Mission to North America’s (MNA) church planting ministry hopes “to see people coming to Christ from the many diverse communities and people groups of North America.”
It just so happens that Native Americans comprise more than 1,100 distinct people groups, and that only 2 to 5 percent of these Indigenous Americans are Christians. But God is opening doors for the PCA in a variety of settings, from rural reservations to cities.
Grinding poverty and hopelessness have spawned serious social problems on many reservations. PCA pastor Chris Granberry was devastated by the plight of the boys and girls he met there.
Investing in Lives on the Reservation
Grinding poverty and hopelessness have spawned serious social problems on many reservations, including the neglect and abuse of children. PCA pastor Chris Granberry, while leading a team from Oak Mountain PCA from Birmingham on a mission trip to a Yakama Nation reservation in Washington state, was devastated by the plight of the boys and girls he met there.
On the flight home, he prayed for the Lord to bring change. He prayed specifically and fervently: “Send somebody!” never expecting that the “somebody” would be him and his family.
The Granberrys arrived in the small Yakama community of White Swan in June 2003 and almost immediately founded what is now Sacred Road Ministries. Today, the Sacred Road team leads children and youth ministries, engages in economic development and mercy ministry, sponsors summer internships, and hosts short-term mission projects. At any given time, they serve some 230 teens, 250 children, and 50 adults.
In 2012, Granberry became the organizing pastor of Hope Fellowship Church, and today the church’s average attendance is 140.
After 15 years in the community, White Swan residents now call Granberry “Mool Mool,” Yakama for “Bubbling Spring,” because they say he and “his people” are overflowing with Jesus’ love.
Reaching Natives in the City
While we generally associate Native Americans with reservations, the 2010 census revealed that 71 percent of Native Americans live in nearby urban areas, such as Billings, Montana. That’s where Josh Charette, a Billings native of Chippewa lineage, pastors Great Plains Gathering (GPG).
Charette says he first felt called to pastoral ministry during high school. The “feeling” was quickly affirmed when his youth pastor told him, “I think God is going to use you to pastor Native people.”
At Covenant Seminary this calling began to crystallize. In 2010 the Charettes returned to Billings, and with support from the PCA’s Rocky Mountain Community Church, gathered a core group and began to worship together. And in August 2015, they acquired a building. That’s an important step, Charette says, to convey permanence to the Native community.
Growth is slow but healthy, Charette says, and it’s based on a strong community who is open to non-Christians. “When I’m preaching I’ll often say, ‘Not all of us here are Christians, but if you are here for any length of time you will come to trust Christ, because you can’t be a part of a community where Christ is present … without discovering the truth of God’s grace.’”