The power of story: Native Americans speak in changing times

July 5, 2012

Pittsburgh

Representatives of several tribes and churches gathered at the Native American Consulting Committee (NACC) Dinner on Tuesday (July 3) at the 220th GA to share stories about ministry and mission in the midst of challenging economic times.

“I am the link between the past and the future,” declared Susanne Ware-Diaz, executive director of Cook Native American Ministries (CNAM). “This is a time of financial and spiritual famine… and Native American ministries are often already without voice and without vote.”

For Native American ministries that already operate on slim budgets, the economic downturn has been especially difficult. In response, CNAM has pursued a new direction, closing its school and instead offering grants to promote Native American leaders.

“The anticipation of supporting new ministries and programs birthed out of our churches and communities will bring new insights, new perspectives, new tools,” said Ware-Diaz.

Irv Porter, NACC chair and pastor at Church of the Indian Fellowship in Tacoma, Wash., gave a brief summary of the shifting mid council landscape, calling it, “a moving train,” and asking, “How are we going to be cohesive?”

Others from the gathering shared stories about the successes and challenges in their own church communities.

With tears in her eyes Lucy Apatiki, an overture advocate from Yukon Presbytery in Alaska, spoke of a reconciliation event in her community. After two years of planning, the two-day event concluded with the return of drums in their worship. “The drum is a mighty spiritual weapon,” said Apatiki.

Fern Cloud, a GA commissioner from Dakota Presbytery, declared, “Now it’s time for us to really look at healing seriously.”

In a plea for the church to value its past, Cecil Corbett asked, “How many stories do we hear from the future?”

Porter concluded the time by sharing “Our ministry, our life in the church is full of stories, something that our church can learn from us.”

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