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

Welcome to My Dream World!

Campaigning for the Kingdom

All the big Christian para-church ministries are doing it, so why can’t we? You know, ask for money? And there is nothing wrong with that. They need money to run their ministries that provide us with those edifying goods, services, and well…ministry. Aside from selling products, a common strategy for ministries to get money is to offer free stuff. Just call the toll-free number, give your name, address, and phone number and receive your free gift. Shortly afterwards, you will receive an appeal letter and follow-up phone call asking if you would like to partner with the ministry. Many of your favorite ministries have a whole team of callers dialing up prospective ministry partners. Again, nothing wrong with that. That’s just how it works…and it does work.

Et Tu Reginae?

IMG_20151130_115302So what about us? We don’t have a radio show or podcast. We don’t have a catalog full of various teaching media. No national or regional conferences. What we do will never be available for public consumption. We are missionaries. We are the night callers. We raise our funds by asking people like you to support us so we can go to minister to other people. Aside from chocolates at our display table, you don’t get free stuff, only the satisfaction of giving so others can benefit. *Full disclosure, we gave away free DVDs at a TGC conference once, but not much response.

Welcome to My Dream World!

Classic scene from The Truman Show (1988)

Classic scene from The Truman Show (1988)

I remember a couple of years ago when I had a conversation with a pastor about our decision to go to the mission field. He told me that I should be a pastor of a church. With all sincerity, he proceeded to tell me how bad the economy was, that I was not a fundraiser, and how I was living in a dream world. The funny thing was, he was right on all three counts. It’s true, the economy is bad, I am not a “fundraiser,” and yes, I am dreaming.

I know that the economy is not what we want it to be, but I also know that next Saturday morning, like always, I will be watching my favorite shows on my local listener-supported PBS station. People will be buying their designer coffee at a local coffee shop. Next November we will have a new president-elect promising to turn the economy around, and our favorite ministries will be doing what they always do. They will all get their funding.

Native Girl on switch boardAs you read this, I hope you will consider dreaming with us and supporting this missionary family. Help us answer our call to serve Native America at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Cass Lake, MN. You don’t have to give a lot, just something regular we can count on. We hope you would dare to dream with us and see the glory of God displayed in Native America.

To help us get to the mission field and stay there, please visit our Giving page here.

Year-end gifts are great, but to learn how best to give, please read Fair Winds.

If you truly have no money to spare, please read about Five Things You Can Do.

Give us a call. Let’s get together (Actually, we have some money in our budget to buy you dinner, shh).

Also, would you please SHARE this post using the social media buttons at the bottom of this page. Let’s go for at least 200 SHARES!

Until next time…

Back Home Again

We made some new friends while visiting our old stomping grounds at the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando (No more stocking the book store tables).

We made some new friends while visiting our old stomping grounds at the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando (No more stocking the book store tables).

After a busy travel schedule since the beginning of the year, we are home for a while. We’ve been to Maryland, Virginia, Georgia (multiple times), Alabama, and every corner of Florida. We are coming off the road, but we are not resting. There is a lot of following up, re calibrating, and planning our next steps. Pray for wisdom for us.

Back, Forth, and Onward
Our journey has been challenging to say the least, especially with our change of field. Because of that, our budget was increased, and we have lost some significant support due to the economy, which moved us backwards. We are still past the half-way point, but we have slipped behind a few percentage points.

But the Lord is in control, and we are in forward motion again. We are really praying to be 100% by August. We want to be serving in Mokahum by the fall semester. We need 80% by July before we get to Belgium. This is an impossible thing to pray for, but we serve a God who specializes in things thought impossible. Will you pray with us?

 

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. Currently we are working on a special project for Native America together. I will let you know when it is finished.

Here we are with Dr. Richard Pratt and Rob Griffith of Third Millennium Ministries. Dr. Pratt was the keynote speaker at Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church’s annual missions conference. Currently we are working on a special project for Native America together. I will let you know when it is finished.

What do we need?
We need a bigger support team. We need more churches to visit and more people to meet. We need your prayers, but more importantly, we need the answers to those prayers. A significant part of those answers is in the form of pledged support. Without those pledges we don’t get to the field. If you have already given us a special gift, or if you give regularly but have notified us that you plan to continue giving, please consider making an actual pledge. This is essential to our departure.

Click here for a list of Five Things You Can Do to help us.
Click here to learn about the best way to Give.

Will you pray for us?
1. We need a bigger support team. If all our friends gave just $30 per month, we would be packing our bags tomorrow. That is one dollar a day. We are praying for pledges of all kinds: $5, $25, $50, $100, $200, and $400 per month for at least a four-year commitment.

2. Pray for yourself. If you would like to give, but don’t think you can, ask the Lord to make it possible. Are you bold enough? Scripture encourages you to pray that way (Heb 4:16, 10:19). Go for it.

3. Pray for our perseverance as well. It has been a long road so far and there is more to go.

4. Pray for a special project we are working on with Third Millennium

Here is Regina ready to teach the children at Orangewood Presbyterian Church's missions conference. Regina taught the children to sing Amazing Grace in Cherokee playing a ukulele. You should have seen the children how they reverently sang such a beautiful song in such a beautiful language. They actually requested to sing it again -- and we did.

Here is Regina ready to teach the children at Orangewood Presbyterian Church’s missions conference. Regina taught the children to sing Amazing Grace in Cherokee playing a ukulele. You should have seen the children how they reverently sang such a beautiful song in such a beautiful language. They actually requested to sing it again — and we did.

Ministries. We are very excited about it.

Thank you for taking time to read this. The Lord bless you.

This is a picture of us while visiting the Mokahum Ministry Center near Bemidji, MN. We are striving to get there to serve. Please prayerfully consider joining our team.

This is a picture of us while visiting the Mokahum Ministry Center near Bemidji, MN. We are still residing in Florida, but we are striving to get there to serve. Please prayerfully consider joining our team.

 

 

Free Stuff

Source: rainydaypennies.com

Source: rainydaypennies.com

Christmas is coming! Black Friday came and went and Cyber Monday began on Sunday. The retailers are beckoning you with deals that will be impossible to pass up. Let me tell you a secret: they want your money. And not only retailers, but everyone else, too. Right now presidential candidates are on the campaign trail receiving millions of dollars to advance their bid for the highest office in the land. They are asking, and they are receiving.

Just this past weekend, with no consideration for me and my Saturday rituals, PBS interrupted their (my!) usual programming in order to raise money. Imagine that! They’re pushing for a strong fiscal finish by the end of the year with your tax-deductible gift. As much as I love watching This Old House every week, I didn’t make “that call” to continue receiving that “quality programming.” But I admit they were offering some really cool appreciation gifts: DVDs, special club membership status with all the benefits, etc. You know the spiel.

Campaigning for the Kingdom

Likewise Christian ministries do the same thing. You know, ask for money? And there is nothing wrong with that. They need money to run their ministries that provide us with those edifying goods, services, and well…ministry. Aside from selling products, a common strategy for ministries to get money is to offer free stuff. Just call the toll-free number, give your name, address, and phone number and receive your free gift. Shortly afterwards, you will receive an appeal letter and follow-up phone call asking if you would like to partner with the ministry. Many of your favorite ministries have a whole team of callers dialing up prospective ministry partners. Again, nothing wrong with that. That’s just how it works…and it does work.

Et Tu Reginae?

IMG_20151130_115302So what about us? We don’t have a radio show or podcast. We don’t have a catalog full of various teaching media. No national or regional conferences. What we do will never be available for public consumption. We are missionaries. We are the night callers. We raise our funds by asking people like you to support us so we can go to minister to other people. Aside from chocolates at our display table, you don’t get free stuff, only the satisfaction of giving so others can benefit. *Full disclosure, we gave away free DVDs at a TGC conference once, but not much response.

Welcome to My Dream World!

Classic scene from The Truman Show (1988)

Classic scene from The Truman Show (1988)

I remember a couple of years ago when I had a conversation with someone about our decision to go to the mission field. With all sincerity, he proceeded to tell me how bad the economy was, that I was not a fundraiser, and how I was living in a dream world. The funny thing was, he was right on all three counts. It’s true, the economy is bad, I am not a “fundraiser,” and yes, I am dreaming.

I know that the economy is not what we want it to be, but I also know that next Saturday morning, like always, I will be watching my favorite shows on PBS. People will be buying their designer coffee at a local coffee shop. Next November we will have a new president-elect promising to turn the economy around, and our favorite ministries will be doing what they always do. They will all get their funding.

Native Girl on switch boardAs you read this, I hope you will consider dreaming with us and supporting this missionary family. Help us answer our call to serve Native America at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Cass Lake, MN. You don’t have to give a lot, just something regular we can count on. We hope you would dare to dream with us and see the glory of God displayed in Native America.

 

To help us get to the mission field and stay there, please visit our Giving page here.

Year-end gifts are great, but to learn how best to give, please read Fair Winds.

If you truly have no money to spare, please read about Five Things You Can Do.

Give us a call. Let’s get together (Actually, we have some money in our budget to buy you dinner, shh).

Also, would you please SHARE this post using the social media buttons at the bottom of this page. Let’s go for at least 200 SHARES!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

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…

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.

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!