We need not wait for another. The Lord has come, and He has commissioned us to go forth into all the world to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to a world that desperately needs to hear it. The task is huge. There are over seven billion people in this world, and all who are still outside the kingdom are hostile to our message to one degree or another until the Lord changes their hearts. But the Lord goes before us, and He has been preparing us for this impossible work before we were born (Eph 2:10).
An important part of that preparation has taken place in Brussels, Belgium during the month of July 2016. In my little life, it was historic. We trained in the capital of the European Union, more than that it is the seat of the United Nations offices in Europe. But Brussels doesn’t only represent European nations. Many other nations from around the world are represented on the street level. We truly have been sent to the nations this month.
Belgium is rich in history. Everything we celebrate about culture can be found here at every turn. As I beheld the great churches and works of art, e.g. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, I found myself underwhelmed. I have read the books, seen the pictures, and now I have walked the streets, yet my feeling has not changed.
When I think of historic milestones in the progress of the spreading of the kingdom, my thoughts do not gravitate towards the grand architecture and art of European Christendom, Reformed or otherwise. Rather I think of Jesus’ words in Luke 7:22: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.
From these words, Jesus’ metric of gospel progress is identified in far different terms than our worldly measurements. When I think of kingdom advancement, I think of the churches many of us have worshiped with this past month. Small churches like BethelKerk in Schaarbeek faithfully preaching the gospel tell me that the Lord is here.
But what about us? How have we been shaped by this experience? For me at least, CCMI (cross cultural ministry internship) was critical milestone in a journey. We learned a lot. We did a lot. Here we are now on the eve of our departure from Brussels. Some of us are going straight to the field, most of us back to the “campaign trail.” Where ever we are headed, questions for us to ponder are will we be faithful to the call of Christ on our lives? Are we believing that He who began a good work in us is able to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus? He is faithful, so let us trust in Him and see where He takes us.
Note: The article above was written for our in-house newsletter during our cross-cultural ministry internship in Brussels, Belgium during the month of July. Patrick and Regina Lennox are MTW missionaries to Native America and have accepted a call from the Mokahum Ministry Center in near Bemidji, MN.
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.
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
In 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.
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.
As 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.
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.
The following post is the second in a two part series, The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity. You are encouraged to read part one here. I understand most thinking folks will question the subtitle of this post, wondering why I chose the word “Christian” rather than “church” or some other term. I know full well that the issue we are dealing with here was not prescribed by Christ, therefore we cannot properly ascribe it as Christian. I chose the term so we (the church) would feel the weight of the criticism as the world sees it. We need to feel it. To answer that criticism, I highly recommend the book This Rebellious House: American History and the Truth of Christianity, by Steven J. Keiller. Keiller does a great job parsing the difference between European/Western cultural expressions of Christianity and the biblical Christianity. Much of missions to Native America was not the Great Commission. It was the Great Imposition, to say the least. Paternalism and colonialism were confused with gospel mission.
This post is simply a list of resources to for you to investigate yourself. A simple Google search using the term Indian boarding School or Indian residential school will give you plenty to grapple with. Below are only a few select resources that I have found. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I am just a guy who believes that the world, especially the church today, should know what happened in this country as late as the twentieth century. More than that, I want the people in Indian Country to know that many Christians are grieved to learn of so much pain was caused in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is a Healer and Friend. We know the pain continues for you.
There will be many of us who will be shocked at what they read, see, and hear. Many will seek to minimize the extent and effects of the boarding schools on Indian people. To those folks, I simply implore you hear the personal stories from the victims themselves. When we consider the hundreds of thousands of Native children who passed through the schools over a one hundred year period (1879 – 1979) in the U.S. alone, not including Canada, it is little wonder why their is so much distrust and pain in Native America. When people ask why there is so much brokenness in Indian Country, the answer is quite simple: they were broken.
There are so many videos worth watching, it is difficult to decide which ones to highlight. If we can get passed our need for big-budgeted “quality” productions, and just listen to the stories being told by the people themselves, we will gain a better understanding of the realities behind the propaganda of the government and churches.
I will continue to add to this list as I discover more resources.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
*Source: Jonathan Edwards DVD series by Dr. Stephon Nichols, Ligonier Ministries.
**Tribal sponsored sign in the Crow Nation. Source: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com
Campaigning for the Kingdom
All the big Christian para-church ministries are doing it, so why can’t we? You know, ask for money? And there is nothing wrong with that. They need money to run their ministries that provide us with those edifying goods, services, and well…ministry. Aside from selling products, a common strategy for ministries to get money is to offer free stuff. Just call the toll-free number, give your name, address, and phone number and receive your free gift. Shortly afterwards, you will receive an appeal letter and follow-up phone call asking if you would like to partner with the ministry. Many of your favorite ministries have a whole team of callers dialing up prospective ministry partners. Again, nothing wrong with that. That’s just how it works…and it does work.
Et Tu Reginae?
So what about us? We don’t have a radio show or podcast. We don’t have a catalog full of various teaching media. No national or regional conferences. What we do will never be available for public consumption. We are missionaries. We are the night callers. We raise our funds by asking people like you to support us so we can go to minister to other people. Aside from chocolates at our display table, you don’t get free stuff, only the satisfaction of giving so others can benefit. *Full disclosure, we gave away free DVDs at a TGC conference once, but not much response.
Welcome to My Dream World!
I remember a couple of years ago when I had a conversation with a pastor about our decision to go to the mission field. He told me that I should be a pastor of a church. With all sincerity, he proceeded to tell me how bad the economy was, that I was not a fundraiser, and how I was living in a dream world. The funny thing was, he was right on all three counts. It’s true, the economy is bad, I am not a “fundraiser,” and yes, I am dreaming.
I know that the economy is not what we want it to be, but I also know that next Saturday morning, like always, I will be watching my favorite shows on my local listener-supported PBS station. People will be buying their designer coffee at a local coffee shop. Next November we will have a new president-elect promising to turn the economy around, and our favorite ministries will be doing what they always do. They will all get their funding.
As you read this, I hope you will consider dreaming with us and supporting this missionary family. Help us answer our call to serve Native America at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Cass Lake, MN. You don’t have to give a lot, just something regular we can count on. We hope you would dare to dream with us and see the glory of God displayed in Native America.
Year-end gifts are great, but to learn how best to give, please read Fair Winds.
If you truly have no money to spare, please read about Five Things You Can Do.
Give us a call. Let’s get together (Actually, we have some money in our budget to buy you dinner, shh).
Also, would you please SHARE this post using the social media buttons at the bottom of this page. Let’s go for at least 200 SHARES!
Until next time…