"Do you think that if you were to follow Jesus that you would be denying your people?"
This update will be a little longer than usual, but I don't think you'll be disappointed if you read all the way through.
Last Monday night (April 4th), I arrived on campus at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA for three days of meeting with students and sharing about what InterAct does. Shortly after I arrived I had the opportunity to share in one of the evening classes for about 30 minutes. At the end of my time the professor asked if someone would pray for our family and for InterAct. A young name Lloyd volunteered. The next day Lloyd came up to me and asked if we could get together, so we scheduled to meet the following day at around 4PM.
When we met up we both were hungry so we decided to go get an early supper. He knew a little Mexican hole-in-the-wall place that sounded good so we went there. There was hardly anyone in the little restaurant with it being so early. We ordered and sat down and waited for our number to be called.
One of the things Lloyd was interested in was our ministry to First Nations peoples in Canada. When talking about this I usually begin by telling a little bit of the history and context of our Native ministry. A big part of that is the story of the Indian Residential school system.
There’s far too much to say on this subject, so I would encourage you to Google it and read up on it if you’re interested. But in short, it was the systematic forced removal of First Nations children from their families and culture and placement of them into schools in order to assimilate them to the Anglo-Canadian culture. The results were largely disastrous. There are countless stories of abuse and neglect that sometimes even resulted in death. What’s worse is that 90% of these schools were run by professing Christians (60% Roman Catholic and 30% Protestant). This sad history has left scars on the lives of most First Nations communities. And because so much injustice was done by so-called “Christians,” the name of Christ is not always received favorably.
As I shared some of this with Lloyd, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that one of the guys in the booth behind us had turned around and was listening to what I was saying, nodding in agreement. I looked up and saw immediately that he was a Native man. He chimed in to the conversation, introducing himself as Joe. He seemed surprised that I knew so much about the injustices done to Native peoples.
As we talked I learned that Joe was from Arizona and from the Comanche tribe. He had been up to Canada many times for various Native gatherings. I asked him if he was a “religious” person and he told me that he was a follower of the "Red Road,” a Pan-Indian religion rooted in traditional Native beliefs.
We talked for about 20 minutes. What was so amazing was that our conversation basically played out in real life what I had been hoping to share with Lloyd in the abstract – feelings of injustice, a negative attitude toward Christianity and Joe's desire to reconnect with his own culture and history through the Red Road. At the end of the conversation I asked Joe "Do you think that if you were to follow Jesus that you would be denying your people?" He said yes.