God has connected many people, ministries, and congregations through the years in trying to help meet the needs of Native Americans. This is a people group that has suffered greatly by the near total upending of their way of life. Poverty, alcoholism, life expectancy, suicide, school dropout rates, and sexual abuse for those on the reservations are much worse than national averages.
Through the years these persons have been served by many groups who take food and clothing, offer VBS teams during the summer, work on building projects, financially support, and in many others ways work to develop key relationships. But God is clearly working to take this ministry and partnership to a higher level. In January 2013 Sherman and Kay Critser transitioned from cross-cultural ministry in Africa to cross-cultural ministry in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. There they now give part-time leadership to the Inter-Cultural Chapel, but the major part of their ministry is focused on working to increase the capacity of our leaders to Native Americans and to develop those who will follow after them.
Another major step forward in the ministry at Wounded Knee, South Dakota is the Place of Promise project. Place of Promise will house a recreational center, offices, and classrooms to benefit the people of Wounded Knee. This ministry endeavor is being developed by Pastor Steve Carney, Emily Clark, and Ruby Harp, of the Church of God in Germantown, Ohio, with the assistance of many others. In partnership with Wounded Knee leaders Pastor Stanley and Sylvia Hollow Horn, these Church of God leaders are excited for this central gathering place to serve the needs of the community and share the hope of Christ.
Emily Clark, a recent graduate of Anderson University School of Theology who has had a burden for this ministry, and who has served the Native Americans in a variety of ways, will be the on-site leader for Place of Promise. Reflecting on the commitment of the Germantown Church of God, Place of Promise, Church of God Ministries, and the many other congregations and individual supporters, Pastor Steve Carney said that there seems to be a convergence of ministry initiatives with a focus on the needs of Native Americans. We give thanks to our Lord for that and want to be in step with Spirit as it relates to this work.
A ground-breaking ceremony for Place of Promise took place on September 20. Actual construction is to begin in June 2014. For additional information about Place of Promise and to learn how you can help, contact Emily Clark at 269-312-0837 or Emily.Clark05@gmail.com.
Ryan Chapman is the Church of God Ministries liaison to Native American Ministries.