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

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.

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

 

 

Mokahum: A New Beginning

Dear friends,

Mokahum is an Ojibwe word that literally means ‘sunrise’ or ‘new day.’ Metaphorically it represents a new beginning for Native American Christians as they set out on a journey walking the Jesus way.  The Mokahum Ministry Center provides discipleship and leadership training for Native American and First Nation Christians. By God’s grace, we were extended a call from Mokahum to serve among Native leaders (and non-Native), serving future Native leaders, in the middle of Indian Country. Below is a message from our brother in the Lord, Zane Williams:

A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Mokahum Ministry Center’s purpose is bringing Native American people to life and maturity in Christ by equipping disciples and training leaders through culturally relevant biblical education, ministry training, and life skills development. Together with students from all over the United States and Canada, you can come to Mokahum to learn from veteran ministry leaders, develop your gifts in a local church, and build lifetime relationships. Mokahum Ministry Center has a long history as a residential ministry training facility.
Zane Williams
It’s been rewarding to see firsthand how God has worked in the lives of the students who have received their discipleship and ministry certificates since our reopening in 2009. Our staff is committed to training tomorrow’s Native leaders today!
If you have a personal relationship with Christ, I invite you to consider being a student at Mokahum. Come just the way you are and see what God does in your life.
Zane Williams (Navajo)
Director of the Mokahum Ministry Center
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. We have not yet reached our financial goal that will enable us to get to the field. We are halfway there. Would you consider how you can financially help us get to Mokahum? By partnering with us, you will be a part of an essential ministry to Native America. Please take a look at the most effective way you can GIVE to get us to the field by reading our FAIR WINDS post. Once you have read that, please go to our GIVING page here. Please CONTACT US, we would love to share with you what the Lord is doing in Native America.

Please prayerfully consider being a part of the this vital ministry to Native America. Let’s see the name of Jesus proclaimed in all nations!

All for the Kingdom!

Patrick & Regina Lennox

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…