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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Hope Rising

By Christina Quick
July 31, 2011

The son of an Arizona Navajo medicine man, Lloyd Lee vividly remembers the suffocating terror he often felt as a child.

“I was afraid of the rituals and ceremonies and the evil powers associated with them,” Lee says. “I sometimes heard voices and saw spirits in my home. We lived in a culture of fear. Almost everyone I knew was afraid.”

The dark shadows that filled him with anxiety finally lifted when Lee, at the age of 18, accepted Jesus Christ as Savior at an Assemblies of God church in Shiprock, N.M. His uncle Charlie Lee pastored the congregation, located on the Navajo Nation reservation.

“When I came to the Lord, the fear was no longer there,” Lee says. “For me, that was the most noticeable and remarkable change.”

Lee attended American Indian College, an AG Bible school in Phoenix. There he met his wife, Elizabeth, a Choctaw from Oklahoma. Today the couple pastors a small storefront church in Cache, Okla., ministering to Native Americans from several tribes.

It is a challenging mission field. Unemployment, alcoholism and gambling are rampant in the region, and Christians are often viewed with suspicion. Lee supplements his income working at a local school, where he assists with special needs children and drives a bus route. He says many of the Native American students he encounters struggle with the same fear he experienced as a child.

“There is a spiritual battle taking place that most people don’t recognize,” Lee says. “That’s why our native people are in the condition they’re in. For generations they have engaged in activities that invite fear, oppression and demonic influence. Suicide, job loss and disease are just the outward signs of much deeper issues.”

Yet across the nation, signs of hope are springing up like desert flowers on the Native American landscape. John E. Maracle, a Mohawk Indian and chief/president of the Assemblies of God Native American Fellowship based in Phoenix, says the light of the gospel is increasingly penetrating the darkness of shamanism and superstition.

“The Native American Fellowship is about establishing New Testament churches full of the Holy Spirit,” Maracle says. “We’re seeing people saved, healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. We’re seeing miracles, signs and wonders.”

The Assemblies of God has the second-largest evangelical Christian outreach to Native Americans in the United States, with 187 Native American churches in 27 states and on 104 reservations.

Along with churches, other innovative AG ministries focus on the needs of Native Americans. Two Assemblies of God colleges, American Indian College in Phoenix and Native American Bible College in Shannon, N.C., equip Native American students for church leadership. AIC also offers degrees in business and elementary education.

An Assemblies of God Chi Alpha group, led by U.S. missionaries Jason and Amy Metz, ministers on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.

Last year, the first Native American Teen Challenge center opened on Indian land in Trinidad, Calif. The residence facility reaches out to Native Americans battling drug and alcohol addictions.

In addition, the Native American Fellowship, in cooperation with Light for the Lost, has distributed more than 120,000 copies of the Native American Book of Hope.

“We’re seeing the Lord move,” Maracle says. “It’s exciting to see all the things that are happening. But there is still so much to do.”

Maracle says there are more than 40 AG Native American churches in Arizona, host state for this year’s Assemblies of God General Council. Oklahoma, which has the largest Native American population and the most tribes of any state, has 11 indigenous AG churches. However, many Native Americans have been assimilated and acculturated into leadership roles throughout Oklahoma. California, which has the second-largest number of Native Americans, has only three indigenous AG congregations.

“We have some great missionaries out there and some young missionaries who are responding to the call,” Maracle says. “But we still need more people going to the hard places where no one else wants to go.”

For example, Maracle says there are at least 10 churches in Alaska waiting for pastors to come and fill the pulpits.

“There are over 300 villages in Alaska and only 30 indigenous churches,” Maracle says. “We desperately need people to go and take the gospel to this final American frontier. We need preachers, teachers, medical workers and support staff. We need Christians who are not afraid to go into a new culture and experience a new adventure for the sake of the gospel.”

Keeley Kaveolook, 25, works with This Generation Ministries (, an Assemblies of God outreach based in North Pole, Alaska, that shares Christ through media, youth rallies and camps.

TGM also conducts suicide prevention assemblies in schools. Alaska’s suicide rate is twice the national average, and natives under the age of 29 make up a disproportionate number of suicide victims.

“The enemy wants to destroy this generation,” Kaveolook says. “But our passion is to train them to reach their peers for Christ. We feel an encounter with Jesus is the ultimate suicide prevention.”

Kaveolook, who is of Inupiat Eskimo descent, struggled with feelings of rejection and low self-esteem until her life was transformed as a teen at an AG youth camp. She says the people of Alaska are desperate to experience God’s love, but there are few workers for such a vast harvest field.

“There is a huge open door right now in Alaska,” Kaveolook says. “There are churches that need pastors. There are others that need youth pastors to come and reach the young people.”

Maracle says opportunities for ministry exist in every Native American community throughout the nation. Even in states like Arizona, where the church is more entrenched, there are serious needs Christians could help meet.

“My heart is for all the native communities in America,” Maracle says. “There are 601 different tribes in the United States, each with a different language, culture and history. God loves these people and wants us to reach out to them with compassion.”

Marvin Begay, a Navajo who pastors Canyon Day Assembly of God on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona, has experienced the power of caring. His congregation’s 60-year-old building was literally falling apart, but now it is being rebuilt — with the help of Christians outside the native community. Besides donating funds, teams of non-natives have assisted with the construction work. Begay says these volunteers have made a tremendous impact on the surrounding community.

“We’re kind of the talk of the reservation,” Begay says. “People keep asking me if these workers are getting paid. We say, ‘No, they’re doing it because they love God and they love the people here.’ People can hardly believe it.”

Begay says Native Americans are often wary of outsiders. However, as the church demonstrates Christ’s love, these barriers can fall away.

During the week of General Council in August, Convoy of Hope will host an outreach on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, where unemployment is between 85 and 90 percent. Begay says many families on the reservation need assistance with food and other basic necessities.

“When it’s darkest, that’s when the light shines the brightest,” Begay says. “That’s where we’re at in many Native American communities. As we shine the light of God’s truth, people can find hope in Jesus.”

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer. She attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo.

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