LAWRENCE, Kan. — Daniel Goombi is a full-blooded Native American, a member of the Kiowa-Apache Indian tribe, originally nomads who left Canada to settle in Oklahoma. Daniel is proud of his heritage, culture and tradition.
“I am a Kiowa-Apache and I do live in a tepee,” admits Goombi with a tongue-in-cheek grin. “It’s just that it’s a two-story brick tepee with central air conditioning, just a couple blocks from Wal-Mart. We wear plain clothes as you can see — no buckskin loin cloths. I eat meals that weren’t just running in front of me, and I don’t hunt with a bow and arrow. I don’t whoop and holler or attack white men, wear feathers or ride a horse.”
Despite his self-deprecating humor, Daniel views his job as a missionary as serious business.
As directors of Kansas Reservation Ministries, Daniel, 24, and wife Kimberly, 23, share the gospel on four Native American reservations — among the Kickapoo, the Sac and Fox, the Iowa and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribes — throughout Kansas. The Goombis, based in Lawrence, are Mission Service Corps missionaries for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and church planters for the Kaw Valley Association.
Daniel and Kimberly are only two of more than 5,500 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions and the Cooperative Program. The couple is among the NAMB missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer (WOP), March 1-8, 2009. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Sowing Together for Harvest.” The 2009 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $65 million.
As NAMB Mission Service Corps missionaries, the Goombis must raise their own support among family, friends and related churches. Although they are self-funded, they also receive additional support — such as training, administrative support and field ministry assistance — from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
Daniel is unique among all the NAMB missionaries honored as Week of Prayer missionaries in the past. He is the first-ever, second-generation Week of Prayer missionary in NAMB’s history.
His parents, Ron and Alpha Goombi — who still minister on Native American reservations in Nebraska — were WOP missionaries in 2003.
Daniel became a Christian at eight years old, during a revival service led by his dad in Omaha, Neb. Although he lived in Omaha most of the time, Daniel remembers that “we pretty much grew up on the reservations. We traveled as much as we could almost every weekend. And we spent almost all summers on the reservations, working with the people.”
Ministering on Native American reservations is both heartbreaking and difficult, according to Goombi. Every tribe in Kansas is different — each has its own language, heritage, culture and beliefs.
“There are a lot of single-parent families with single mothers or even grandparents raising their grandkids. Alcohol, drug abuse and suicide are big issues. People are secluded from the outside world, and when you’re on a reservation, you’re limited to what’s around you and it’s really not much.
“The spiritual climate on the reservations is difficult,” Goombi said, “because Native Americans have a misconception of who we believers are. They think they have to give up who they are to follow God, and they believe God is still a white man’s God because of the history Native Americans experienced with organized religion.”
Goombi reassures his peers that “God has blessed us Native Americans with who we are, with our heritage, and would never take that away from us.”
Goombi’s heartbreak came when he learned early on that on some reservations, 50 years — half a century — had passed without Native American children having a church or even a Vacation Bible School to attend. Goombi changed that in 2006.
“In Summer 2006, the first time we held Vacation Bible School for the Prairie Band Tribe, a lot of the elders of the tribe told us that it had been 50 years since an outside organization or church had come on the reservation. That’s 50 years of children growing, living their lives and dying without a chance to hear about God,” he said.
Goombi says for the most part, there are no reservations with Bible-based churches that meet on a regular basis. They meet now and then, when a visiting pastor comes through. But as a church planter for his association, Daniel wants to plant permanent churches on the reservations he serves.
“Our hope as church planters is to have four self-sustaining churches on each of the four reservations — facilities that each tribe could call their own and a place where people would gather and worship the Lord and take advantage of the church’s programs.”
Parents of two daughters, Elizabeth and Sophia, the Goombis have a real soft spot for Native American children on the reservations.
At the Prairie Band Potawatomi Indian Reservation near Mayetta, Kan., Daniel recently was spotted playing dodge ball, football and basketball with the kids there. Kimberly spent time making “salvation bracelets,” teaching and singing with the girls there.
The Goombis subscribe to the phrase in Isaiah 11:6: “a little child shall lead them.”
“The kids on the reservation are really receptive to what we are doing,” says Daniel. “It’s amazing to see the kids grow, learn church songs and go home and sing them to their parents, who notice how their kids are changing. We offer them an opportunity to learn about God and have fun in a clean environment.
“Working with the kids helps us get to the families and get into the homes. The parents start asking questions and start coming around, and we’re able to share the gospel with them through their kids.”
Because it’s usually only he and Kimberly to cover the four Kansas reservations, Daniel pleads for help from other Southern Baptist volunteers around the United States. He said they rely on volunteers who will come to Kansas for just a weekend or for the entire summer to donate their time and talents to reach Native Americans. It could be assisting with block parties, carnivals, Vacation Bible Schools or Backyard Bible Clubs.
“In addition to Kansas, there are more than 450 tribes recognized by the federal government,” said Goombi. “So many of these tribes are going unreached. We want to encourage churches and associations to remember these needs and take action. We need to live with urgency and together sow seeds on these reservations to further God’s Kingdom.”
“When people think of missions, they always think of Africa or foreign countries. But reservations are like foreign countries,” she says. “They are their own sovereign nations. The people on reservations live differently and speak other languages.
“So we just want to get the word out to Southern Baptists that you don’t have to spend money to travel overseas, when we have a mission field 20 minutes north of Topeka, Kan.”
For more information on this year’s Week of Prayer missionaries and the ministries of the North American Mission Board, visit www.anniearmstrong.com.