The history books don’t tell the story of Native people well or accurately; they often skip over the horrors and injustices inflicted on them in the name of God, government, or both. In this episode, we sit down with Tim Young Eagle, executive director of Lutheran Indian Ministries (LIM), to grapple with the Church’s role in perpetuating and even leading the colonization of Native people and the generational trauma that resulted from it. Stay with us to hear how LIM is helping to reconcile Native people with God by offering a different kind of Gospel message—one of true hope, healing, and belonging.
A Few Notes
We find it appropriate to acknowledge the land on which we recorded this podcast is traditional territory to parts of the Sioux, Potowatomi, Peoria and Miami nations. It’s also the homeland and origin of the Menominee nation who have been here continuously for thousands of years prior to colonization. Today the Menominee have their own accredited college, are renowned for their stewardship of 1.7 billion board feet of sustainably-harvested forest, and live among some of the most pristine lakes and rivers in the country.
Some of the earliest European colonizers to this part of America were Christian missionaries, and the city Concordia is located in was the site of the first Lutheran church in Wisconsin, founded in 1840. It’s here that the tension of these two stories—the indigenous and the Christian—intersect.
We’d also like to acknowledge that the stories and experiences shared within this episode are a few of the many and not meant to represent the whole of Native people’s experience with Christianity.
Tim Young Eagle is the executive director of Lutheran Indian Ministries (LIM). He’s an alumnus of Concordia College (the old State St. campus), Chairman of the Board of LUMIN Schools, and a lifelong Lutheran. Following a career in donor development, he accepted the position at LIM to honor deep desire to proclaim the true Jesus to his people.
- Natives know Jesus, but not the “true Jesus”
- Native people have heard about Jesus and the Bible for 500 years, but the message they heard wasn’t true or positive. They were told that the Bible says they are heathens and they must be willing to give up their identity before they can be accepted by God.
- Historic roots of distrust and animosity between the Native community and Christian churches
- The Doctrine of Discovery and subsequent boarding schools were tools utilized by the Catholic church and other religious groups to motivate conquering, subduing, and “civilizing” Native people
- Trauma has settled into the DNA of Native people. This trauma has been passed down through generations.
- How can the Church repent of its past and engage with the present of Native people?
- We talk about Native people as a homogenous group, but they aren’t. The government lumps everyone together as one group, but there are more than 570 groups, each with their own sovereign government that makes deals with the U.S. government.
- Before you can take the Gospel to these people, you have to understand their story and where they come from. Each tribe has its own unique history with Christianity which should be taken into account when sharing the Gospel.
- LIM working to end the distrust and animosity between Native people and Christianity. Their work answers the question of “It is possible to be both culturally Native and Christian?” with a resounding YES.
- LIM encourages Native people to embrace their history, their identity, and their stories and heal from the trauma interweaved in it all through workshops, youth camps, counseling, etc.
A Few Mentioned Resources
- Tim Young Eagle welcomes questions from any listeners who wish to learn more about his experience and/or the work of LIM.
- Email: tyoungeagle [at] lutheranindianministries [dot] org
- Phone: 414-807-3682
- Learn more about or get involved in the work and outreach of Lutheran Indian Ministries
- The Doctrine of Discovery, 1493 that led the way for colonization in the name of God and eventually influenced American imperialism
- Mark Charles (Navajo) delivers a brief presentation about the Doctrine of Discovery for TEDx Talks
- Background information on boarding schools and their impact on Native people
For further reading on Native Christianity, host Dan recommends the following books:
- Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss (Sicangu Lakota)
- Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley(Keetoowah Cherokee)
- First Nations Version of the Bible from Terry Wildman (Ojibwe/Yaqui) and Wycliffe
Do you have thoughts or personal experiences regarding Native faith that you would like to share with us? We’d love to hear from you. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share your feedback on this episode.
Tim Young Eagle: I’ve looked at how many words are in the Bible, how many chapters, how many verses. None of them say that Indians are heathen, none of them say that it’s a sin to be Indian, and every one of them points to Jesus as being the Lord and Savior of all of his creation, and that includes Native people. No culture is inherently heathen. There are elements that point to Jesus, and the job is really to remove the things that don’t point to Jesus, and agree on the things that do point to Jesus, and let that be the beginning of your discussion.
Michael: Hello, and welcome to living uncommon. The first episode of the season two.
Michael: Can you imagine? She didn’t even think she would be alive today to do season two.
Angelina: I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen when we started this, and now we’re in our second season.
Michael: We want to thank all twelve of our listeners for sticking with us.
Angelina: Tell your friends. Send it to your mom! Send it to your neighbor!
Dan: We’ve got a lot of mom-friendly topics coming up this year.
Michael: It’s making a pivot. It’s gonna be a pretty dramatic shift in content here. You know, a lot of how to take care of yourself, exercises, juicing, a lot of that stuff, cleaning products that are good for toxicity, good stuff. No. What can we expect though from season two? We have a great lineup of guests. How would you guys characterize the differences?
Dan: I think we’re trying to find guests that are going to cause more conversation. The more conversation we can have around these topics, the more the word gets out, and the more people can learn about Concordia. I think we’re looking for guests that have a broader range of topics and a deeper dialogue about the issues of today.
Angelina: I don’t feel like we had a super clear-cut path when we started, and, so, some of our topics were super broad. I think we’ve really narrowed in this season. It’s not super narrowed in, but it’s definitely more focused than season one was with just what we’re talking about.
Michael: We kind of had a phrase, where, you know, Christians can’t avoid hard conversations any longer. I don’t know if we hit on that in the first season, but, you know, just the fact that Concordia is a place where discussion, critical thought, and different opinions are core components of Education. We want that to be an extension of this podcast, and to have some interesting conversations. We expect to see all ten of our guests lighting up social media, or all ten of our listeners lighting up social media, and having some interactive conversations. So, that’s what this is all about. Speaking of great conversations though, this is one heck of a conversation with Tim Young Eagle. Dan, this is important to you. You did a lot of research up front about this.
Dan: So, for our first episode, we’re going to be talking to Tim Young Eagle, and he’s the executive director of Lutheran Indian ministries. One of the things that I’m very interested in in my own life, is how can I use my privilege and power to elevate voices that may not have access to speaking to audiences. Tim Young Eagle, he’s been the head of Lutheran Indian Missions for about three years. He’s doing great work, and, you know, there’s just a lot going on. God is working in amazing ways with this mission group, but they’re kind of on the down low. There’s not a whole lot of people that know about what they’re doing. In doing some research into some stuff that is happening around the Lutheran world, I discovered him and things that are going on there. We talked to him, and I had an amazing pre-interview with him. I know that the whole topic, well, when we jump into it, you’ll see, but it’s very emotional. There are a lot of difficult things that, I think, bear deeper discussion in the Christian community, and in America more broadly. One of the questions that we’re really digging into in this episode is, what does it look like to be both culturally Native but also Christian? How do those things look together, and how is his work transforming Native lives, but in a Christian way? It’s looking at these two things that for many years, and throughout history, didn’t play well together. Christians were responsible for a lot of atrocities back in the day, and so we’re looking at that. We’re having those kind of discussions. Honestly, in the pre-interview, I had a hard time even holding it together. Some of his stories are very, very difficult to hear, but I think very necessary. We’re gonna jump into the interview with Tim Young Eagle, and hopefully, it’s something that we can hear that we haven’t heard before, and something that people can learn.
Dan: Welcome back to Living Uncommon podcast. We’re hosted here by Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. Before we get started today, I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge that the land we’re recording this podcast on is traditional territory to parts of the Sioux Potawatomi Peoria and Miami nations. It’s also the homeland and origin of the Menominee nation, who have been here continuously for thousands of years prior to colonization. Today, the Menominee have their own accredited college. They’re renowned for their stewardship of 1.7 billion board feet of sustainably harvested forests, and they live among some of the most pristine lakes and rivers in the country. Some of the earliest European colonizers to this part of America were Christian missionaries, and the city we’re in was actually the site of the First Lutheran Church in Wisconsin, founded in 1840. It’s where the attention of these two stories intersect, the indigenous story and the Christian story, that we find today’s guest, Tim Young Eagle of the Pawnee nation. Mr. Young Eagle is the executive director of Lutheran Indian Ministries. He’s an alumnus of Concordia College on the old State Street campus. He’s chairman of the board of Lumen Schools. He’s a lifelong Lutheran, and he has a deep desire to proclaim the true Jesus to his people. Tim Young Eagle, welcome to living uncommon podcast.
Tim Young Eagle: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
Dan: To get started, we usually ask for a little backstory from our guests. We often like to hear your Christian journey, so, how you came to the faith, and where you’re at right now, and then, also, some of your professional journey.
Tim: One has been a very straight line journey, and the other one’s been a pretty secure journey. My faith journey has been pretty straight line. My father, who is full-blooded Pawnee, or was full-blooded Pawnee, came to Wisconsin via Pawnee, Oklahoma, which is where he grew up. He left there when he was just 17 years old and joined the Navy. When he was discharged from the Navy, he had a friend who is in his group in the Navy who lived in Madison, Wisconsin. He went to Madison because he really didn’t have a lot to go back to in Pawnee. He eventually migrated to Milwaukee, where he met my mother. My mother was a German Lutheran, her maiden name was… Her grandfather was named Miller, and both of her grandfathers were Lutheran pastors. My father had been baptised Mormon but became Lutheran when he met my mother. My mother was a longtime member of the old Emmaus Lutheran Church on 23rd and Hadley here in Milwaukee, and they joined that church. My dad was confirmed there, and he became a leader in the church, and we went to grade school there starting in kindergarten. We were there through seventh grade. Eventually, we went to Pilgrim to finish out my elementary school, and then I went to Milwaukee Lutheran High School. Then, as you said, attended Concordia College for two years of my college experience. So, I grew up a lifelong Lutheran. I grew up in the faith. I was blessed to have devoted parents who really raised me in the right way, I believe. They constantly put on display that the love of Christ in their lives and instilled that in mine. I had great aunts and uncles, several of whom were pastors on my mom’s side of the family. So, we always had Jesus as a focal point of everything that we did, and that was very evident, both in lives of my mom, and my dad, and all those that were around me. As far as my career goes, my degree is actually in education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I have never taught, except for a few graduate school courses here at Concordia, but I was in sales most of my life, both sporting goods and medical sales. Eventually, I became a sales manager for several pharmaceutical companies, but God had a different idea for me. Through my work with Lumen, and eventually as a member of the board of directors of the Lutheran High School Association, I was hired to go into work with them as a development director. I had also been a past board member of Lutheran Indian Ministries, and, so, when the director at that time was looking to step down, they asked me to come back to the Lutheran Indian Ministries and become a part of that ministry. So, here I am. I’ve been there for almost three years now.
Angelina: What did it look like to make that transition from sales to development?
Tim: I really enjoyed sales, and I think I was pretty good at it, but I always felt the calling towards ministry. For a long time, I considered going into some kind of a formal ministry. It’s funny because my mom would always look at me and say, “I always thought that you should go into ministry,” and I’d look at her and say, “I did,” because I believe that ministry is everybody’s vocation, no matter what you do for your paycheck. Whether you’re a lawyer, or a doctor, or a janitor, or a teacher, or a Salesman, if you have Christ in your life, if he’s in your heart, then that is a ministry. How you do that work, and how you put yourself on display every day, how you live your life, those are critical components of the Christian life. No matter what we do for a living, we’re all called to ministry. That’s what I tried to get my mother to understand. She came from a little bit of a different background because, as I said, both of her grandparents were in the more traditional ministry role and so were several of her brothers-in-law. So, I think, too often, we narrow the focus of what ministry is to those guys that are in the robes and standing in the pulpit. The truth is, God calls us all to proclaim the gospel, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with my life.
Dan: That’s a good segue into what is Lutheran Indian ministries. Can you describe the organization and some of the work that you do?
Tim: Sure. The organization actually started about 20 years ago, a little bit longer than that. It was based on the premise that we should get Native guys who want to go into ministry. I think that was a really noble idea. In the process, we wanted to find Native men, who were Christian, who wanted to become Lutheran, and then who wanted to go to seminary program and come out pastors. There were a lot of issues with that. As I said, I think it was a good idea in concept, but in practicality, only five percent of Native Americans know Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, which is a pretty small number. Then, when you consider how many of those might be men, then, when you consider when how many of those are interested in the Lutheran faith, the number just keeps shrinking and shrinking. The other complicating factor was that the academic, or educational background, for many Native American people, when you look at, especially reservation Indians, Native people are not well-educated by and large. Very few of them go on to college. So, when you’re asking somebody to go from perhaps a high school education to a seminary program, which is akin to a doctorate program, even if it’s in the EIT program, or the SMP program, or any of the other seminary programs, it’s an extraordinarily difficult road for them to walk. You add that to the fact that, in a lot of cases, these people are coming from different faith backgrounds, and it’s very hard to shed a skin that you’ve worn for a long time. What we find is, in a lot of cases, they’re past beliefs would seep back in. It was very hard to get them to embrace fully the doctrine and theology of the Lutheran Church. Then, the other problem was, what do we do with these guys when they become pastors? Do we simply plug them into a traditional church, or do we plant churches? Planting churches are a very expensive proposition. So, three years ago, when I became the executive director, we began to explore a different path. One of the things that we found was that Native people were steeped in a tradition of trauma. This trauma came from the boarding school experience. It came from things that have happened in their past, their more recent past. There was historic trauma, but there was also a recent trauma. In addition to that, there’s a high level of alcoholism and drug use. Many Natives have suicide in their life, or a traumatic death in their life, be it through murder or accident. These things are not often talked about.
In fact, they’re told not to talk about them. If you’ve been abused by someone, it’s in all likelihood it’s somebody that you knew and somebody that you knew very well, an uncle, a brother, a sister, a father, or a close family friend. These issues were never spoken about. The problem is, is that trauma begets anger, and that anger needs a release. Oftentimes, those abused people would become abusers themselves. So, you had the self perpetuating issue that was going over and over again. You add that to the fact that the church was seen as a primary accomplice in the abuse of Native people going back to the boarding school days when many Native children were abused by priests, or teachers, at their boarding schools, and you can see why this is a problem. What we found was that when we were going out, we were trying to proclaim the gospel of Native people, they were incredibly resistant to the institutional church and anything that represented the institutional church. In fact, presenting yourself as a Christian to Native people, it is an area of resistance. Even those Native people who know Jesus and embrace Jesus don’t call themselves Christians, and they call themselves followers of the Jesus way or followers of Christ, but they don’t believe that they follow Christians because Christianity was a way of abusing Native people, or those people were people that caused the abuse for Native people. This resistance is a really unique issue for Native Americans here in this country as opposed to missionary work that’s being done anywhere else in the world.
Dan: Can you talk about some of the historic roots of some of the distrust between Native peoples and the church?
Tim: Sure, it really goes back to when Columbus landed. Columbus landed with a document called the doctrine of Christian discovery, which essentially said that any lands that were discovered by people coming over to the New World became possessions of the flag under which they flew, and that included the people that they met. If those people were not Christian, they were to be viewed as less than animals, and that proliferated for many, many, many, many years, hundreds of years. In fact, it was the premise upon which most settlers came here. Now, what were the odds that Native people had heard about Jesus, almost non-existent, and yet, we do have a creation story. Most tribes have a creation story. In many ways, we’re closer to God than a lot of the people that came here. We lived in an Eden sort of like process with when it came to viewing, God. We saw God in everything. We just didn’t know about the fall, and we didn’t know about Jesus and the need for a savior. Now, had those settlers embraced the culture and only removed those things that didn’t point to Jesus in the culture, I think Native people would have embraced Christianity. But, what they tried to do instead was to make Native people ashamed of who they were, ashamed of the blood that flowed through them, and tried to destroy the culture in any way possible. Part of that process was sending children off to boarding schools, removing children from their families, and setting them, oftentimes, hundreds and thousands of miles away from their families so that they could learn how to not be Native anymore, to learn how to be part of the dominant culture. My own grandfather, in fact, at five years old, was sent off to Phoenix Indian School where he spent 10 years. Then, later, after that, to Carlisle Industrial School. When he got out of Carlisle, he joined the army. It’s hard for us to know exactly whether or not he was abused when he was there because they didn’t talk about those stories back then. If you think about what that did in terms of disrupting his family, you look at where do you learn how to become a father? Where do you learn how to become a husband? By what you see every day, right? But, these children were taken from their culture, taken from their family, taken from those that they loved, and totally removed and put into an environment where they were broken so that they could be built up as Non-Native people.
Dan: I mean, we’re talking about centuries of abuse, and that kind of distrust, and now, we see the church sometimes trying to make inroads going back into some of these communities. Is there some ways that the church is getting it wrong in their missionary work?
Tim: Yes, because I think the approach to mission work today hasn’t changed in 500 years. It’s still the same process, essentially. It’s still anything that’s Native is viewed as heathen, anything that’s that’s Native is viewed as secular. So, Native people feel that they have to give up something that’s part of their DNA to become Christians. That’s not biblical, that’s not biblical truth. What I think that needs to happen is, as I said earlier, for people who are doing mission work, first of all, to help Native people heal. I think that that’s a responsibility that we have, and that’s what Lutheran Indian Ministries is trying to do now is to through programs such as Sacred Ground, giving Native people a forum, a safe place where they can come and they can tell their story of abuse. It’s like opening up a wound and giving it a chance to heal. That’s what our ministry tries to accomplish, or achieve, is to say, okay, we are here, we love you, we care about you, we want to hear your story. Once they’ve told their story, we’ve now opened up a dialogue where we are able to introduce the gospel in a very easy way to let them know that Jesus loves them. They need to know that the abuse wasn’t caused by Christ. I often tell people that I’ve looked at the Bible close. I’ve looked at how many words are in the Bible, how many chapters are in the Bible, how many verses are in the Bible, and that none of them say that Indians are heathen, none of them say that it’s a sin to be Indian, and every one of them points to Jesus as being the Lord and Savior of all of his creation, and that includes Native people.
Dan: So, you talk a little bit about these workshops. Can you describe some of the work that they’re doing?
Tim: We partner with an organization up in Alaska called Southcentral Foundation. Southcentral Foundation is essentially the healthcare organization for all Native Alaskans. They borrowed from an organization called Salt, a program that is designed to deal with trauma and healing from trauma. We have found that whether it’s Native Americans here in the lower 48, or those Native Alaskans up in Alaska, the trauma is pretty much the same. The issues, the history of abuse, are pretty much the same, even across Canada. Now, Canada is light years ahead of the United States in terms of making reparations and trying to repair and restore that relationship between the Native people up there. The United States has really shown no interest whatsoever in doing that. Southcentral Foundation has developed this program, they call it Beauty for Ashes up there. We call it Sacred Ground down here, but, essentially, it’s a program where you share your story and you listen to the story of others, and that sharing of story is powerful. I was up in Alaska in March, and it was a mixed group of men and women, and in a moment that I will absolutely never forget, we were all in the room, there were about 150 of us in a large room. One of my dear brothers, and a good friend, Lance, stepped up and he said, “I just want to pray for the women in this room.” He said, “I want to pray and ask their forgiveness. We have failed you. It was our job to provide for you, and to protect you, and we have failed you, and I am sorry.” Allofasudden, from one part of the room, you started hearing somebody sob. It was a woman. Before long, the room, which was almost half women, you could hear all the women sobbing. What we did was we brought all the women into the center of the room, and they were surrounded by the men. The men joined hands, and he continued to pray and ask for their forgiveness and tell them how much he’s sorry. It was incredibly powerful and an incredibly emotional moment. These women who were were finding in them, the depths of the hurt, the pain, and the suffering of their own, and suffering of their childhood, and their ancestors, and it was the first time they heard somebody tell them that they were sorry. It was just an amazing moment. At that moment where somebody says, “I hear you. I hear the pain, and the suffering, and the agony that you’ve gone through in your life, and I am sorry. It’s my job to protect you.” We made a pledge that they’d never again let somebody do that to our women, and never again will we let somebody do that to our children. In doing that, as Christians, we have stepped up to the plate and done what God has called us to do. Like I said, incredibly powerful, and that’s what these workshops are designed to do. Then, the real work begins after that because it can’t just be a mountaintop experience. What you’re always worried about is that moment where somebody confesses either their sin, which we’ve seen happen in these workshops, as well. We’ve had one workshop in New Mexico where a grandfather stepped up and said, “I have abused my son.” He turned to his son, and his grandsons were sitting right there, and he said, “I am sorry.” The son looked at me said, “Dad, I forgive you.” When that moment happens, it breaks that chain, it breaks that cycle of abuse, and they can begin to walk towards healing. When they walk towards healing, we’re there to walk with them armed with the Bible, and the truth about Jesus at who he is and what he’s done for them in their lives. That forgiveness is really, really important. But, the most important thing is that God has forgiven them, that Jesus has forgiven them. The problem is that Native people were taught that they needed forgiveness from merely being Indian. Of course, you can’t remove that blood from your body. It’s who you are, it’s your DNA, and God made us that way. God created the Native culture, and he made it beautiful, and he made it part of his creation for a reason.
Dan: That’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to hear the work that you’re doing in that, and that transition from, you know, well, it’s important to look for ministers, but then this transition to deeply being involved in the healing of a people.
Angelina: Can you talk a little bit more about what comes after? You know, that’s something that happens a lot in mission work, where you go somewhere, you have this amazing experience, but then, when you go back home, or when they go back home, how do you maintain that? How do you establish relationship? What does that look like for you guys to do that?
Tim: Gathering together regularly after that experience is really, really important. One of the struggles that I have, and that our organization has with traditional Vacation Bible School, there’s great value in that. As a child, I went to Vacation Bible School just like everyone else, but it’s one week. When that week is over, the residual of what you learn there lasts for a little while, but at some point, you need a support system that says, “okay, that Jesus that you heard about for that one week, he’s real. He’s a presence in your life each and every day.” The people that attend the workshops like Sacred Ground need to hear that as well because it’s that first step. It’s only the first step, and it’s the first step in a new journey for them. So, regularly meeting with these people, regularly getting together with them. That room was unique. Typically, in small group, you’ll have men in one group and women in another group, and they’ll be very small. So, the groups will be about six people, typically. The reason for that is because in some cases, there’s a woman in one room and her abusers in the other room. She knows it, and he knows it, but nobody else does. So, anonymity is really, really important. The opportunity to begin to heal is a long process for these people. In some cases, it’s a lifelong journey. We had one young lady who came to one of our workshops, and she came back. She’d been gone from the village from the where she grew up for a very, very long time, and the night before she came to the workshop, she said, “I felt uneasy. I have been dreaming for four years that one day, I would come back here and tell my story.” She said, “I finally feel like I’ve been set free.” She was abused by an uncle, and the parents knew it, but the parents wouldn’t let her talk about it. So, for four years, she suppressed that pain, and that anger. Now, her release was that she spent her time helping countless numbers of others because she’s a facilitator for the program. It was a powerful moment for her to return to that place. I think about all the Native people that have never had a chance to return to the place where their abuse took place, or to face their abuser, and so, it’s harder for those people to heal because they don’t have that opportunity. Yet, we know that this is a critically important step. I think of ministry to Native people is this, for 500 years, people have been digging a deep, dark hole for Native Americans, but we’re forgotten people in this country. We don’t have a large, loud voice. We don’t have a large contingency. We’re not a big political action group. So, people have been digging a deep, dark hole for Native people, and our ministry’s job is to reach a hand down into that hole and help them out of it, and then walk with them towards the light of Christ.
Dan: It’s not necessarily in a traditional Lutheran Church?
Tim: Not at all. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. In some cases, it’s better off if it’s not. We’ll use any location possible, if be that a tribal building. Sometimes, we have retreats where it’s done outside. This week, we’ve got a gathering of 40 Alaskan children. Next week, we’ll have another one. This week, it’s junior high. Next week, it’s high school. They’ll be going you through this program, the Sacred Ground program up there. We’ve got a couple people that will be up there. There’s a large staff, and it’s going to be amazing thing, but they are camping. They’re living there, living as traditionally Alaskan as you can because that’s what most of these kids know. The beauty of it is that it’s in that traditional setting that these things seem more powerful. In a church, they seem more sanitized. There’s a distrust, and a suspicion, of institutional Church for many Native people because they’ve been barred from that for so long.
Dan: Now, your staff, or the ministers that work with your organization, do they come from a traditional missions background, or are a lot of them Native themselves?
Tim: Most of them are Native themselves. We have some that are not. It’s not always easy to find Native people. God keeps giving us the people that were supposed to have to do the work that he’s called us to do. One example is that we needed somebody up in Fairbanks, Alaska. We bought a house up there. The couple that we had up there was retiring. We were looking for somebody new. I got to tell you, Fairbanks is a harsh place, especially in the winter. It’s a long way from home for almost everyone. Your choices where to find a Native Alaskan person, which we didn’t know, or find somebody from Fairbanks, or find somebody who always wanted to live in Fairbanks. We publish a Lenten in an advent of devotion every year that’s written by our staff. One day, the phone rang in our office, and it was a young lady. She said, “Hey, I got one of your devotion booklets, and I was just wondering, do you ever hire Non-Native people?” Our assistant who answered the phone said, “Sure. We do hire Non-Native people.” She said, “Are you ever looking for somebody in Fairbanks?” She said, “Just a minute,” and she ran back, and she grabbed me, and she said, “You’re not gonna believe this, but you need to take this call.” I took that call, and I spoke with with Sarah. Later that evening, I spoke with her husband, Nate, who was in the Air Force at the time, and we began a dialogue, and they went up to Alaska. They’d been up there before, but they spent a week up in Fairbanks. We spent a lot of time together. They came to our staff retreat, and just about a month ago, they packed up their car with their four children and drove 4,000 miles to Fairbanks. They’re absolutely loving it, and they are starting to uncover a ministry up there that we could have never imagined. People come to us from all different ways. God brings them to us. We could look until the cows come home, and we would not find somebody like Nate and Sarah. Sometimes, they come to us. A number of our people have prison in their background. A lot of them have the same kind of brokenness that they’re ministering too. It gives them an incredible amount of credibility when they do that though, because we get called the situation’s that none of us could have possibly imagined. We have a staff at the Haskell Indian Nations University which is in Lawrence, Kansas. It’s a traditional Native boarding school that’s now a federally run college. In the second semester this year, one of the students committed suicide. The whole campus, there’s more than 900 students that are on that campus, and they’re all Native American. They were devastated by this. For some, because it reminded them of something like that that had happened in their past. For some, it was the first time they had dealt with somebody like something like this. This young lady was a popular girl. She was an athlete. She was well known. So, it devastated the campus. We opened up our building there and said, “Come, this is a safe place. We’re gonna be here whenever you need us to talk about the pain that you’re going through, to talk about how you feel about what just happened.” In the course of that discourse, you can share the gospel with them, which, ultimately, is what our goal is.
Dan: You mentioned that there’s been missionaries coming here for hundreds of years sharing a version of Jesus, but you and I talked earlier, and you said that Natives might know Jesus, but they don’t know the true Jesus. Can you talk a little bit about what is the difference between the Jesus they know and the true Jesus?
Tim: Sure. I think that’s the greatest challenge for this ministry. We’re not walking into a room with for people who have a blank slate. They have heard about Jesus for 500 years, they’ve heard about the Bible for 500 years. It’s been brought to them by people who came in the name of Christ. It’s been brought to them by people who are Christians. Yet, Native people have been told that the Bible says that they are heathen, the Bible says that what they do is secular, and until they’re willing to completely give all of that up, they will never be accepted by God, they will never be accepted by Jesus. Native people have a concept of a savior and salvation, they certainly know about creation. Everyone has a creation story. It’s interesting to note how many tribes also have a flood story. They all longed for the day of redemption. Now, they look at Redemption in a very different way because they’re looking at an earthly redemption. I was just reading earlier today about a concept about when Native people were engaged in something called a “Ghost Dance,” which is the dance that ultimately led to the slaughter at Wounded Knee prior to Custer getting killed at Little Bighorn. Ghost dancing was essentially the story of, one day, our ancestors will be raised up and live on this earth again because a savior will come and rescue them. So, there was a Salvation story there that a lot of the Native people embraced, but they didn’t make the connection to Jesus, which is obviously a critical component of the story because he is the story, he’s a story for all of us. I have found, in my mind, that the mistake that many missionaries make, and this mistake that the church has made for many years, started for me in the 70s. We all got our copies of good news from modern men, which was a new testament version of the Bible. At that time, the gospel was reduced to a track that was four or six pages. We would go out, and we would knock on doors, and we would say, “Do you know the good news of Jesus Christ?” We would share that with the people when they answered the door, or, if they answered the door. It was a speech that you could give on an elevator. But, just giving out New Testaments and reducing the gospel to a six-page tract, I think, was a huge error, not just for missionaries and not just for those proclaiming the gospel, the Native people, but for anyone who does mission work. I don’t think that you can start with Jesus. You have to start with creation. What I found is that if you start with Jesus as the equivalent of walking into a play, or a musical, after the intermission, and nobody knows what happened in the first half of the play, or the musical, and, so, nobody knows why Jesus is necessary. So, the gospel comes in four chapters; the creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration. You can’t skip any of those components of the story. It doesn’t make sense. I think, when we bring the gospel to any group of people, but especially the Native people, if we skip those first steps, we skip the most critical steps. Part of it is because the part that Native people get the best is the creation story because they have it. It’s very similar to what the Bible says. You’ve got to take them along that natural progression to get them to understand why Jesus is important, what sin is, and how they are sinners, how they are redeemed, and how Jesus came, and he loves them just as they are.
Dan: When you talked a little bit about how Canada seems to be ahead of the U.S., and in the way that it’s treated its indigenous population, I wonder, is the Canadian Church responding in similar ways, or…
Tim: It’s more the Canadian government that has responded. In some cases, the churches, but this has been led by the Canadian government. I think that one of the interesting things about Native people is, we talk about Indians, and we talk about them as a homogeneous group; they’re not. There’s over 570 federally recognized tribes, and each one of those is a sovereign government of their own. So, they all negotiate their own deals with the government. They don’t feel that strong kinship. When I introduced myself to groups, I am Timothy Young Eagle, and I am a member of the Pawnee tribe of Oklahoma. After that, I’m Indian. My band and my tribe are what’s most important to me. It’s the government that lumped us all as one big group. It’s critically important to understand that every group is different. Even when you bring the gospel the various groups, you need to understand what their religious beliefs are, you need to understand what their customs are. Some tribes were more assimilated than others, and some tribes were more receptive to hearing the gospel than others were. It really depends on what their history was. So, you can’t treat everybody exactly as they’re alike. I think that’s true anytime you present the gospel or proclaim it to others. You ought to know what their history is, you ought to know where they came from, you need to know, you know, did something happen to them in the church? Were they abused by a priest? We’ve heard those stories all over the place, not just amongst Native people. Was there an event in their life that turned them away from the church, or turned them off from the gospel? Understanding where people come from will make us more impactful missionaries.
Angelina: Well, there’s a lot of metaphors that we use when we talk about God and Jesus. Sometimes, the way that we explain the stories, maybe, it doesn’t even make sense, or, there’s nothing that they can use to relate that to. So, even just being educated about who you know who it is that you’re talking to can help you share the story in a way that actually makes sense.
Tim: Absolutely. I was just down in Oklahoma this past weekend. Seventy-three years ago, my grandfather started a powwow to honor the Pawnee War Veterans. He was one of those. My great-grandfather’s were also War Veterans. They were part of the Pawnee Scouts. This event was to honor Pawnee War Veterans, and it’s a it’s a big event, understanding that history, and understanding our tribe never took up arms against the government. He never took up arms against the dominant culture. Our major enemy was the Sioux, and understanding that history is really, really critically important. When I was down there, it was for the powwow. There was dancing, and there was a drum. If you listen closely to the drum, it sounds very much like your mother’s heartbeat. It’s meant to be that way. It’s Mother Earth, and it’s a mother. So, the drumming sound is very much like a heartbeat of a mother. When I was in church several months ago, I was with a good friend of mine, and we were in a contemporary service. Of course, if you’ve gone to a contemporary service, you know that it’s not just organ music, right? So, there’s guitars, and there’s drums, and when those people start playing the drums, there are people getting up, and they’re dancing, and they’re clapping their hands as they sing the songs. I looked at my buddy and I said, “All right, so, let me ask you something. You got a drum there.” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “We’re all standing up, and we’re clapping our hands, and we’re moving our feet, so, that’s dancing.” He said, “Yep.” I said, “How come, when you guys do it, it’s okay? But, when we do it, it’s heathen?” He goes, “Wow. I never thought of that.”
Dan: I imagine that that’s something that you have to address as you bring people into, you know, I don’t know if you would call it a congregation, but as your churches grow…
Tim: No culture is inherently secular. No culture is inherently heathen. There are elements that point to Jesus in the idea, and the job is really to remove the things that don’t point to Jesus, and agree on the things that do point to Jesus, and let that be the beginning of your discussion.
Dan: It’s interesting to hear how you can move back and forth between the culturally Native and the culturally Christian. Can you talk a little bit about that almost double life?
Tim: I’m a bit of a double agent. It can be both a blessing and a curse. There are some Native people who don’t accept me because I’m not full-blooded, and there’s another segment that believes that the part of me that accepts Jesus Christ is the white part of me, but not the Native part of me. So, dispelling those misses become a real mission for me. I am Native American. I am no less Native American than someone that grew up on a reservation, or has full blood in them versus what I am, which is half. Being a Native is about the culture, and embracing the culture, and knowing your history, and embracing that history. I’ll put the pedigree of my Pawnee side up against anybody, but I don’t ever want to dismiss the critical importance of the German side of my family as well. My mother was an amazing woman. Her family was incredible, and they were so good to my dad, and so good to us, and so accepting of us. In a way, it gives me a blessing. I can walk into the Lutheran Church leadership, as I did last week when I was down in Oklahoma, and I can say, “I’m Native American, and I’m a lifelong Lutheran, and you’re not going to find many of us out there.” I don’t know of many at all that have had the background that I have had, both in the Lutheran faith and as a Native American. Our struggle is now to get our church body to embrace the ministry that exists with Native people, and to be serious about it. We’re serious about African-American ministry. We’re serious about Hispanic ministry. We’re serious about Asian ministry. It’s time for this Synod to be serious about Native American ministry. In 2013, at the sanotical convention, they passed a resolution that said that they were going to be serious about Native American ministry. We haven’t seen that yet, and we are the most likely armed to go out and do the work that needs to be done.
Dan: Right now, you’re not connected directly with any particular denomination, or group?
Tim: Well, we’re a recognized service organization of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. We don’t receive any financial support from the Synod. We operate through the generous gifts of many, many donors, and also, we have a great partnership with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. We’ve been blessed to get a number of grants through them and some of the other organizations that we write grants to. Generally, we have not been supported by very many churches. There are churches out there that do support us, and we’re grateful, and feel blessed by those. There are some districts that have given us support, but the Synod St. Louis has not been supportive of the ministry that we’ve done in a financial way. I do have a great story to tell. I was just down in Oklahoma this past weekend, met with a mission exec down there, and said, “You know, we need to be in Oklahoma. We need to be doing some work in Oklahoma.” He agreed to the point where he said, “We’re gonna help you. We’re gonna stand with you. We’re gonna partner with you.” We need more districts where there are large Native populations that feel that way.
Dan: Right now, you don’t operate it in Wisconsin at all.
Tim: We are not in Wisconsin right now. We currently operate in Fairbanks, Alaska. We’re in New Mexico, we’re in Arizona, we’re in Washington State, and we’re in Kansas.
Angelina: As people are listening to this, what are some steps that people can start taking to join in this work, or even beyond giving financially? Is it to start with education? What can we do?
Tim: I do think it starts with education. I said this today to you, that the story of the boarding school experience is not in our history books. People don’t know about it. I have found that people who come from a dominant culture background frequently are really offended by what they hear because it’s painful. It’s as painful as Germans talking about what happened with the Jews. What people here don’t know, because what’s not in the history book, is the genocide of Native Americans in this country makes what happened with the Jews in Europe pale by comparison. I wouldn’t for a minute say that what happened to the Jews isn’t awful. It wasn’t horrific. It wasn’t one of the worst things that happened in the history of the world, because it was. People don’t know the history of what was done to the Native American people in this country. My tribe was over 20,000 people at one time, and by the time we were removed from our ancestral lands in Nebraska and Kansas to Pawnee, Oklahoma, there were just 678 of us left. We died because of disease, and we died because of warfare. Many people don’t know about the history of germ warfare that was brought upon with smallpox infested blankets by the government. Many people don’t know about Native American boarding schools and what the intention of those schools was. Education is the first step. I love nothing more than going out and telling people who we are, and what we do, and sharing the success that God has blessed us with by the power of the Holy Spirit with our staff. The first step is that. The second step is pray for us, not just that we have our financial needs met, that’s really important, but also that God provides us with the people that we need to do the work that needs to be done. There’s a significant Native population in this country, and we’ve made a move away from the smaller places. Everybody wants to go to Pine Ridge, everybody wants to go to Cheyenne River, or Wind River, and do ministry there. Those are hard places to do ministry, and they’re really hard places to start. Seventy percent of Native people live in cities. New York City has a high Native American population, as does Los Angeles, in Phoenix, in Oklahoma City, and Anchorage. Putting staff in those large cities, and letting them work with the Native people in those cities so that we don’t forget them, is really important. From there, we can also go to the smaller places as well because we don’t want to neglect those either. We need people’s prayers. We need to educate people on the importance of this. Part of it is you don’t see an Indian every day. I walk the streets of Milwaukee, and I see black people every day, I see Asian people every day, and I see Hispanic people every day. I understand why those ministries are important to the Synod, and I understand why those ministries are important to the other church denominations. You can walk down the street and not know that you’ve seen an Indian. When people see me, that’s not what they guess. I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in February. It was interesting because I was with a guy who’s an Alaskan Native, and a guy who’s another Native American, and I’m the only one with an overtly Native American name. Young Eagle is pretty hard to miss that one. The desk clerk asked what everybody was. He said, “I’m Alaskan Native.” I said, “I’m Pawnee.” She goes, “Aw, you don’t look Indian.” Well, I have my mother’s eyes, which are colored, so that throws some people. We have Indians walking in our midst, and we don’t know who they are because we don’t recognize them. A lot of people have never seen them except in movies. When we see them in movies, we don’t see modern-day Indians, we still see the guys in the loincloth with the feathers. We’re still thinking Dances with Wolves, and movies like that, The Revenant, whatever the case may be. We’re not seeing the modern-day Indian that’s walking the streets with the same kind of pain, and the same kind of issues that those on reservations have. We don’t want to neglect those people either.
Dan: I’m looking at the Native expressions of Christianity. You talk a little bit about confronting your friend over the drum and the dancing. What does it look like to combine those two cultural expressions?
Tim: I think that there would be greater meaning. A lot of times, what happens is, when we see a Native American church, and we actually have two of them. We have a guy who’s in the SMP program. He’s in a synodical trained program. He’s gonna be a pastor. We have one in Shepherd of the Valley, which is in Navajo, New Mexico. He’s also synodically trained though, ironically, neither of those guys are Native people, but they both have strong affinity, and strong ties, for Native people. Those churches, they’re very traditional by nature. Now, one is a little bit more contemporary, and one is more conservative. Sometimes, they’ll sing hymns that are in a Native language. The Navajo language is pretty widely spoken, and our guy down in Navajo is amazing because the Navajo language is an incredibly difficult language to master. Yet, he’s been able to do it. I think, the problem is that you take a German hymn, and all you do is change the words to Navajo, and so, it’s a bunch of Indians singing in German hymn. I’m not saying that there’s no meaning in that, but what I’d love to see is for somebody to compose a Navajo song that comes from the heart of a Navajo person. You’re seeing some people that are actually translating the Bible into Native tongues. There’s there’s one guy, Terry Wildman, who has produced the four Gospels, and in some other books of the New Testament, into an English language that has a greater affinity for Native people. He uses more Native imagery. Native people learn by story. The stories of the Bible are what sticks out to them. So, phrasing the stories in a way so that it touches the heart of Native people is really important. Terry’s done an exceptional job of doing that.
Dan: Can you give me some examples… you’ve given us a lot of really great examples of the work that you’re doing. Can you give us some examples of other ways that God is working in Native context with those who still hold to their Indian culture, who haven’t either fully assimilated or are fully integrated into majority communities?
Tim: Yeah, I think, for us, we’re trying to get away from the pastoral role. Our guy in Phoenix, Arizona, Kevin, does more of a Bible study. We are letting people be led by the spirit to identify the kind of ministry they have. What you’re gonna find now in Lutheran Indian Ministries is less of a cookie cutter ministry. We are not one size fits all because we let the circumstances dictate the kind of ministry that we’re going to have. When Kevin got to Phoenix, he looked at me and said, “Tim, what do you want me to do here?” I said, “I want you to get on your knees. God is gonna tell you what your ministry is.” Kevin has done an amazing job of identifying a homeless ministry for Native people. There’s a huge homeless population in Phoenix, and he’s gotten people off the streets. He’s got them into transitional homes. He’s become a court advocate. His phone rings at all hours of the day and night, and it’s the courts calling saying, “I’ve got a Native person here and we need your help.” Kevin will go to the court with them. He’ll help them get their tribal identity cards. He’ll get them in a transitional program, and then he’ll also get them in our other programs that we run as well. He’ll do a Beauty for Ashes program with these people. We also have another program that’s by an organization called NAFA, which is the Native American Fatherhood and Family Association, and that program is created to teach Native people that fatherhood is sacred, and motherhood is sacred. Part of the boarding school experience broke that for Native people. They didn’t know the importance of being a father, and of being a brother, and of being a spouse. Nobody taught us how to do that. There was no example of how to do that. The NAFA programs accomplished that with from a Christian perspective. I was in a church in Stillwater, Oklahoma this weekend, and there were 45 people worshiping in that church, and yet, I had a chuckle because that church has probably been around for a pretty long time. Kevin’s been in Phoenix, Arizona for a year and a half, and he’s got 70 Native people that come to a Bible study every Sunday morning to hear the word of God. He’s done a discipleship class there, and he’s got 10 Native men who can run a discipleship, that can run a Bible study, for others. Yes, that’s amazing because what we tend to do, is we like things to bubble up and generate organically. Nate is doing the same thing up in Fairbanks. I said, “Nate, go up there and figure out what the ministry is. There’s villages all over Alaska, and we can spend time in those villages, but there’s also a pretty robust ministry both in Fairbanks and in Anchorage. Figure out what it is.” He said he went to a homeless meeting a couple of weeks ago, and he was the only faith-based group there. He was the only one that was interested in the Native component of the homelessness. So, looking for those opportunities where they exist is really, really critical. God is going to reveal how he wants his word revealed today to people. What doesn’t appear to work for us is for us to set up a church and say, “Come.” They’re not going to join, and they’re not going to come, so we have to go to where the Native people are. That’s in the tribal buildings, and that’s the powwows, and that’s knocking on their doors. Tim in Navajo goes and knocks on the door of every place in that chapter every month, and sometimes that somebody that opens up the door is a different person because Native people are very transient, especially on the Navajo reservation. We figure out as we go along. There’s a plan, but it’s God’s plan. It’s not our plan. We have to be flexible and receptive to where he wants us to go. Sometimes, it’s the places that scare the heck out of us. If you’re behaving in a bold fashion, you know, Jesus called Peter out of the boat, and that couldn’t have been a real comfortable experience for him either, right? Yet, the first step is to put your foot out of the boat and say, “Okay, I’m coming to you Jesus.” That’s what our ministry does. When we’re looking for people to work in our ministry, we’re looking for guys like Jonathan who just ran towards the battle, didn’t run from it. He said, “You know what? God is my shield. God is my sword. Through him, I will accomplish this.” We want guys that are gonna run towards the battle.
Dan: What gives you hope for the future of Christianity among Native people?
Tim: I see lives changing every single day. Every day, I’m blessed to hear from one of our ministry staff who’s had a breakthrough with one person. This is guerrilla warfare. This is in the trenches stuff. We’re not going to have 1,000 people in a church. I think 70 is incredible. When I hear those stories, I just feel like we’re doing the right things. When I hear those stories, I feel uplifted. I know there’s hope for Native people. I look forward to the day when we can celebrate in heaven, and we can see Native people dancing to their traditional drums, in their traditional regalia, praising God, and praising Jesus their Lord and their Savior. That’s my hope for our future.
Dan: We’re gonna wrap up with a few closing questions. Where can people get in touch with you, get in touch with the ministry, maybe have you come speak, or get a deeper involvement in the ministry?
Tim: My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. They can call me on my cell phone which is 414-807-3682. I’m happy to talk to anyone, and I would love to go speak anywhere I’m asked. We also do have a website, which is www.lutheranindianministries.org. They can go to that. There’s a lot of great information on that.
Dan: Can you recommend some resources on this topic, on Christianity and Native people? Books? Websites? Or other things?
Tim: There are some really good books about that Native experience. If you put in “boarding schools,” which I think is a good place to start, that’s the most painful part of the lesson. There’s some really good books on dealing with people of color that come from a Native perspective. I read so much that I don’t always remember the names or the titles of the books that I’m reading. There’s a lot of good literature out there. People are really trying to make a difference with Native people a bit, but it’s a small group, and it’s a diverse group, and we’re trying to figure out a way to band us together because we think we can be much stronger together.
Angelina: We’re so thankful that you came in and shared a little bit of your story and the mission behind the Lutheran Indian Ministries with us. Thank you so much.
Dan: Thank you.
Tim: Thank you.
Michael: And, we’re back. That was a really heavy discussion at times. What are some initial reactions?
Angelina: I think, just over and over listening to him, I knew that I didn’t grow up with a proper understanding of what had happened in the context of history, of the way that American history is taught. I think that was something that I was grappling with as he was sharing these things of remembering what I learned in the classroom and how much that didn’t mirror what the reality was for those people. That begs the question of why that happens, and I think there are a lot of obvious answers as to why it was taught the way that it was taught. I think it’s just interesting to realize that I, for a good bit of my life, I had a completely wrong understanding of Native American people and what they went through. Even the way that I had used to view them, how that was influenced was just a very eye-opening experience. It’s one thing to do research on your own and try to educate yourself on what happened and all these things, but when you come face to face with a person who is still experiencing the trauma of what happened…
Dan: It’s not just history. It’s contemporary. Things are continuing to happen, and people are continuing to feel the effects of that. It’s interesting, too, a lot of times, people use the past tense to talk about Native Americans. Like, they’re no longer here, and yet, they’re all over the place. As Tim talked about, there’s a lot of urban Native Americans that are outside the reservation system. So, we’re not as aware of that population, but it’s a huge population. I think he said there are more Native Americans in New York City than anywhere else. So, there’s a huge urban population. Of course, you know, there’s all the reservations that, in some cases, are thriving in spite of the fact that the government gave them the worst land.
Michael: I think, it brought up, for me, ideas around how repentance is something that Christians don’t talk about, you know, continual repentance. I think, in a lot of ways, the church needs to repent for some of the things that happened with Native groups in America. It brought that up for me a little bit. Also, just continually reminded me there’s not one way that’s ideal to live your life. There’s different systems that are imposed on different people. For me, I just thought about the diversity of how groups can live their lives, and aspects of that’s totally fine that we don’t need to mess with.
Angelina: It kind of reminds me of the story that he was telling, the story of where they’re in a church, and there are instruments, and the music is loud, and people are dancing, and people are waving their hands, and the Native American says to the Non-Native American person, “So, it’s okay for you to do it, and it’s holy for you to do it, but when we do it, it’s pagan?” I was like, “whoa, why?” I mean, I definitely grew up with that stereotyping of, “it’s this pagan thing that happens,” but, yeah. Tying that into the way that the Catholic Church, and other Christian groups, how they impose their view of God on these Native American people, and how it was like, “This is the way you experience God, and this is who God is.” In how he talked about different translations, and how to make scripture more accessible, and real, and meaningful to Native American people, it’s just the one way of experiencing it. It doesn’t have to be that the way that they experienced it. Just realizing that how we’ve been viewing them, and what, and who they are, is…
Michael: There’s a way to do missions, there’s a way not to do missions. A lot of Native American history, and interaction with the church, is a way not to do it. It’s just a reminder that God is so much bigger than the cultural context in which we worship Him. God is a God of diversity, created a bunch of diverse people, groups, and colors, and ideas in a lot of ways. Of course, you gotta stay scriptural. This doesn’t mean that everything is perfectly legitimate. There are ways to be religious and not worship God, certainly. You don’t want to argue that you have to stick scripture, but scripture encompasses a lot more than I think people in their own denominations, or group, always understand.
Dan: For me, it was this reinforcement that the way that we worship, and the way that we experience God, and the way that we do theology, and the way that we do church, it’s always contextual, right? It always is. Even though, a lot of times, those of us who grew up in the white, evangelical church, or that subculture, often we think of that as the default. This is the way you have to do things. Yet, that is also contextual. That’s based in white, middle-class values. When I was growing up, you have to have a piano and an organ. You have to have one guy stand up there, waving his hand to do the time signature. Then, nowadays, it’s like, you have to have a fog machine, and laser lights, and a delay pedal, and you have to have Coldplay onstage playing. It’s all fine. You can do it that way. If you want to have an organ in your service, great. If you want to have a powwow as part of your service, that’s also fine. So, there’s these different contexts that we are layering over our faith versus having our faith be the one thing that defines all of us. It’s interesting. Tim sent me a follow-up because he was the Synod National Conference last month, and he sent me a follow-up just saying that they had some really good discussions. He went to Synod with a very specific goal, which was to not let the Native American Ministries be what he calls another broken promise to Indian people. He wants a greater focus on the Indian ministries, and things like that. He said, “We did get commitments of support and promises of further discussions from a few specific congregations, and a few of the districts.” He said, “We expect to have a full-time presence in Oklahoma next year.” Which, if you remember, that’s where he’s from. Phoenix is a place that they hope to have someone. Some of the work they’re doing in Alaska, he said, they recently had a camp ministry for teens. He said that there were 85 Alaskan Native teens attending their camps, last week, they had 69 baptisms in the river there. Just that the fact that God is still working even in spite of the fact that Christianity was responsible for a lot of atrocities, and yet, God is working in spite of that. That, to me, that gives me great hope that God is working in these contexts away from majority culture, away from the mainstream. The fact that Lutheran Indian Ministries uses Indian Ministers in a lot of those areas, and they’re not doing things in a traditional Church sense. They don’t have any church buildings. They work in other spaces, and they’re not doing a lot of traditional things. They’re still doing the work that they feel like God is calling them to do and has set up these amazing experiences.
Michael: I mean, again, that’s a lot to think about. I’m really glad we had Tim on. I hope that we have a chance to talk to him again at some point. We’d love to hear from all of you. We have social media, Facebook, Twitter, whatever you prefer. Just contact us and share your thoughts about the church, Native Americans, American history. We’d love to hear from you. With that, thank you.
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