Response: May 2017 Issue

Being a Native American Christian

Building right relationships with Native Americans means listening and mutuality.

Being a Native American Christian
Women from the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference pose during the United Methodist Women Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, in April 2014.

I love being a United Methodist Women member because it means that I have thousands of Christian sisters who share my love for sharing Jesus with world. They obey God’s Word by actively keeping his commandments with faith, hope and love in action. They live out James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. It is pure joy to be a part of an organization who loves God and one another (1 John 4:11). They travel to other places to share faith and do good works near and far.

I am a United Methodist Women member in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of The United Methodist Church. My St. Paul-Talihina unit ministers to the needs of local, state, national and international women, children and youth. We support our local, district, conference and national events and leadership training.

A 10.5 county geographical area in Oklahoma is known as Choctaw Nation. Most Natives in this area, including myself, are members of this tribe. Of approximately 224,000 Choctaws nationwide, about 85,000 reside in Oklahoma. This tribe is one of the 567 existing tribes in America today. Indians populated America long before foreign explorers left their homelands to settle this resource-rich land. While the history dating back to the 18th century is beyond the scope of this article, it is worth researching this massive subject, especially if you reside in United States.

Common needs

In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Abraham Maslow set forth that all people possess a universal set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards or unconscious desires: his hierarchy of needs. This hierarchy includes psychological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualization. In my reading of the Bible I find all these same needs discussed therein.

Deprived of these needs, humans suffer. Lack and hunger, endangerment, ridicule, disrespect, and failure can warp a person’s outlook on life. It can be a struggle that only God can remedy. While these problems are not exclusive to American Indians, they present barriers to healthy relationships. In 1963, John F. Kennedy said, “For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians are the least understood and the most misunderstood Americans of us all.” Stereotypes include: Most Indians live on reservations (only 22 percent live on reservations), all receive special benefits (some benefits are for fulfilling cessation of Indian Land), American Indians overreact to their likenesses being used as team mascots, all worship nature, and each tribe has a Shaman and a Princess. It is problematic when you assign one idea to an entire group of people. Some characteristics of a mission field are irrelevant to salvation, and not all are called to the Native American mission field. Praise our Lord for guidance on this issue.

Mutuality

When ministering with Indians, communication is key. Their dignified concentration should not be interpreted as emotionless ignorance. Today Native Americans consist of many blends with different tribes and non-Indian tribes, Christians and non-Christians, and regional social differences. How could there not be misconceptions? The social injustices that occurred during the 1830 Indian Removal Act (Trail of Tears) and Indian Boarding Schools are a living history for many Native peoples. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit give me peace when I read Romans 12:17-19: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,’” and Ephesians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.”

This comforts me and the ladies in my United Methodist Women chapter because we know that our God has always had everything under control. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega and we can trust the Comforter. According to God’s Holy Word we have a beautiful future.


Patsy Eyachabbe is a member of the United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group from the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Posted or updated: 5/2/2017 12:00:00 AM
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