NEW ORLEANS – The Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC) has installed its first executive director, Gary Hawkins.
Hawkins, a church planting associate with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, was called by FoNAC’s executive committee as the group’s executive director. The call was affirmed unanimously by the full fellowship during its June 18 meeting prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
“It’s time for us to build on our strengths,” Hawkins said in his remarks to FoNAC. “Certain things are common to all Native peoples and yet we are a diverse people group. … I believe God has a log of qualified people who haven’t had an opportunity to step up and come alongside another Native person.
“Without God I wouldn’t have a family. I come to you simply as a man who has a passion to reach Indian people. … It doesn’t matter what people have or don’t have. If they don’t have Jesus, they don’t have anything.”
Emerson Falls, pastor of Glorieta Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and chairman of FoNAC, told the meeting, attended by some 60 Native Americans from the United States and Canada, that the fellowship “can do anything with God’s power.”
Most Native American Southern Baptist churches “are small; we’re weak,” Falls, one of FoNAC’s founders in 2009, said. But just as God chose David, the weakest of his brothers, so God has chosen Native congregations to reach Native people for Jesus, Falls said.
“If we don’t do it, who is going to do it?” he asked.
Photo by Bill Bangham
Members of the Fellowship of Native American Christians embrace and pray for Gary and Paula Hawkins June 18 after his installation as the first executive director for the organization. Those in attendance came from across the United States – as far away as Massachusetts – and Canada.
About 4.1 million Americans – 1.5 percent of the total population – identify themselves as Native American or Alaska Native, belonging to more than 800 tribal groups. While some live in urban areas, 140 reservations are scattered across the nation.
About 1.2 million Canadians – 3.8 percent of Canada’s total population – identify themselves as First Nations people, counted among 600 “bands” or tribes.
“This is where God is at work,” Falls said. “We’re going to join God in what He is doing.”
Through the relationships developed last year at two North American conferences, Native churches are helping each other in evangelism, Falls said. In his chairman’s report, he explained the need for a paid executive director who will be able to focus on building a network to start Native American churches and help existing churches extend God’s Kingdom.
FoNAC heard a report about its $78,700 budget, which will come from several sources, including contributions from Native churches. Some congregations have committed to send 1 percent of their undesignated receipts to FoNAC while not decreasing their giving through the Cooperative Program.
Support from individuals, churches, associations, state conventions and the North American Mission Board also are being sought, as are grants.
For additional information, visit fonac.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)