Native Americans to offer culture, evangelism insight

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Friday, April 26, 2019 (one month ago)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- A variety of Native American tribes -- Seminole, Pawnee, Choctaw, Navajo and others -- will be represented in each tribe's traditional garb at the annual meeting of the Fellowship of Native American Christians.

Warren "Junior" Pratt performs with his children during the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas. The dancers are part of the Tribe of Judah Native Dance Ministry and will be performing again at this year's meeting of the Fellowship of Native American Christians in Birmingham.
BP file photo by Van Payne
The event, set for 10 a.m.-noon Monday, June 10, is open to all Southern Baptists with an interest in Native Americans or in ministry with Native Americans.

The meeting of the group, known as FoNAC, will be in conjunction with the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting June 11-12 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala., and will take place in the BJCC Forum Building, Room J, on Level 3.

"Every year without fail," FoNAC's Executive Director Gary Hawkins told Baptist Press, "people who have a desire to learn more about ministry with Native Americans and FoNAC will meet us at the Many Faces booth in the Exhibit Hall and tell us, 'I wish I would have known the meeting was open to all. I would have come!' Here's your invitation: Come and join us!"

A highlight from last year -- Junior Pratt and his family dancing, drumming and singing in Pawnee to convey the Gospel -- will return this year.

"The Pratt family will once again demonstrate through tribal hymns and dance how the Gospel message can be used in a contextualized manner that speaks volumes to the heart language of Native people," Hawkins said.

Jonah Cypress of the Seminole tribe will lead worship. He is the worship leader of Miccosukee Trail Indian Baptist Mission in Clewiston, Fla., and is "a familiar face to the Seminole Indians of Florida. He has served the Lord with his talents for many years," Hawkins said.

Josh LeadingFox of Oklahoma's Pawnee tribe is to bring the annual message. LeadingFox has been pastor of Immokalee (Fla.) Seminole Baptist Church since 2011 and was elected to FoNAC's executive board at the 2018 annual meeting.

"Josh will present a challenging message from the Word of God, delivered from a young Native minister's perspective," said Hawkins, a member of the Creek/Cherokee tribe.

"FoNAC's executive board and our advisory council are all Native people who have a wealth of knowledge gained through personal ministry experience and devoted attention to prayer and seeking ways to accomplish more through the process of cooperative networking," Hawkins said.

As a faith-based, Native-led ministry, FoNAC has as its primary purpose sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Native Americans and First Nations people of Canada, Hawkins said. It is a conduit between Native churches and those with a passion to minister among them.

FoNAC President Ledtkey "Lit" McIntosh of the Creek tribe, in his report during the meeting, will describe three levels of partnership with FoNAC that can contribute to significant assistance in ministry with Natives in the United States and Canada.

"FoNAC has neither the resources, manpower nor time required to do all that is needed for each of the 567 federally-recognized tribes of the United States, and the 634 governments [bands] of First Nations people in Canada," Hawkins said. "This is indeed a God-sized task.

"Throughout our existence we have valued partnerships," the executive director continued. "Without them we would have been restricted in so many areas. Our vision is to see networks of healthy partnerships that realize the need to, first, understand the worldview of Native people versus trying to convert people to assimilate to their worldview; second, sharing the Gospel message through the heart language of the people; third, equipping and encouraging involvement instead of enabling dependency; and fourth, calling out indigenous leaders versus sending in temporary workers."

Since its organization in 2012, FoNAC has served in a non-funded capacity as a North American Mission Board networking entity, connecting people wanting to serve Native Americans with those churches requesting a hand-up, Hawkins said.

Several Native churches, camps and ministries have received support, such as construction projects, VBS, revivals, leadership conferences, mission teams, school supplies, Christmas gifts, pastoral resources and more as well as written testimonies of how God has changed the lives of Native men and women, he said.

"Also, we have seen the value of coaching and mentoring to assist and encourage those serving on the fields of Native America, ministering in urban, rural and reservation settings," Hawkins said. "Native ministry has many unique barriers that can make sharing the Gospel and making disciples very difficult at times, such as history, traditional religion, culture and things that have been done in the name of Christianity."

FoNAC's annual gathering will include an overview of activities over the last year, such as post-Hurricane Florence assistance to Burnt Swamp Baptist Association of Native American churches in North Carolina. Among other business: Hawkins' executive director's report about ministry and new opportunities in urban areas and in Canada; leaders who will be joining and leaving the executive board and advisory council; and a financial report by FoNAC treasurer Tim Chavis of the Lumbee tribe.

"Our goal for this year's gathering is to strengthen our network of Native missions, missionaries and partners working together to develop indigenous-led ministries that will become involved in evangelism, discipleship, leadership development and church planting," Hawkins said.

"Please join with us from 10 a.m. to noon on June 10 to hear what God is doing among the nation's more than 5 million Native Americans."

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.
Download Story