A Better Ending

American_progress

This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress, is an allegorical representation of the modernization of the new west. Here Columbia, a personification of the United States, leads civilization westward with American settlers, stringing telegraph wire as she sweeps west; she holds a school book as well. The different stages of economic activity of the pioneers are highlighted and, especially, the changing forms of transportation. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny

We live and worship on land that once belonged to a diverse mission field. Living on this beautiful continent, which we now call North America, were many civilizations — great and small, peaceful and warring, admirable and some less admirable. We now commonly lump them together as one people called American Indians or Native Americans.  They lived here in great numbers until the American experiment decided to forcibly take it in the name of a superior civilization and progress–often with the blessing of the church, both Catholic and Protestant, under the pretense of God’s work.  Rome’s Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave birth to the Doctrine of Discovery along with the millennial theologies in Protestant circles created the perfect environment for Manifest Destiny and euphemistically, ‘westward expansion.’

Living Up to Our Values

We have told ourselves and the world that our country was built on Judeo-Christian values, yet when someone found gold in Georgia, for instance, the Cherokee and other tribes were removed from their home lands, marched away on the infamous Trail of Tears. Many of them were our brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank the Lord for the missionaries like Presbyterian missionary Samuel Worcester and the Moravian missionaries who fought tirelessly for the rights of the Cherokee and served among them for the kingdom of Christ.

American missions was once an exciting venture for our early forefathers like Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd, while the country was forming. It just seems strange to me that now our country is established, and so much damage has been done by a nation that declares itself to be Christian, that our zeal for missions to Native America has waned. Yet they remain. More than that, their populations have rebounded from 250,000 by the end of the 19th century to over 5 million today. Some chapters have closed, but the story is not finished.

God’s Perspective

Isaiah 52:10 tells us that our God is a God of the nations:

The Lord has bared his holy arm

before the eyes of all the nations,

and all the ends of the earth shall see

the salvation of our God.

Our Lord Jesus tells us to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:18). There are 566 sovereign Native nations within the borders of the US, and many more to the north and south of our borders. The Great Commission is to every tribe, tongue, and nation. To not recognize the 566 Native nations is to not recognize Jesus’ authority over the Great Commission.

By Grace, It’s Not Over

Let’s have a better ending. The first 500 years of missions in this country is a story of praiseworthy successes and dismal and lamentable failures. Sadly, it seems our failures have had the most lasting effect. But I believe we are in a new and exciting chapter of Native missions. There is a better ending to be written in Native American missions. The fields are ripe for harvest. The door is open, and the Lord bids us go.

I hope you will want to be a part of this new chapter and go with us. You can do more than you think. Please read Five Things You Can Do and Contact Us.

Faith Promises, Hobbies, and Priorities

hobbiesRecently we had the opportunity to hear a missionary couple share their ministry report at a church dinner. The husband of the couple, who came from a business background, shared how one day he decided to re-prioritize his giving to missions. Before he was a missionary, he felt convicted on how much money he spent on his hobbies (hunting, fishing, golfing, etc.) in comparison to the money he gave to the Lord’s work. From then on, he decided to match every penny he spent on his hobbies with his giving to missions as a faith promise. To this day, even as a missionary, he and his wife support numerous missionaries throughout the world.

A pastor friend of mine recently awakened me to the fact that most hobbies of adults are at least $1,000 to start. Add it up: Golfing, hunting, fishing, biking, music, sports, and the list could go on. How much time and money goes into these things?

Have you been challenged by this idea? I know I’ve been. I lament the thought of all the money I wasted on luxury and self-indulgence in this life. Don’t get the idea that hobbies and creature comforts are sinful – they are not – but, I continually think of the scene at the end of Schindler’s List when Mr. Schindler learned that the war was over. He was overtaken with deep sorrow because he realized there was nothing more he could do to buy freedom for Jews in the Nazi death camps. Although the war was over, Mr. Schindler came to the haunting realization of how much more he could have done. That unforgettable scene shows Mr. Schindler, a wealthy business man who had given so much, looking at his car in deep regret as he estimated its value by how many people he could have set free, or even the ring on his finger for at least one or two more.

Although we serve a sovereign God who will bring all of his own to himself (John 6:37), I don’t think it is a stretch for us to imagine ourselves on the last day looking back on our lives and assessing our priorities. Will we be able to say that we strove to give it all for the kingdom?

Where are we now?

Currently we are unofficially at 45% of our support. Unofficially means that although 42.5% registers on our account, the other 2.5% is promised to us by new supporters. We are thankful for what the Lord has done, but we are praying and striving for the balance to come in as soon as possible. We are coming up on our one-year anniversary of becoming MTW missionaries. It would be great to get past the halfway point before then.

Currently we are itinerating around to different churches, but most of a missionary’s support comes in from individual donors. I cannot stress enough that if every one of our friends pledged something, we would be on our way to the mission field. To learn more about what you could do, please Contact Us. Before you write a check, please read Fair Winds first. Please take time to read Who Should Support the Great Commission? as well. If you truly cannot give any money, but want to do something, please read Five Things You Can Do. On-going pledged support is what we truly need to be able to minister in Cherokee. We would love to sit down with you and talk about what the Lord is doing and how you could actively be a part of it.

All for the Kingdom!

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

When the Apostle Paul set out on his missionary journeys, he desired to preach the gospel to all who have not heard the good news of the Kingdom, which at that time, the whole world was a fresh mission field. In Romans 15:20, Paul says, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” He wanted to go where nobody had yet been.

Recently I heard of two missionaries attending a missions conference where one missionary proclaimed his ministry to his country was more important than missions to Native America because his mission was to an unreached people group whereas Native America has already been reached. Essentially, using Romans 15:20 as a proof text, he declared that only missions to unreached people groups matter, or at least are superior to all other missionary endeavors.

There seems to be confusion out there concerning how we are to approach our missionary endeavors. Some have taken Paul’s desire to be the missions template. In order to conclude that, we need to ask some important questions. Do the words in Romans 15:20 represent Paul’s personal ambition for himself as a minister of the gospel, or is Paul issuing a command for all who wish to engage in missionary activities? Is it biblical to have missionaries go to where others have gone before? Tradition tells us that the Apostle Thomas went to India. Do we not go to India anymore? Once a missionary establishes a church, does that mean the entire people group is considered evangelized with no further need for additional gospel laborers? How many generations must pass and how empty do churches have to be before another missionary attempts to plant a church that preaches and teaches the gospel of grace?

Although it is true that much of Native America has has been the target of missionaries over the last 500 hundred years, it would be a failure on our part to check them off on our list of “reached” people. Are we considering each of the 566 recognized tribes, (nations) or did we lump them altogether as one people with no recognition of their own identities?

Without question, many Native Americans have been reached, but history has shown that many of the problems we face today in ministry are the result of our past mission strategies. One particular guiding principle is expressed in the old adage “Kill the Indian, save the man.” That has led to the cultural genocide of so many Native American tribes and has left the church today with challenges that could have been avoided had we not attempted to “civilize” them them by force according to Western standards of culture.

History teaches us that Native Americans and First Nations people are a mis-reached and under reached people. Missiologists are recognizing them as a forgotten people. According to my limited studies and my own life experience, I agree.

There are people in Cherokee who have idea who Jesus is. I know, I have met them. I don’t need a statistic to prove it to me. Please pray for Native peoples. Ask the Lord what you could do. Help us reach our financial goals that we may plant a Reformed church in Cherokee. Pray that that church would raise up disciples and leaders to go throughout all the reservations and the world with the gospel. Please go to our Giving page to join our team of supporters.