At a funeral in Muskrat Dam, Ontario, a young Native man poured his heart out.
Joe had just lost his best friend to suicide.
Months earlier, his wife betrayed him.
He had suffered abuse as a child.
A lifetime of pain and anger pushed Joe to the brink of where he now stood.
The young man's comments were so honest, so gripping... every mourner strained to hear what was coming next.
"I'm at a crossroads," Joe stumbled. "The way I see it, I either give myself over to anger and destruction. Or I turn to God and forgive. Either way, it's gotta be all-out."
Joe went on. "I'm going all out for God."
Joe's life was transformed. He joined a church and counseling groups. He made friends with other Christians who could help him in his new life. He even spearheaded a new Sunday School program for the children of his community.
Joe's life was changed completely.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
This pattern of family dysfunction, substance abuse, and suicide is deeply woven into the fabric of the Native American world. The only hope for transformation, for salvation and healing, comes from the renewing of the mind through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, the Gospel is not readily available in many Native communities, and where it is known it is often shunned as the White Man's Religion. Because of amazing supporters, like you, Lutheran Indian Ministries is changing that.
It has happened on our own staff.
Pastor Dave Sternbeck (Nuu-chah-nulth) hasn't always been known for his solid faith.
When he was 40 years old, the Holy Spirit stirred Dave's conscience. But he just could not find common ground between the mess of his life and the hope of the Gospel, until he prayed a prayer of desperation.
"Oh, Lord!" he cried. "I'm too sinful to be saved. I'll still live my life for you. Please, just save my children!"
In a moment - the time it took for the God's Spirit to kindle faith in a man - Dave went from being a troubled soul to a man at peace with God. He had a new life and a new purpose.
The change in Dave's life was undeniable. A few months later, his daughter called him in tears.
"Dad, there's got to be a God because you've become a different person," she told him.
She wanted to experience that same transformation, and, within a year, all of Dave's children were swept into God's Kingdom.
For the last 20 years, Dave has faithfully shared his love for the One who first loved him.
Then, two years ago, his prayer came back to him.
While sharing a lesson on the Lost Sheep to a group of Alaska Native teenagers, a young woman, named Andrea, began crying. For years, she, too, had thought she was too sinful to be saved, but Dave's lesson, based on God's Word, brought hope and a new understanding.
“Pastor Dave was telling us the story of the Lost Sheep. He explained it so well, and all of a sudden, it hit me,” exclaims Andrea. “Suddenly, I realized, I am a lost sheep! Jesus wants to save me, too! It hit me so hard that I started crying right there in the living room, with everyone watching, and asked to be baptized. When I felt that water, I honestly felt like my sins were washing away, that I was starting over. It was a day that has changed my whole life, and I want to learn how to give that gift to my friends and family and village.”
Andrea's comment was not lost on Dave. Like in his own life, the Holy Spirit had transformed her. She, too, now had a new life and a new purpose.
So, what is Lutheran Indian Ministries? Who are we?
We are a handful of sinners saved by grace, passionate in our task to proclaim the Gospel to our Native brothers and sisters, to create disciples, and to heal the intergenerational wounds of the nations.
With friends like you, we live lives of thanksgiving for the transformation that has happened in our lives and meet Native peoples at the crossroads in their lives to share with them that Good News.