Native American ministry is uniquely different from Cru’s model of ministry. For one, “Life is lived through relationships,” as Mark Charles would tell us. Native American ministry is doing life within Native American communities.
Donnie & Renee has been on staff for over 10 years in Cru. They started “Nations” in 2004 on the campus of New Mexico State University. For many Native American people who respond to the call of following Jesus, they are told to take off their Indianness and embrace a new identity that comes with a new culture, worldview, ideology, and forms of worship. It is only until recently have Native people begin to ask what if the gospel was fully entrusted to us? What would our “Christianity” look like and feel like?
Renee shares her story and I AM FROM poem at Cru’s biannual staff conference at Colorado State University in 2014.
My husband, who is a pastor, and I are working with a 58-year-old woman who is part Native American. She grew up in a military home, not on a reservation. She has asked to be a member of our church. However, as Baptist (GARB), we require a clear testimony of salvation followed by baptism for church membership. She does not have a clear testimony. ( ” I started going to church in 1980, and I started feeling better, then I was baptized.” ) We have been counseling with her on and off for 3 years. We have done our best to demonstrate our love for this women, by caring for her and her beloved dog when she had surgery and at other times of need. Our church family has done their best to love her, although it is a challenge. ( She can become quite angry at times, she has alienated her family and past friends refuse to talk to her.) She has stated more than once that she will not give up her Native American heritage, (which we have said she doesn’t have to), but she insists that the “Great Spirit” is the same as God. This we explain cannot be. I fear her stubbornness about her heritage is interfering with a true relationship with Jesus Christ. However, we do not know how to reach her. Could you offer any suggestions, books or other material to help us or her? Thank you.
Resources that have been most helpful to us in our walk with Jesus as a Native person are:
One Church, Many Tribes & Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys both by Richard Twiss
Introduction to First Nations Ministry by Cheryl Bear-Barnetson
Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley
Holy Smoke: The Contextualized Use of Native American Ritual & Ceremony by Casey Church
The North American Institute of Indigenous Theological Studies’ Journals. These can be purchased at https://indigenouspathways.com/ipstore/naiitsstore/?catalog/all/-/name/1
Most of these books contain material that is contextualized for Native American and First Nations people to help us better understand God and the gospel. So, as Native people we don’t just call God by the generic term for the Christian God, but we also call him “Creator.” Many good followers of the Jesus way who are Native call God the “Great Spirit” because that makes more sense and has greater meaning to them than what Christians may call him.