It is the fifth largest city in the United States, in a state with the second largest Native population in the Nation.
This is Phoenix, Arizona, and our newest ministry site.
For the past year, the Lutheran Indian Ministries Board of Directors and I have been discussing our organizational move into Urban Native Ministry. Historically, LIM has focused on ministry to those living on reservations. We’ve told you of the poverty, abuse, and generational trauma that plagues our Native brothers and sisters on the reservations. For many, their solution to these problems is to leave the reservation for the promise of a new life in the big city.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t magically heal just because you change zip codes.
For the 71% of Native people living in urban areas, like Phoenix, the pain and trauma of their life on the reservation follows them. We knew, by limiting ourselves to reservation ministry, we were missing out on huge numbers of Native men, women, and children who need to hear the hope found only in Jesus Christ.
But the plan to expand into urban Native ministry had hit a wall. It was a wonderful idea but was not possible without a staff member to do it.
It is hard to be patient when you see the future laid out in front of you. But it was clear, we would have to wait for God’s perfect timing.
Then, one day, out of the blue, I was invited by a board member on a trip to a prison in Northern Wisconsin to meet a man named Kevin Maulson.
Kevin, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, was finishing his sentence for mistakes he made in a series of very bad business decisions. It was while he was in prison, which leaves a lot of room for quiet time, that the Holy Spirit led him to the foot of the cross and the understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
While serving his time, Kevin immersed himself in the Bible, meditating daily on God’s Word. Through reading and studying, he came to truly understand the saving grace of his Lord, Jesus Christ and longed to share his newfound joy with his fellow inmates. Kevin began leading Bible Studies. And as his fire for the Lord continued to grow, he brought others along with him. Over the course of two years, seven other men came to know Jesus thanks to the work the Holy Spirit was doing through Kevin.
During our conversation, Kevin passionately told me:
“When I am released in a couple of months, I want to do two things.
1. I want to continue serving God the same way I have learned to do here in prison.
2. I want to move to Phoenix to be with my fiancée.”
My heart leaped into my throat. I could barely contain my excitement!
After months of waiting and praying for clear direction on how to proceed with ministry in Pheonix, we had our answer.
It is an amazing and humbling experience to see God’s plan unfold in front of you and to receive the confirmation that you are, in fact, heading in the right direction.
Over the course of the next few months, Kevin was released from jail, moved to Phoenix, was married, and began his task, evaluating the need for Native ministry in and around Phoenix. And, he hasn't looked back.
Since Kevin touched down in Arizona in November:
- He has made contact with churches, Native organizations, and tribal members.
- He has been trained on, and become a facilitator in, a new program called Fatherhood is Sacred/Motherhood is Sacred (FIS/MIS) and is working to incorporate more Biblical elements into the program.
- He has already planned a course in FIS/MIS for Native peoples near Phoenix.
- He started a Bible study for the people of the Gila River Indian Reservation just outside of Phoenix which now averages eleven people each Wednesday night.
Over the course of the year, we went from waiting and wondering about Phoenix to jumping into Urban Native Ministry fully confident that we are on board with God’s mission to make disciples of all Nations. And just like Joshua’s scouts who went out to survey the new lands, we go with faith and courage to do God’s work because we know we have you with us in this new adventure.
Ministry expansion into the growing metropolis that is Phoenix, and therefore into the twenty reservations of Arizona, opens up tremendous opportunity to reach lost individuals and broken families. God has placed willing and able ministry men and women in the field; we have added an ever-growing library of resources and tools; you have upheld us with your prayers and support.
Together, we are making an impact on Native lives, unlike anything the Lutheran Church has never seen.
And you are a part of it.
Alongside the work of the Holy Spirit, you are the reason we are seeing the light of Jesus spread through Native families and repair the wounds of trauma and abuse. You are the reason children are learning about the love of Christ. You are the reason Native people choose to live another day and share their hope with their family and friends.
Without your support, Phoenix would not be possible, but more importantly, the work of Lutheran Indian Ministries would not be possible.
I am so thrilled God has brought Kevin to LIM. And I praise God for your prayers and encouragement.
<Salutation>, as you reflect on the ways your dollars have changed Native lives, I ask you to also think about the amazing new opportunities we have with a new group of Native brothers and sisters in and around Phoenix. Our work is just beginning, but the need for the Gospel is boundless. Will you help us to kick off Phoenix with power by sending your gift today?
Thank you for your incredible passion for Native ministry. We look forward to our work together as we proclaim, disciple, and heal.
Tim Young Eagle
P.S. To learn more about Kevin and how he ended up in Phoenix, check out: LIM Pheonix-Open for Ministry
Then, give with faith and confidence.
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