God´s heart is broken over the spiritual condition of the Native
American community. Do you care?
I spent part of this week preaching at my friend Quentin Beard´s
church in Sioux Falls, S.D. On Sunday-which happened to be
Pentecost-I reminded the congregation that if we really want the
fullness of the Holy Spirit, we must have more than just emotionally
charged worship, speaking in tongues or miracles of healing. Those
things are wonderful, but if we want full-blown Pentecost we must
also tear down racial and ethnic barriers.
Later that morning, a tall Native American brother named Joe
Marrowbone came to the altar for prayer. He is from the Lakota
Sioux tribe, and he wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Within
a few moments, he was praying in tongues with his hands raised
in the air. He told me later that He feels God will send him to
share the gospel on some of the Indian reservations near Sioux Falls.
Joe was especially blessed when I addressed the issue of racism
among whites and Native people in his home state. I told the
church that when we get to heaven, there will not be a white
section, a Hispanic section, a black section or a Native section.
"We are all one big family. There are no Indian reservations in
heaven," I said.
Seeing Joe filled with the Spirit was a highlight of my trip. But
when I left Sioux Falls, I was burdened about the condition of
the Native people in our nation. We have so much unfinished
business when it comes to healing the breach that exists
between us and our American Indian brothers. Consider these
oNative Americans have the highest poverty and unemployment
rates in the United States. The poverty rate is 25 percent. Native
people living in Indian country have incomes that are less than
half of the general U.S. population.
oOnly 36 percent of males in high-poverty Native American
communities have full-time, year-round employment.
oNearly 10 percent of all Native families are homeless. The rate
of Native homes without electricity is 10 times the national average,
and 20 percent of Native households lack running water. The infant
mortality rate among Native people is about 300 percent higher
than the national average.
oThe poorest county in the United States is the Pine Ridge
Reservation in South Dakota, where the unemployment rate is at
a mind-boggling 80 percent. Life expectancy on this reservation
is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, except for Haiti.
oRates of violent victimization for both males and females are
higher among American Indians than for any other race.
oFrom 1999 to 2004, American Indian males in the 15- to 24-year-
old age group had the highest suicide rate compared to males of
any other racial group.
oNative American men have been found to be dying at the fastest
rate of all people in the United States.
What do those figures say to you? I believe it is an absolute
travesty that those of us in the Christian community have not
fully acknowledged our forefathers´ role in perpetrating genocide
on our Native brothers. And it is pathetic that we have largely
ignored this languishing mission field in our own backyard while
we spend millions on our tech-savvy megachurches in white
suburbs. God forgive us.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the
apostle Peter declared from the book of Joel that one sign of the
Holy Spirit´s outpouring would be the empowerment of the poorest
of the poor. He said, "Even on My bondslaves, both men and
women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit, and they shall
prophesy" (Acts 2:18, NASB).
Surely Native Americans were on God´s heart when those words
were recorded. Yet many of us completely missed the point of
Pentecost. We made it about us. We chased after the anointing,
the chills, the hype and the charismatic circus-forgetting that
the reason we are anointed by the Spirit is to minister to those
who need Christ´s healing.
I am praying that the Spirit-filled community will renounce its self-
absorbed immaturity and begin to fulfill our true Pentecostal
mission. Pray for a spiritual awakening among Native people,
both on and off the reservation. Explore ways that you can build
bridges of reconciliation. And ask God how you and your church
should respond to the needs of Native people.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon