Feature

Native Americans Renew Connections

By Anonymous

On August 12-14, 2014, members of the Native American Association of the C&MA met in Palmer Lake, Colorado, to reacquaint themselves with one another after a long hiatus and to renew their commitment to join together in ministry as an association.

“The Alliance has a long history of ministry to native people in the United States,” said Dan Wetzel, vice president for Church Ministries of the U.S. C&MA. “In recent years many congregations have struggled to secure pastoral leadership and maintain relationships with other native churches across the country. Most of the congregations are isolated, and differences in native cultures are significant.

“The primary purpose of the meeting was to renew relationships, build a sense of Christian community and to share what God’s Spirit is doing in our churches.”

On the opening night of the conference, Dr. John Stumbo, president of the U.S. C&MA, encouraged the group of about two dozen members as he reminded them that God delights in using the few to have a great impact in the Kingdom. President Stumbo also emphasized the work of God for healing.

The next day, Craig Smith led the devotions, telling the association about his spiritual journey through his long—and ongoing—recovery from a 2009 car accident. During the following meeting, each attendee was given the opportunity to tell the others about his or her ministry, sharing the struggles as well as the joys. This time of personal revelation helped to bond the group as the members empathized with common elements and prayed for one another.

On the final day, Chris Ballard, a young pastor from Hays, Montana, gave a memorable testimony of finding Christ after a troubled childhood on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma. After receiving ministry training at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Cass Lake, Minnesota, Chris and his wife, Janine, accepted the pastorate of the Alliance church on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation near the Canadian border.

The association then affirmed Zane Williams as president and Craig Smith as vice president and elected Beulah McCarthy as secretary, Janine Ballard as treasurer and Marsha Greyeyes as member-at-large. “For the first time,” Dan noted, “all of the members elected to serve on the association’s executive team are themselves native people.”

Dan believes that everyone who attended the meeting returned home feeling encouraged that God is at work in association churches. “There is renewed determination to share the gospel in the context of Native America and to encourage other congregations near native communities to do so as well,” he said. “Relationships were renewed and plans were made for continued communication and fellowship. There are still many difficulties to overcome, but Native [American] Alliance believers are determined to proclaim the hope of the gospel in native communities across the country.”

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