funding. We cannot go until we have all of it pledged. We will be serving at the Mokahum Ministry Center near Bemidji, MN (the first city on the Mississippi). Please consider partnering with us with your prayerful and monthly financial support. We cannot do this without you!

To give sign up to be a pledged supporter or give a special gift, click here.

To learn about the different ways to give, please read the Fair Winds post.

To learn about other ways you can help, please read Five Things You Can Do.

Until next time…