Proclaim. Disciple. Heal. This is what we do at Lutheran Indian Ministries, and after meeting Henry*, it is all the more clear that we need to do more.
I met Henry on a warm, sunny day, but his story made me shiver.
The old Indian man spoke slowly, almost haltingly, as he shared his experience. His voice cracked with emotion when he told his story of surviving an Indian boarding school. It is the place his story of abuse begins.
He shared his anger at the teacher punishing him for the heinous act of speaking his Native language, the language of his parents and grandparents. He shared his shame at being set in front of the class wearing a dunce cap, and his sadness as his fellow classmates mocked him and laughed. Tears ran down his time-worn cheeks as he spoke of these memories from decades ago, the scars of which were still as fresh and raw as the day they occurred.
Henry's is a story of pain, suffering, and rejection. As a child, he was told to deny who he was, and his punishment for clinging to his identity was designed to force him to stop being who he was and become someone others thought he should be.
Jesus knew a thing or two about pain, suffering, and rejection.
In Luke 9, He foretells his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection to his disciples. From Jesus, we learn the cost of discipleship will be steep, but the reward will be remarkable, so long as we have faith in Him. Jesus tells us: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (vv. 24-25)
Jesus also knew a thing or two about denial.
As we look to the upcoming Lent season, many Christians “give up something.” The idea behind this act of self-denial is based on Luke 9:23 where Jesus tells his followers that whoever wants to be his disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him.
For Christians, denial of our sinful self and our sinful nature is a choice. We choose to take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ, confident in his promise of eternal life.
For Henry and other victims of the boarding schools, their self-denial brought no promise of redemption. Their compliance did not promise relief of their pain, suffering, and rejection.
Henry was an Indian, and, in the dominant culture’s world, that was as much a sin as any other, but one for which there could be no salvation.
We, however, recognize that Jesus died for all, and we know that his salvation is color blind. We are certain that the Good News of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has the power to transform lives… especially Native American lives.
Who will carry His message of salvation and eternal life to Native Americans still struggling with the abuses of their childhood?
With your help, Lutheran Indian Ministries will.
This life-changing message gives Native people, like Henry, a purpose that transcends the relentless drumming of the dominant culture who once told them they were not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. Our ministry staff brings the true message of His love, forgiveness, and acceptance to Native people.
Who will disciple Henry and others like him in the Christian faith to bring renewal and restoration to their souls?
Your support of Lutheran Indian Ministries will provide us with just such an opportunity.
By following the roadmap that Jesus modeled for us with his own disciples, our ministry staff is cultivating and training disciples to share the Gospel message with their Native brothers and sisters. This discipling of Native peoples enables us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring the renewal and restoration Indigenous people crave to more families and communities.
Who will address the social sufferings and intergenerational pain of Native people in a way that values native culture and helps families and communities to flourish?
Your partnership with Lutheran Indian Ministries will provide the kind of counseling and care that Native people like Henry need to begin to feel whole again.
By providing safe places where Native people can tell their stories of abuse and addiction, our trained ministry staff can holistically counsel and guide them towards a path of healing. This initial step is critical to helping Native people break the cycle of intergenerational pain, suffering, sorrow, addiction, and affliction that has haunted and plagued them for hundreds of years.
Your gifts to Lutheran Indian Ministries will make a significance difference in the lives of Native American peoples across the lower 48 of the United States, as well as in Alaska and Hawaii.
Together, we can continue to answer God’s call and fulfill His mission for this ministry.
Please prayerfully consider becoming a supporter of Lutheran Indian Ministries! May God bless you and keep you always.
Tim Young Eagle, CFRE
Lutheran Indian Ministries.
*Henry's name was changed for privacy.