I glanced up for a moment to see a man with a dark braided ponytail behind us. As I kept talking I could see his head slowly turning around, nodding in agreement with what I was saying. A minute later the man and I were talking about faith and the gospel. I was on a campus visit to The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. I had met a student named Lloyd who wanted to get together and talk more about mission work. I had suggested a famous California burger establishment; he had suggested a little Mexican hole-in-the-wall place. I trusted his judgment, and I’m glad I did.
After we arrived we ordered our food and sat down. One of the questions he had was about First Nations ministry in western Canada, so I began sharing what I knew.
I have never lived in Canada. Before becoming communications director for InterAct, my family and I served in Russia. But over the years I’ve tried to listen and learn from my InterAct colleagues who serve in First Nations ministry. And on that day God brought those things that I had heard and learned to mind.
My conversation with Lloyd began with some historical context. I told him about the Indian residential schools and how they had left many scars on First Nations communities, fostering a general distrust of Christians. It was this subject that piqued the curiosity of the man sitting behind us and drew him into our conversation.
I glanced up to see a middle-aged Native American man who introduced himself as Joe. He was surprised that I knew so much about the sufferings of First Nations people. My simple acknowledgement of this sad history softened his demeanor, and he was open to talking.
We talked for about twenty minutes. He told us that he was Comanche and followed a Native religion called the “Red Road.” He claimed he had “tried Christianity,” but that it, “didn’t work” for him. I kept remembering things I had learned and heard, all the while praying for the words to say and for the Spirit to work.
We talked about the gospel, and he talked about the Red Road and his identity as a Native American. At the end of our conversation I asked Joe directly, “Do you believe if you were to follow Christ that you would be denying your heritage and your people?” Sadly he said, “yes.”