Dear Missions Committee

Dear Missions Committee

Dear Missions Committee,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are Patrick and Regina Lennox, MTW missionaries to Native America. We are striving to serve the 567 federally recognized Native American/Alaska Native tribes in the US and the 634 First Nations in Canada.

Currently we are at 70% of our pledged support. We don’t get to the field until we reach 100%. We are hoping your church would prayerfully consider partnering with us in Indian Country at the Mokahum Ministry Center near Bemidji, MN.

About Mokahum and Our Work

cropped-mokahum-sign.jpgWe are extremely encouraged by what the Lord is doing at Mokahum. The name is derived from an Ojibwe word, which essentially means “the sun is rising” or “new beginning.” MMC is a discipleship/leadership training center in Cass Lake located on the Leech Lake Reservation.

Although that is Ojibwe country, the school is for all the Indigenous peoples of North America, both US and Canada. Mokahum fulfills a great need in Native America serving Native Christian men and women who desire focused discipleship that they may be more effective witnesses in their communities in Indian Country. There is also a leadership track for those who believe tzane-williamshey are called to Christian ministry in a greater capacity.

Mokahum has a long history – and a new history – and a good reputation in Indian Country. Our missions organization, Mission to the World, is striving to expand its reach throughout Indian Country at many levels. Mokahum and its leadership are deeply embedded in Indian Country. Under the direction of Zane Williams (Navajo, CMA), Mokahum is a ministry of the Center for Indian Ministries and is well connected with other ministries to Native America from Native America.

We are looking to join another MTW couple, Bill and Susan Carr, who are already serving there. Bill is the director of education. I (Patrick) will be the director of student life, as well as a teacher. Regina will be available to the female students as a mentor – a key component to the education model at Mokahum.

Our Current Challenge

david-brainerdOne of our greatest struggles is educating people about the history of Native America and the need to continue missions. Some people know of the 18th century Presbyterian missionary to Indians, David Brainerd, but that is the extent of their knowledge of Native missions.

From our travels over the years, speaking with people of all ages and walks of life, we have observed that the average Christian just doesn’t know about our Native neighbors. This is true of so many pastors and fellow missionaries as well. In fact, “I just didn’t know” or “I had no idea” are common sentiments expressed to us by so many people. I was one of them.

They Don’t Need “Fixing”

Jonathan_EdwardsThe great 18th century theologian and missionary to the Mohawk and Mohican Indians, Jonathan Edwards once said, “The English of Massachusetts were too interested in fixing the Indians…rather than giving them the gospel.” Sadly, the Americans followed suit.

Native Americans do not need “fixing.” They have been “fixed” for nearly 500 years, and we are still dealing with the painful ramifications of deeply flawed mission strategies embedded with paternalism and colonialism.

Missiologists have recognized this problem with indigenous peoples around the world where the thomas_watsongospel came with Western domination and the resulting marginalization of indigenous people. The so-called Doctrine of Discovery gave license to trample over so many rich harvest fields.

Every day I feel the sting of the words of my favorite Puritan, Thomas Watson, “By every unjust action, you deny Christ, you stain the glory of your profession. Heathens will rise up in judgment against you.” If we knew our history in Native America, we would understand the indictment that stands against us.

We Need a Better Ending

During 2017 Protestants around the world will be celebrating 500 years of Post Tenabras Lux that began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg door, thus igniting the Protestant Reformation. Indeed, there is much to celebrate. But as we examine the treatment of our Native neighbors by both Catholic and Protestant missionary endeavors during the last half millennium, there is much to lament over and still much yet to reform.

lutherAs heirs of the Reformation, we must use this year to take a hard and sober look at ourselves as we move forward into the next 500 years should the Lord tarry. As we do, here is my one thesis I am nailing to your door:

Jesus deserves a better witness in Indian Country. We need a better ending in the history of Native American missions. We need to lament, repent, reform, and go.

By God’s Grace, It’s Not Over

His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:23). The fields are still ripe for harvest, and the Lord of the Harvest bids us go. And as we go, let these two questions and resolutions guide us:

  1. What is Jesus already doing in Native America? – Resolve to join Him and be a part of it.
  2. What does the Native Christian church have to offer the rest of the church in this country and throughout the world? – Resolve in humility to expect it and receive it.

I have said a lot of hard things to ponder, but let me be clear: I don’t believe in guilt-driven or statistics-driven ministry. This is gospel-driven ministry. We go because Jesus said so, and the Lord of glory deserves a better name in Indian Country. If the world stumbles, let it be because of Jesus, the Rock of Offense (1 Pet 2:8), not us and our misguided missional strategies.

Billy Graham said years ago that he believed Native America was a sleeping giant. There are signs of an awakening. Please consider joining us in our mission. If you haven’t already, please include a line item on your missions budget for our first neighbors. They still need the gospel. The best days are ahead of us if we learn from history. Help us raise up disciples and leaders at the Mokahum Ministry Center with our Native brothers and sisters that we may strive together to reach the lost in America’s first and forgotten mission field.

See our Contact Us page to reach us. We are always available to speak with you.

Thank you for your consideration.

Patrick & Regina Lennox #14241

MTW Missionaries to Native America/Bemidji, MN

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.

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

Carlisle_pupils

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.

 

MLK, Native Americans, and the Rest of Us

On this day of recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments for all Americans, I would like to take this moment to draw attention to a people group who are usually not at the forefront of our minds when we think about racism, civil rights, and inequality — Native Americans. Below is an excerpt from an article, HOW: Were you informed about Native Americans?, I wrote challenging us to examine our views about Native Americans and  consider the ripe mission field in Indian Country.

How many of us have ever gone through the age-old ritual of that standard, cliché, Indian greeting? You know the one where you put on your best blank stare, raise your right hand as if to take an oath in court, and with monotone voice, you say, “HOW.” In case you didn’t know, it’s not a real greeting, and it’s not real funny. But it is a real sign that you may be misinformed about a real people group living among us.

As non-Indian American Christians, let’s turn that around and get informed. Perhaps we can convert an uncouth greeting into a prompt for a series of questions that will better align us with Christ’s purposes:

  • How can we better love our unbelieving Native neighbors?
  • How can we be better witnesses to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to Native Americans?
  • How can we avoid age-old, man-made stumbling blocks that get in the way of the Great Commission?
  • How can we be better brothers and sisters to the Native American church?
  • How can we change our assumptions, ignorance, and unchallenged ideas about Native Americans?
  • How can we reach out to Native Americans as emissaries of peace for the kingdom of Christ rather than repelling them as just another misinformed generation of non-Native Americans?
  • How can we better pray for Native America?

. . . and the list could go on.

To learn more about misinformed views of Native Americans and how we can better love our neighbors, please read the rest of the article HOW: Were you informed about Native Americans? here.

All for His Kingdom!

Patrick Lennox