— Native people gained a voice at the North American Native Peoples Summit.
“This is the first time Native peoples have had a setting in which they were
free to speak their minds,” as Stan Albright, director of missions for the
Baptist Convention of New Mexico, put it.
“And what’s on their minds is their desire to lead their people to the Lord,”
said Albright, one of 13 members of the leadership team who organized the
About 200 people — mostly Native peoples but also those who want to work with
them in sharing the gospel — from 31 states and four Canadian provinces
attended the April 27-28 gathering at Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.
“We want to help our Native people help each other … (to) work together to
reach our people for Jesus Christ,” said Emerson Falls, pastor of Glorieta
Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and president of the Fellowship of Native
American Christians who also served on the event’s leadership team.
Native singers from Montana and British Columbia were among the featured musicians at the North American Native Peoples Summit in Springdale, Ark. Soloist Tonya Plummer-Bemis, from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in eastern Montana, was joined by
drummers Stephanie and Peter Adams of Tsawout Assembly of Praise on Vancouver
Other leaders concurred: The summit may signal a new day, a fresh start, in
Native American ministry across the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Every piece of the puzzle (of developing the summit) was put together by the
Holy Spirit,” said Randy Carruth of Amiable Baptist Church in Glenmora, La.,
recognized as the person at the center of new momentum among Southern Baptists
in reaching Native peoples in North America. “It’s not about one person. It’s
about listening to the Holy Spirit. We can do more in unity … to reach the
world better than ever before.”
Though developed to bring Natives and non-natives together in ministry, the
summit became a time of inspiration, encouragement and motivation for the
“On one end (before the summit) they were saying one thing, that we’d get
opportunities to meet people and help people, and when we get here, we learn we
are our own resources,” said Eugene Baker, pastor of the Native American Totah
Baptist Church in Farmintgon, N.M., near the Navajo reservation.
“That goes along with what I’ve been thinking,” Baker said during one of
several “networking breaks” during the summit. “The Lord gives me a vision
ahead of meetings like these — we just had one in Oklahoma
City and then in Albuquerque — and the meetings give
me assurance I’m on the right track.”
One result of the summit: Members who attended from a Wisconsin Native church
led their congregation in voting unanimously the following Sunday to become the
first Native church in Wisconsin
to become a Southern Baptist congregation.
The summit provided times for Natives to speak from microphones scattered
across Cross Church’s
fan-shaped worship center.
“How do we reach our own people? Be like Jesus,” said Mark Olsen, a Native from
“Let them see the love in us.”
Bez Bull Shows of Crow Agency, Mont., who moved to Riverton, Wyo., to enter a
Set Free ministry for deliverance from drugs and alcohol six months ago, gave
“I went home for a visit and started rounding up people from the res,” Bull
Shows said. “Now we have prayer circles and meetings in several homes.”
Jimmy Anderson, pastor of Many Springs
in Holdenville, Okla.,
was one of several who noted that missionaries on the reservations did make an
impact, contrary to what many people think. They reached the people who are
leaders today, he pointed out.
“The early missionaries got the Gospel out and churches started on a scriptural
basis,” said Anderson, who has been involved in Native ministry at the local,
state and national levels since 1956. “They helped get the churches organized.
“This summit was worthwhile and really needed,” Anderson
said. “One thing we need is a burden to see the scope of the need among our own
people. We’ve heard it before but I think we need to keep hearing it.”
Part of the problem in reaching Native Americans in the past was that the “dominant
culture” expected Natives to adopt a non-native culture, said Jim Turnbo, area
missionary in the New Mexico Baptist Convention and another member of the
summit’s leadership team.
For example, Turnbo said, mission teams come in with a plan for Vacation Bible
School to start promptly at 9 a.m., though the Natives might not arrive until
after 10:30 a.m.
“We try to do the Holy Spirit’s work for Him,” said Ron Goombi, a Native who
was reared in Nebraska and ministers there today.
“Who we are: God’s people,” said James Eaton of New
Mexico. “Endurance is what we’ve gotten from our
history. We’re a praying people.” Richard Delores of New
Mexico added, “Fervent prayer and fasting and being
committed to the task at hand (is what is needed now).”
“God wants to use us to be a gateway people, to be a blessing to all those who
call this nation home,” said Mark Custalow, a Native from Virginia who talked
about Natives starting “story circles” with whatever stories they already know
from the Bible and learning more as time goes on.
“I think we really needed to do this conference,” said Alan Dial, Native church
starting strategist in Anchorage, Alaska.
“I don’t think Southern Baptists as a whole grasp the breadth of lostness.
Native people have needed a voice to tell that story to their Southern Baptist
brothers and sisters…. If we’re not praying for each other, we’ve already
given up the fight.”
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church,
was one of three keynote speakers during the summit, along with Henry Blackaby
and his son Richard, both known for their interest in Native peoples.
“I don’t know anything about reaching Native Americans — yet,” Doug Sarver, Cross
Church’s minister of global
missions, said when he was introduced at the summit. Cross Church plans to
plant 50 churches over the next three years, Sarver said, and more than 2,000
signed up recently to participate in short-term mission trips in 2012.
“Is it OK to say ‘yet’? Maybe the Lord will lead us to connect with you,”
native Bakary Doumbouya, missions pastor of First
in Alma, Ark.,
said he came to the summit “to see what God was doing on the reservations and
how Native people are coming together to see God’s moving on the reservation.
Also, to network, to see what the needs are and to build awareness among
non-Natives as to what is happening.
“There’s such a great amount of lost people among Natives; they need our
prayers and they need our outreach,” Doumbouya said.
The next Native American event will be the annual meeting of the Southern
Baptist Fellowship of Native American Christians on Monday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to noon
in the Phoenix Convention
Center North Building’s
Room 226A as one of the events related to the SBC’s
2011 annual meeting. Anyone with an interest in ministry with Native Americans
is invited to participate, said Falls, the fellowship’s president.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is
managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Dakota Baptist Connections
and The Montana Baptist.)
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