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Don’t Kill the Indian, Do Save the Man!

Have you ever been on a mission trip? Do you recall your first impression as you set foot outside the airport? I’m sure landing on that new reality was as soft as running 100 miles an hour into a solid concrete wall. Normally, experiences such as this would take place in a foreign country where the standard of living is drastically different from North America. Would you believe me if I were to tell you I found a third world country existing within our own borders?

20 missionaries from New Jersey travelled 2,077 miles to Fort Belknap, Montana. Although palm trees and beautiful white sand beaches were nowhere in sight, the panoramic view of the sky that kisses the prairie, was nothing short of spectacular. There were some other perks as well. Since the trip was within the United States, we were able to extend the invitation to some of our members who do not yet have the papers to travel overseas. We also were not subjected to shots that you may be required otherwise.

The 7-member church in Fort Belknap was built within the Native American reservation. Needless to say, the church building was not well maintained, and it immediately needed our attention. Also, due to lack of man power, not much ground work was done on our behalf in preparation for the Vacation Bible School.

We knew we were working with depressing statistics: 33% of the Native American women are raped or suffering sexual abuse; Only 9 percent of them earn a college degree; Native Americans have the highest rating of suicide, more than any other ethnicity. 40 percent of those who die by suicide are between the ages of 15 and 24.

Visiting the families and asking parents to send their children to our VBS revealed the true reality of the Native American reservations. When we knocked on the doors of the tiny homes, we saw small children in dirty clothes; the parents with flushed complexion and dilated pupils – the sign of drug abuse; 3 to 4 families living together in an 800 square foot home. To think that 1 out of every 3 girls we met may be sexually abused one day made me sick to my stomach. Gerald, the president of the local radio station, shared with us what he believed to be the reason for such high suicide rate. Many young Native Americans live without hope for the future. “Without vision people perish.” Proverbs 29:18.

During our time there, we earnestly prayed that the words we share, the songs we teach may be ingrained in their minds. We prayed that God would use us to instill hope in their hearts, and the love of our savior would move them. The ladies (one of the ladies was 1-year shy of her 70th birthday) prepared healthy and delicious snacks for the kids every day, the men renovated parts of the church, the medical team provided physical exam, eye exam, diabetes test. The young people led spirit-filled vacation Bible school.

The entire world is in need of men and women who will be witnesses of God’s self-sacrificing, utterly selfless love. God may call you to serve in Haiti, Cuba, Honduras, Southeast Asia, and war-stricken parts of Africa. Please be open to God’s call as He may also call you to serve the Native American population. Regardless of your location, may God use you in a powerful way as you share what God has done in your life.

P.S. I would like to thank Daniel Kim and the Lombard church for pioneering the mission work in Montana. I would also like to thank pastor Isaac Kim who has organized our trip, and the missionaries with huge hearts who served tirelessly on our trip.

Pastor Steve, Minha, Ethan and Elliott currently serve churches in New Jersey

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