Many Nations, One Savior 2012 Conference at The Moody Church

by Emily McFarlan Miller

“White people ask some of the stupidest questions.”

Leonard Rascher can say that. Rascher, who spoke at the Many Nations, One Savior 2012 Conference Saturday at The Moody Church in Chicago, is white, and he’s been working in ministry to Native American people for more than 70 years.

White people also can say some pretty ridiculous things.

Like the well-meaning guy at Many Nations, One Savior who gave me the phone number of his pastor because, he said, his white pastor from suburban Chicago could give me all the answers I needed about Native American ministry. Only I wasn’t there for answers. I was there for relationship.

I’ve been working with Hope for the First Nations now for more thaan 12 years. I went to the conference to hear what God is doing in the lives of our Native American brothers and sisters. I wanted to meet and pray with and share information and ideas with other Christians who love all our relations, who hurt over what has been done to them in this country and especially in the name of Christianity, who want to do something about these statistics conference sponsor Real Hope Missions has shared:

  • The average life expectancy for Native Americans is 44 years old. Compare that to the national average life expectancy: 74.
  • Native Americans have the highest rate of drug abuse, alcohol abuse and suicide of any group in the United States.
  • One in 10 Native Americans will be the victim of a violent crime. That also is the highest likelihood of any group in the United States.
  • One in three Native Americans live beneath the poverty line.

One of the best ways to do that, according to featured conference speaker Huron Claus, president of CHIEF (or Christian Hope Indian Eskimo Fellowship, Inc.), is to “come in relationship.”

“If you come in with all the answers, they’ll shut you down,” Claus said.

Rascher, currently director and chairman of the governing board of Native American Bible Ministries, Inc., echoed that during his workshop Saturday afternoon about “Your Role in Native Ministry.” One conference attender asked him the biggest mistakes people make when trying to minister to Native Americans.

“Don’t go with the attitude you know everything,” he said. “Go as a learner.”

Rascher also offered these four ways to help determine your role in ministry to Native American people:

  1. Be Aware. There really is no such thing as “Native American” or “American Indian,” according to Rascher. There are more than 560 federally-recognized Native American tribes, each with its own tribal identity and culture. Find information in books and online about those tribes and what is going on in their communities, appreciate their cultural differences, then reach out to them.
  2. Be Asking. One of the “greatest failures of the church ever” is its outreach to Native Americans, according to Rascher. “Over 500 years, we’ve been trying to cram the gospel down the throats of Native Americans, and what do we have to show for it?” he said. Start asking God to do something new, something with less cramming and more loving.
  3. Be Active. You can find information, you can make time to pray, you can build relationships with a Native American community or individual or go on a short-term mission trip or donate money to a missions organization. (Insert shameless plug for Hope for the First Nations here.) Figure out what action you can take. (Insert shameless plug for my ongoing “How God can use your life story” blog series here.)
  4. Be Available. “You have a role to play in Native American ministry, even if you’re not Native,” Rascher said.