Following Jesus, Honoring Tradition
Today's Native College Students Are Tomorrow's Tribal Leaders
Only about 2% of Native American high school students attend college. Less than 20% of those graduate. The ones that do are positioned to be the future political, spiritual, and business leaders in their communities.
Most of them attend school on tribal scholarships, and often return back to the reservation after they graduate, to work in tribal government or activism.
Very few campus ministries make any effort at all to reach the Native American students on college campuses. The vast majority of tribal schools have no Christian witness of any kind.
Native American communities are among the darkest and most troubled communities in America. Hope is a rare and precious commodity.
The suicide rate amongst Native Americans aged 15-24 is the highest amongst all ethnic and age groups in America. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst Native Americans in this age group.
You don't have to cross an ocean -- or even a border -- to find the Third World. It's right in our backyard.
In addition, Christianity has been introduced to most Native people as a weapon in the hands of colonists and conquerors, and they often perceive the church as an enemy of their way of life. A colleague once told me that parents in his community would rather see their children grow up to become addicts and alcoholics than Christians (because at least alcoholics are nice some of the time.)
These communities are desperate for hope and a future. Who will offer it to them?
In InterVarsity we are learning how to "contextualize" the Gospel so that Native Americans can receive it as
Through Contextualized Worship
We worship with Native American drums, as well as with guitars. We sing songs in Navajo, Wyandotte, Kiowa, and other languages. We worship outside, on the tops of mountains, prophetically declaring God's love and healing power for all His people.
Through Contextualized Prayer
We incorporate Native American prayer practices, like smudging and mountain smoke, into our prayer meetings.
We pray in Native languages and styles.
Through Contextualized Bible Study
We are currently experimenting with Native American storytelling styles as we study Scripture, pursuing culturally-senstive group dynamics, and promoting Native ways of knowing, understanding and applying sacred knowledge to our lives. We often use a brand-new "First Nations Version" of scripture, translated by and for indigenous peoples.
"Native Campus Ministries helped me feel like I was part of something great. After I met the group, I had this feeling that I had met the right people and it was meant to be. I learned so much about myself and my relationship with God."
"I learned how to be a leader. Not only that, I also learned how to be a good leader. I also learned the importance of faith and friendship."
"Native Campus Ministries helped me to become a responsible leader as well as care for others' actions. It seems like everyone in Native Campus Ministries are my brothers and sisters and I care for them whenever they're in need. Also NCM has helped me grow in prayer and build a stronger relationship with Jesus."
"I shouldn't be anymore... but I am always surprised by the graciousness and thoughtfulness the Krischkes exemplify in their ministry. As a First Nations leader I am grateful for their giving hearts & servant attitude."
--Cheryl Bear, Native worship leader
Long-term Native issues will need to be addressed by healthy, vision-centered indigenous people who can lead and problem-solve in their own communities. College educated Native men and women, who have been mentored and discipled with a whole-life discipleship, are perfectly positioned to do exactly this.
The college years are years these students are able to step away from the web of often life-crushing dynamics in their communities. For most it won’t happen any other way.
During these years they are uniquely able to re-think, re-shape, and institute
new perspectives on their Native culture and spiritual beliefs
new leadership skills
that take them forward in their lives. Some will move out into the mainstream western world offering their unique gifts and perspectives; others will go back to their Native communities and villages equipped to truly make a difference where so few have been able to from the outside. Wherever they go, they will be able to share that Jesus is good news for all people.
"The greatest moments of Native History may lie ahead of us if a great spiritual renewal and awakening should take place. The Native American has been a sleeping giant. He is awakening. The original Americans could become the evangelists who will help win America for Christ! Remember these forgotten people!"
- Dr. Billy Graham
"Before the group I felt somewhat alone in my relationship with God. The group helped me realize that faith with God also involves the faith of others. It was with the combined faith of the group that helped me to understand the Bible better than ever before. There was much clarity."
"I think the ministry of InterVarsity is very crucial at this time for our Native students. The need for leadership is great in our Native community. Getting the gospel with its life-changing message while the minds of the students are in search of knowledge will make a tremendous impact not only in their individual lives, but in the Native communities.
These students are leaders and they will change the world. I certainly endorse the ministry of InterVarsity on college campuses. Blessings on those involved in wanting our Native people to embrace the challenge of an ever-changing world. These students will be the catalyst for revival in our world. Praise the Lord! May the Lord show His favor and grace on the ministry of InterVarsity."
--TH Lee, Navajo pastor