No Wonder

Whipple

“I know of no other instance in history where a great nation has so shamefully violated its oath. Our country must forever bear the disgrace and suffer the retribution of its wrongdoing. Our children’s children will tell the sad story in hushed tones and wonder how their fathers dared so to trample on justice and trifle with God.”

The above quote was penned by Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, the first Episcopalian Bishop of Minnesota, advocate for Native peoples, and negotiator for the U.S. He earned the name “Straight Tongue” from the Native people he tried to reach. Those sobering words were in response to the flagrant U.S. violations of the Fort Laramie Treaty with the Lakota (Sioux) people.

My purpose in highlighting these haunting words is not to revisit the violations of the treaty, but to point out that Bishop Whipple and other churchmen of the day actually believed that “to trample on justice” is to “trifle with God.” Do we believe that today?

Another sobering reality is that Whipple’s prediction that “our children’s children” would somehow “tell the sad story in hushed tones and wonder how their fathers dared so to trample on justice and trifle with God.” The sad reality is that the children’s children don’t know the story. As a country and a church, we are have mostly forgotten about our Native neighbors. More than that, people today in this country don’t even know what to forget—they never knew. And our Native neighbors know that about us.

Ancient History?

Many people are actually surprised to know that Native Americans still actually exist. And most of those Americans who do know that Native Americans exist view their first neighbors according to stereotypes created for them by Hollywood, U.S. public and private school education, headlines, and good old mascots.


Reel Injun

If you are willing to take a hard look at the main source of our “knowledge” of Native America, then you must watch Reel Injun a 2009 Canadian documentary film directed by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes that explores the portrayal of Native Americans in film.


The seemingly dominant view of Native American history begins with the Pilgrims and ends with the so-called Indian Wars, which ended at the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890. In the minds of most Americans I speak with, there is a clean, bold line of demarcation separating the past from the present — a that-was-then-this-is-now paradigm that ignores the entire 20th century’s continual assault on Native peoples. We are stuck on the false notion that all the injustices happened a long time ago, and the Native Americans today simply refuse to get over it.

What was so bad about the 20th century?

What most Americans are unaware of is that the 20th century was one of the most harmful centuries to Native American and First Nations in our history together. People wonder why there is so much brokenness among Native America and First Nations people. The is answer is quite simple: Because they were broken.

One of most important chapters in that story of brokenness happened during our lifetime. The boarding/residential school experiment took Native children away from their family and communities, beginning in 1878 at the Carlisle Indian School. The boarding school movement spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, lasting for a century.

To learn more about this dark stain on our history, see my two posts below to hear Native people in their own words:

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 2

If you thought that all of the problems in Indian country were a result of casinos, government handouts, and some kind of genetic propensity towards alcoholism, then you will have to re-adjust our equation. They live with realities that we just don’t understand. They live in a story that was written for them by a dominant culture that tried to “civilize” and “Christianize” them. Now we as modern-day Christians wonder why there is so much distrust among our first neighbors towards Christians.

In order for us to be good witness for Christ, we need to be good neighbors. Let’s give Jesus a better witness in Indian country. Let’s go in meekness and love. Let’s get some genuine understanding of our Native neigbors before we ask questions like, why don’t they assimilate? or why don’t they just get over the past? Let’s just meet them where they are at and love our Native neighbors.

New Wonder

We have a vast and diverse mission field underneath our feet (I never say “our own back yard”). Perhaps the Lord will give our children’s children a sense of wonder when they look back on us as we followed the Lord of the Harvest into His field in Native America. Perhaps it will be Native children’s children that will be evangelizing our children’s children one day. We cannot predict the Lord, but we must obey Him. I believe is calling us into Native America to discover what He is already doing. Let’s go.

Recommended readings:

Dear Missions Commitee

RECONCILIATION: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems

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

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

Now You Know: Answering the call to Native America

Let’s talk at GA booth #249.

Patrick Lennox

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Patrick & Regina Lennox

Missionaries to Native America

Mission to the World

Phone: 407.416.1482

Email: LennoxLetters@gmail.com

Blog: www.lennoxletters.com
Facebook.com/patrick.r.lennox
Twitter: @patricklennox

Instagram: @patrick_lennoxletters

RECONCILIATION: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems

A couple of years ago, I attended a gathering of church leaders gathered to discuss racial reconciliation particularly in light of the PCA’s relations with the black community. Leading the discussion was a well-known and respected theologian and another gentleman who had recently authored a book relative to the topic being discussed. Following their presentation, there was a time of Q & A and discussion. As a missionary to Native America, I couldn’t resist voicing an observation. It went something like this, “I hear a lot about racial reconciliation being talked about, but I notice that it is nearly exclusively about black and white relations, and a little about Hispanic folks, but I have yet to hear anything about Native Americans.”

no-hope-beyond-pointUnfortunately what followed was anything but hopeful. The main speaker acknowledged the bad history with Native Americans, but then went on to educate the room about the fact that “never before in world history there has ever been such a great displacement of people from one continent to another” (paraphrase). He went on to cite the statistics concerning the 12.5 million African slaves brought across the Atlantic to the New World. It was as if he were saying that this issue is more important than the Native American issue simply by showing the immensity of the numbers.

He then said words to the effect that if you are going to talk about Native Americans, then we are going to have to address the Japanese-Americans who were put into camps during WWII.  Sadly, I heard that line of reasoning many times before. What was noticeably absent from the response was any kind of affirmation that there was a need to discuss Native America, as if it were a settled issue that does not need to be revisited.

My Issue

Here is my issue with that response. First, I must say that I am glad there were no Native Americans in the room to hear that answer. Additionally, I would like to emphasize that I don’t believe for a moment that the gentleman did not care about Native Americans. But his response revealed the common lack of knowledge of our history with Native Americans in this country, especially where the church was involved. It would be easy to believe that the government alone is responsible for the injustices against Native people, but that is simply not the historical record.

How much knowledge did he have concerning the relationship between the church and state regarding laws that were designed to outlaw, therefore, destroy hundreds of Native American cultures and everything that held them together?  Who today knows that it was the Presbyterian church (General Assembly 1887) that urged then U.S. President Grover Cleveland to push for legislation to outlaw all Indian cultural and religious practices? That meant all language, music, dance, art, etc. Essentially it was against U.S. law to be an Indian. How easy would the Great Commission be if everyone looked, talked, lived, and acted just like us?


Looking unto JesusDark Reality

Space will not allow to list all the grievances Native people have with the church, but one of the issues that is most pressing on Native American and First Nations peoples is the effects of the Indian boarding/residential school era in the U.S. and Canada. For more on that, see my blog posts, The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, pt 1 and The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, pt 2. We cannot begin to understand Native America today until we grapple with the dark reality of the Indian boarding school movement and the role the churches had with the government.


Secondly, concerning the statistics, my effort here is not to compare who is more important by showing which people group has the biggest numbers. That is not my intent. In fact, I resisted writing this response fearing that it would be seen that way. But I didn’t bring up the statistics.

By the Numbers

There are a few divergent estimates of the Native population on the North American continent prior to 1492, but 12 million is a number that has gained acceptance. By the end of the 19th century, there were less than 250,000 Native Americans in the U.S., perhaps as low as 230,000.

Much of the decline in the population was due to disease, but what must be remembered is that many Natives were exposed to disease by design. Many died due to the result of malnutrition, starvation and exposure resulting from displacement. Tribes were reduced to what we now call “refugees.” They were continually displaced and forced to live in places and regions of which they had no knowledge or skill to survive. Prisoner-of-war camps (many of which became reservations) provided inadequate and often spoiled rations. They were often killed by other tribes as they were forced westward. Population reduction was also due to tribes being splintered apart. With no land to call their own, always on the move, many tribes simply disappeared in oblivion. Space will not allow to list the effects the many massacres and wars had on the population. Whatever the proportions of each factor, the cumulative effect of European and American conquest on the Native populations in North America is staggering and heart-breaking.

Our speaker was quick to point out the sheer number of African slaves that were stolen and transported across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet only 3% of the 12.5 million were sent to North America, which is about 388,000 African souls, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.* Pointing that out in no way minimizes the pain and suffering of those image-bearers of God. I would never suggest that, but if we are going to use numbers to measure historical import in the racial reconciliation discussion within our denomination, then I believe Native Americans deserve a place at the table — certainly more than a footnote or an add-on in any forthcoming resolutions. 

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Native tribes such as the Mobile — the namesake of the city in Alabama where PCA GA 2016 took place – are now an extinct tribe. Incidentally, the Alabama still exists, just not in Alabama anymore. They are now in Texas. What many folks didn’t know is that Native Americans also had to ride on the back of the bus in Alabama until the civil rights movement. During my time at this General Assembly, I asked person after person if they knew what Mobile was. Not a single person knew it was the name of an Indian tribe. I say this only to demonstrate our prevailing ignorance of the indigenous people of the land in which we live, worship, and carry out the Great Commission. 

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Numbers in Perspective

When the African slave trade began, there were approximately 12 million or more Native peoples in North America. Through the following centuries, European settlers, mostly confessing Christians, managed to take over the continent and reduce its indigenous population down to 230,000 by 1900.

There are many differences between the two people groups, i.e. Africans and Native Americans, yet there is kind of apples-to-apples comparison, even if they are different kinds of apples from the different orchards. For instance, the 12.5 million African, men, women, and children were displaced from their homeland, as were the Native Americans. It’s just that we cannot apply the word “transcontinental” to the Native Americans’ displacement, unless we count those who were sold and shipped to the West Indies.

Essentially, within the same relative period of time, both Native American and African peoples were displaced from their homelands by the same numbers (approximately 12 million) — the stark difference being is that the greater number of victims on U.S. soil belongs to the Native American side of the ledger, if we dare call near oblivion as displacement.

Where are They Now?

indian-reservatin-map-e1528593740796.pngBut there is actually hope. The Lord has given us a gracious gift. Our Native neighbors live among us everywhere, yet we often don’t recognize them unless they signal us with some kind of cultural symbol, e.g. long braided hair, turquoise or feather jewelry, etc. Not fitting our stereotypes, they have become invisible.

Today there are 573 federally recognized Native American nations in the U.S. and 638 First Nations in Canada. In the U.S., approximately 22% live on the 325 reservations, while others live in surrounding communities, or in major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. There are approximately 2.9 million U.S. Native Americans who identify themselves as full-blood. Of those who identify themselves as full or part Native, there are 5 million. Can you imagine if all of the tribes like the Mobile disappeared by 1900 rather than the remnant of 230,000 preserved by God’s providence?

The Lord of the Harvest has given us a vast field with 1,207 distinct and federally recognized nations. We have plenty to do. By His good providence, we live in the information and communication age. We have more than enough resources to reach the lost and assist those Native pastors in Indian country. And we have more than enough history to learn from regarding destructive methods that have contributed to many of the problems in Native America. We also have an opportunity to examine our own hearts to see if we still share the same attitudes with our forefathers that drove wrong-headed and destructive methodologies. Ultimately, we have an opportunity to reach our neighbors with the Great Commission rather than the Great Imposition. Let’s give Jesus a better witness in Indian country!

In a follow-up to this article, Reconciliation: Long History, Short Memories, New Beginnings, I would like continue these thoughts and to submit a possible way forward with efforts to reach our first neighbors.

*http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us/

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A Blessed Burden

New Opportunities
Years ago I was given an open invitation to speak at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, by my former professor, Dr. Elias Medeiros. While teaching in Orlando one summer, the Lord used him in a big way to get me onto the mission field. This past October, I took him up on his offer to teach in his missions class. What a privilege to teach in his class on a subject we love so much! We also were able to speak at a lunch the next day on campus. [excerpt from Lennox Letters Fall Report 2016 newsletter. Click here to read the full newsletter.]

I remember my first day of Missions class in seminary. It was one of those week-intensive courses during the summer with a visiting professor. That year RTS Orlando invited Dr. Elias Medeiros from the Jackson campus to teach us everything we needed to know in five fast days. For many of us, this class was the most memorable, and for me in particular, the most life-changing.

On the first day I realized that I couldn’t enjoy this class without Regina. I told Regina that she would have break from the kids at home and sit in on the class for at least one session. Regina and I met in Bible college, and missions was the original passion that drove us there, but it seemed like a distant memory at this stage in our lives.

Dr. Medeiros gave us four eight-hour days of preaching through missional passages of Scripture (I was not exaggerating about being taught everything we needed to know). On the fifth day we took a field trip to the largest mosque in Orlando. By the time we got to the mosque and parked the cars, Dr. Medeiros was already making friends and giving out gospel tracts in the parking lot. He is the real deal.

During that unforgettable week, the Lord reminded me of why I started out in went to Bible college in the first place. I wanted to be a missionary. Serving on church staff was a good experience in many ways, but my heart was always longing to serve as a missionary. There was a reason I kept bringing my youth group to Cherokee, NC every year. The Lord blessed me with that burden to serve among Native American/First Nations peoples. He has been faithful to give us the desires of our hearts, and he will do the same for you.

To help us serve among Native American/First Nations people, click here to GIVE.

To talk with or contact Patrick and Regina, click here.

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

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

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Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania (c. 1900). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_boarding_schools

“Kill the Indian, Save the Man”: A Few Opening Remarks

Perhaps you have seen the movie, The Education of Little Tree, a film released in the 1970s based on a novel by a white-political activist, and promoted as a true autobiographical account of the author’s life. Although the story turned out to be fiction, sadly the realities of the Indian boarding schools represented in the story were not.

For the next couple of posts, we will focus on a critical piece of Native American/First Nations history that most people simply don’t know about – the Indian boarding school era. It was a social experiment  of the U.S. government and Canada designed to eliminate the Indian culture, understood then and now as cultural genocide. The driving doctrine for the U.S. was “Kill the Indian, save the man” — a term coined by Gen. Richard Pratt. That philosophy was to educate the Native child to the end that they would forsake their Indian ways and be productive members of Christian American society. The means by which that was carried out will be left to Native voices to tell you (see video below).

To say the least, it is a very painful part of their past, and as we shall see, their present reality. But this long ugly era cannot simply be relegated to NA/FN history. It is very much a part of U.S. and Canadian history. And sadly, as we shall see, it is also part of church history. This is not common knowledge to many people, so much of what will follow with be a shock to many people. There was complicity by the churches. But as Christians we should never be afraid to take a hard look at ourselves, then and now, and learn from our mistakes that Jesus may be better represented among the nations.

The past is the past, right?

So why bring all this up now? Isn’t that all in the past? What does any of this have to do with Christian missions to Native America today?  My purpose is not to stir up anger, but to give perspective. To many Native Americans, Christianity represents a destroyer of a people at every level of their existence. Because of that, it hinders missions today. Another thing that I believe hinders missionary efforts is an apathy on our end. After all that bad history, do we really believe that Native America has great value and potential for the Kingdom? Are the fields still white for harvest?

Taking a hard look

It is no secret that there are many hard issues facing Native Americans. It is no secret that suicide rates rank highest among Native Americans, twice the national average, more than any other ethnic group. It is no secret that alcoholism, drug addiction, unemployment, violence, sexual assault, high school drop out rates, and teen pregnancies are higher in Indian Country than anywhere else in North America. None of these things is peculiar to Native Americans, but what is alarming is that all these things rank highest among one segment of society on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border.

So what is the problem?

The simple biblical answer to the question is sin. But we all have that problem (Rom 3:23). So that does not really answer the question concerning Native America in particular. Typical answers to the question are, “They are stuck in the past while refusing to move on.”  Or “That is what happens when you give people government handouts. They don’t want to work, so they sit around getting drunk all day.” Or the less political, more scientific answer, “There is something about Indian DNA that makes them prone to alcoholism.” And the list could go on. Each of those simplistic answers is fraught with assumptions stemming from an abundance of myth, lack of facts, devoid of context, and full of condescension.

Actually there is a problem in the question itself, what is the problem, as if there were only one problem to be solved that would be the key to end all problems. Again, let me affirm that the only answer to the world’s problems is Jesus. That is the only thingBoys praying I can say with absolute confidence.

The rest I submit to you is only part of a deeper problem that has led to so much collateral damage, which NA/FN people suffer under today. How much damage? Only the Lord knows the scope and magnitude, but one thing I can be confident in is that most (if not all) non-Native people I have spoken to have no idea about the reality and ramifications of the government sponsored, mostly Christian-run, Indian boarding movement.

In Their Own Words…

When informing people of Native American/First Nations issues, I prefer to use their sources, their voices, their own words. The first video clip, Truth & Reconciliation: Stories from Residential School Survivors, is one of many that shows the life of First Nations people in Canada at the residential (boarding) school. It is important to know that Canada has recognized her grievous sin imposed on First Nations people.

The next video clip, Unseen Tears: The Native American Boarding School Experience in Western New York, part 1, tells identical stories in the U.S. If you would like to see the following parts, they play sequentially once part one concludes.

What’s next?

There are so many more videos that could have been selected, but these should give you a better understanding to Native American/First Nations peoples. I hope this gives Christians perspective. I hope we realize that their history did not end in some Indian War out on the plains during the 1800’s as most public school text books would have us believe. They have remained – and survived – yet the ramifications of abuse and neglect on generations of hundreds of thousands of people also remain. Let’s show them the real Jesus whose arm is not too short to save and is willing to heal their wounds by His stripes (Isa 53:5).

You can read part 2 here.

Patrick Lennox is a MTW missionary to Native America. Currently he and his wife, Regina, are preparing to serve at the Mokahum Ministry Center located in Cass Lake, MN.