Occom Discovery Center

“Discover the God who is and your place in his  kingdom”

Occom Discovery Center is a discipleship center for Native American and First Nations Christians to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The approach is different than traditional Bible colleges or ministry training centers. ODC is not a diploma/degree-granting institution. Learning, developing, and growing are essential for discipleship, letter grades are not.

220px-Rev_Samson_Occom

Occom Discovery Center is named in honor of Rev. Samson Occom (Mohegan, 1723-1792). Rev. Occom was the first Native American ordained Presbyterian minister. One of his driving desires was to give the gospel to Native people and provide them with education that would enable them to live in and thrive in their rapidly changing world. He taught at the Moor’s Charity School for Native Americans in Lebonon, CT. Later the school was moved to New Hampshire and became Dartmouth College, which did — for a short time — provide higher education to Native people, only without Samson Occom. Although there are some very sad elements and disappointments in Occom’s story, we find great inspiration in his commitment to the kingdom and Native people.

Discovering the God Who Is . . .

As the name implies, ODC aims towards discovery. Above all, we seek to discover the glories of the Triune God who is as he has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures. In light of that revelation, we seek to discover our place in his kingdom. God has gifted each and every believer. ODC seeks to help Native American/First Nations disciples of Christ discover their gifts and foster a vision to engage them in the kingdom. In this regard, ODC is a place to begin and/or continue to discover their calling in this world.

The means by which we seek to achieve those ends are multifaceted. Regarding our pursuit of God, we are firmly committed to the ordinary means of grace revealed in Scripture, e.g. reading Scripture, preaching, teaching, prayer, singing, and sacraments. Students will attend a healthy, Christ-centered church.

. . . and Your Place in His Kingdom

Life at ODC may seem monastic in style. That is, disciples are expected to work, follow daily routines, and participate in community life on the campus, as well as seek times of solitude for biblical meditation. The key difference between the historic monastic movement (or at least caricatures of it) and ODC is that we seek to prepare students to go and engage in the world around them. By virtue of that, ODC seeks to be merely a momentary — but life-changing — chapter in the student’s unfolding story.

A bedrock conviction at ODC is that we as creatures created in the image of our Creator were created to create. ODC is a community that dares God’s people to dream. We are seeking those who are visionaries, makers, thinkers, tinkerers doers, happen-makers, craftsmen, artists, builders, and anyone else who wants to dare to dream. All those who are timid, hurt, scared, curious, and most of all, willing to be shaped by the hands of the Potter, are encouraged to join us.

ODC seeks to cultivate a Christian worldview that is both taught and caught, recognizing that changed lives are more influenced by the latter in community. Using multiple methods, ODC seeks to foster twenty-four key areas (displayed below in complementary pairs) in which disciples of Christ are encouraged to continue and cultivate long after their time at ODC.

Occom Discovery Center is a place to discover:

  1. Common Grace/Redeeming Grace
  2. Work/Sabbath
  3. Word/Deed
  4. Community/Solitude
  5. Unity/Diversity
  6. Spiritual Gifts/Natural Talents
  7. Risk/Safety
  8. Giving/Receiving
  9. Listening/Expressing
  10. Personal Identity/Corporate Identity
  11. Increasing/Decreasing
  12. The God who is and your place in his Kingdom

Sounds Great! So where is it?

Right now ODC is still only a dream, but it has been dream that began many years ago. There is no campus, no students, and no staff yet, but the need is an ever-present reality. After serving with various churches and educational ministries, serving in various capacities in multiple locations in Native America for the last thirteen years, we believe that the Lord has prepared us for this very thing. We have presented our proposal to our overseers and peers and received a green light to move forward. This is our long-haul ministry focus.

We are in the dreaming-out-loud phase — trying to find others who can catch the vision and dream with us. Right now we are praying for a location. We have some essential criteria along with a list of preferences. We need land. The Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills — and he owns the hills too! So we are asking the Lord to move upon someone with property to offer for use in the kingdom. Are you that someone, or do you know someone? Has the Lord blessed you with the means to purchase the property? We would love to talk with you. We have our vision document available upon request.

Take some action steps right now:

  • Pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He will bring this dream into reality.
  • Forward this post to someone you know who may be interested in hearing more about the Occom Discovery Center.
  • Tell your pastors or missions committee about ODC. Invite us to your church whether in person or via Skype or ZOOM or phone interview.

Never underestimate your influence and effect in the kingdom. Give us a call.

All for the Kingdom!

Patrick and Regina Lennox

MTW Missionaries to Native America

Ten Days in the North Woods

Ten Days in the North Woods

We recently returned from a ten-day visit to our mission field at the Mokahum Ministry Center. Although it was a short trip, the Lord used it in many big ways. The trip was three-fold. First, our children got a site visit to see their future home. Secondly, the MMC needed someone to teach a writing class, so they asked me. And thirdly, we were able to attend an important seminar by Craig Smith, author of Whiteman’s Gospel, an important book for Natives and non-Natives about the gospel and Native ministry. Craig is the brother-in-law of MMC director, Zane Williams. Zane’s sister and faithful kingdom servant, LaDonna, is on the right.

(excerpt from Lennox Letters Fall Special Report 2016, to read the full newsletter, click here)

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

What Does the Constitution Have to Do with It?

us-constitutionAre you an American who loves your country? Do you believe in a nation of law rather than a dictatorship or the tyranny of the majority? Do you love your Constitution? What part of the Constitution are we allowed to ignore?

I ask these questions because I have spoken to so many Christian voters over the years who have wondered, how much is enough — when will we stop giving the Indians government money? They have their casinos, don’t they? In a world where people are conquered though out history, how can we be expected to keep paying for our sins as a country? Can’t we just say that bad things happen in this world, and they are lucky they were not completely annihilated?

Worldview Adjustment

From the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian

From the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian

I hope the following will help folks answer those questions for themselves. As Christians, especially those who defend the premise that our country is built on Judeo-Christian principles, we ought never argue from a “bad-things-happen-in-this-world-therefore-get-over-it” perspective. As Christians we know that God holds governments, i.e. ministers of justice (Rom 13), accountable for the upholding and the maintaining of justice. As such earthly governments represent our covenant-keeping, law-giving God. The “bad-things-happen” view is simply not the premise we should begin with when considering Native American relations, or any other people group.  Most American Christians I know would never accept this premise when their opposing political parties ignore the Constitution.

What About the Constitution?

Recently I was reading the new book, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, by Suzan Show Harjo. As the title suggests it traces the history of Native American treaties. I would like to commend it to any Constitution-loving Christian. The first thing that struck me at the very outset of the book was this clause from our Constitution:

The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States, which shall be made in Pursuance thereof: and all treaties made, which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” –United States Constitution, article 6, clause 2

Glen Douglas, Lakes-Okanogan Indian, (February 1, 1927 - May 23, 2011) joined the U.S. Army when he was just 17, the start of a long and distinguished career that saw him take part in three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He was with the 101st Airborne in Belgium in 1945, was injured by a grenade in 1953 during the Korean War. During his first tour in Vietnam he was an intelligence analyst with a Special Forces team...

Glen Douglas, Lakes-Okanogan Indian, (February 1, 1927 – May 23, 2011) joined the U.S. Army when he was just 17.

This is the same Constitution that so many Americans died defending, including thousands of Native Americans. The treaties with Native nations were made in perpetuity. The U.S. government has broken its treaties again and again. But breaking a treaty does not dissolve it, and time does not forgive. The treaties are still legally binding today. If you are a Christian who loves the Constitution, you should be all the more eager to recognize these things and even demand those who represent us in Washington do so as well.

More than a Political Issue

But lest you think this is political-activist post, let me assure you that I don’t wish to spend too much time in the political arena. My place is in gospel ministry. I bring it up only because I believe that false assumptions, ill-informed political opinions, and basic ignorance in our churches are dampening our missionary zeal to Native America. These ideas are prohibiting our mission efforts to the 567 Native American nations within our borders. And yes, they are real nations, and are part of the “all nations” to whom the Lord has sent us (Mt. 28:18-20). It just doesn’t seem fitting to me that so many churches who worship on land that was once Indian country do not have a line item in their missions budget for Native America.

I hope to awaken as many people as possible to the need in Native America, and how we as Christians should put the kingdom of Christ far above our earthly kingdoms.  Please prayerfully consider being part what we are doing in Native America. The harvest is ripe and the doors are open. Please read About our mission to Native America here.  All for His Kingdom!

HOW: Were you informed about Native Americans?

HOW: Were you informed about Native Americans?

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.

Excerpt from HOW: Were you informed about Native America? To read more, click here