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Tag: Anishinaabe

Help write our Minnesota story — and celebrate our first anniversary!

UPDATE (May 20, 2012): Praise God! Our trip to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota already is fully funded! But we still could use your prayers. Click through the links below to learn more about our mission, or comment below with questions about how you can be praying. Miigwech (thank you)!

I’ve written before about how God can use your life story. And I’ve written before about how growing up spending summers at my family’s cabin near the St. Croix Chippewa Reservation in Wisconsin foreshadowed my involvement with the Chippewa of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. My friends and I founded a nonprofit there about 10 years ago. It’s called Hope for the First Nations.

Here’s the part of the story where God does something awesome.

Because Joel and I need to raise $1,500 in, oh, two weeks to travel June 2 to 9 to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota to work with Hope for the First Nations. And we believe if He wants us to go, He’ll make it happen.

{Click here to learn more about our summer trip to White Earth.} It’s where you can consider how God can use you in the story. And where you can contribute money (tax-deductible) or prayers to help us go.

I can’t wait to tell the story God already is writing this summer on the reservation!

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Psalm 96:3 (NLT)

(Oh, and if you need another reason to give… next week is our first wedding anniversary. Isn’t that worth celebrating?)

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Linking up with:

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

How God can use your life story: Denouement

I like “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I like the just-released movie adaptation, too. I may even like Miller’s 2009 sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” more. All three describe the elements of plot in a story; specifically, how God can use those elements in your life story.  So does this sermon I gave in 2007 about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations.

You can read more about this series here. Here’s the resolution, or denouement. Because we all know jazz music doesn’t resolve.

V. Denouement

When Pastor Berg asked me to talk today about what I do on the reservation, why I do it and why I’ve kept doing it for the past eight years, he surprised me when He said, “Because I don’t think I could do what you do.” This, after he was a missionary in Africa for years. I can tell you right now I don’t think I could do that. But I don’t think God expects me to.

God is the Author of Life. He’s the Author of your life. And your life story may be very different from mine. My family has a cabin on a lake in northwestern Wisconsin on the edge of the St. Croix reservation, which is also an Anishinaabe reservation. So I’ve spent every summer of my entire life on and around reservations. I’ve always been fascinated by the Native American cultures around me. I’ve always been passionate about social justice issues. And I’m honored to share Christ’s love with the Anishinaabeg. God’s been able to use that for Hope for the First Nations. It’s a theme carried through my life story.

Maybe you’ve got a high-paying job and you can support charities and missionaries in the field. Like I said, I’m a professional intern. I couldn’t do that. But you should talk to me after the service. Maybe you’ve battled a disease or an addiction or an injustice in your life, or you know someone who has, and now you want to help others in similar situations. That’s something God can use if you let Him. Each of us has a unique life story, and that story fits into the story of hope and salvation that began at creation and reached its climax at Easter.

Take a look back at your life story and see what it is God can use. Turn the pen over to Him. And let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

Amen.

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

How God can use your life story: Falling action

I like “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I like the just-released movie adaptation, too. I may even like Miller’s 2009 sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” more. All three describe the elements of plot in a story; specifically, how God can use those elements in your life story.  So does this sermon I gave in 2007 about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations.

You can read more about this series here. And you can read the rest of it this week here. Here’s the falling action.

IV. Falling Action

There’s another passage of Scripture that refers to God as Author, and that’s in Hebrews 12:2-3. Paul writes:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at theright hand of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, and still He submits His pen to God’s plan. He submits to the cross. He takes everything that’s happened in His life up to this point, and He lets God use it. Because of this, we are able to share in the hope of salvation.

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

How God can use your life story: Climax

I like “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I like the just-released movie adaptation, too. I may even like Miller’s 2009 sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” more. All three describe the elements of plot in a story; specifically, how God can use those elements in your life story.  So does this sermon I gave in 2007 about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations.

You can read more about this series here. And you can read the rest of it this week here. Here’s the climax.

III. Climax

By the time I started college, Lutheran High School had lost interest in continuing the Minnesota trip. At the same time, we were averaging more than 50 kids each day at VBS and had grown too big for the one-room church. For those of us who had spent all our last few summers on the reservation, there was no way we were not coming back. Not when the memory is fresh for so many elders on the reservation of being taken away from their families and forced into Christian boarding schools, where needles were jabbed into their tongues for speaking the Anishinaabe language. Not when the suicide rate among Native Americans is three times the national average. Not when prejudice against the Anishinaabe is so strong in the communities immediately surrounding the reservation. Not when Minnesota Public Radio reported an estimated 40 percent of White Earth tribal members are addicted to drugs or alcohol. From our experiences on the reservation, we’d even put that number much higher. Few people on the reservation escape the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Many of the kids we work with exhibit symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

The root cause of these problems is hopelessness.

And so, clinging to the Scripture in Matthew that says, “In His name, the nations will put their hope,” we decided to file the paperwork to officially become a nonprofit organization. Pretty soon, we had a name: Hope for the First Nations. We had a board of directors; At 20 years old, I was our secretary. And we had a mission. Our mission statement is, “Partnering with the people of the White Earth Reservation, Hope for the First Nations is building unity through relationships with individuals in the community and sharing the love of Christ in culturally relevant ways.”

And so we got out into the community, and we started building relationships.

We left Mt. Calvary Full Gospel Fellowship and moved VBS into the Old School, which is now the community center. We went to watch our kids dance at the powwow, which surprised them, because they’d been told by other Christians their cultural expressions were “of the devil.” We planned trips to the reservation throughout the year, not just in the summer. We helped find beds for one of our friends who lives on the reservation, who wanted to help start a Christian drug and alcohol treatment center there. And we started volunteering at the brand-new Boys & Girls Club at the Old School. Since then, we have been given the blessing of White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor.

Our VBS is the same as it ever was, only now many of the oldest kids we taught in years past have come back to help us lead, and we’ve added a community outreach event at the end of the week. We make a big dinner, and the kids sing songs and recite Bible verses and show their friends and families what they’ve been up to all week. One year we had a little girl at VBS named Vickie who was deaf, and we were determined that she was going to be able to recite her Bible verses just like everyone else. So a couple of team members and I sat up late every night with a sign language dictionary, and I’d spend the next day signing verses at Vickie while the other kids read them. She had to correct me a lot. But I think it was one of the proudest moment of my life when she stood up with the rest of the kids at the community outreach and signed the Bible verses along with them.

Hope for the First Nations has also been invited to start Vacation Bible Schools in other communities across the reservation. Until 2006, we worked exclusively at the south of the reservation in a community called Pine Point. That year, we led another VBS at the north of the reservation in Rice Lake and trained a team from a church youth group in Nebraska to take it over. Since then, we’ve planted another in the town of White Earth with a youth group from Springfield, Ill.

We’re not sure what the next chapter in the story of Hope for the First Nations will bring. We know love is making a difference, and we have plans: We’d like to see a children’s home built on the reservation for the kids who get passed from house to house. But we surrendered the pen to the Author of Life a long time ago. We trust, from what He’s done in the past, that God has a plan for our future. We’re turning the pages as eagerly as everyone else.

Read all posts in the “How God can use your life story” series here.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

Many Nations, One Savior 2012 Conference at The Moody Church

“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.