AWAKENING THE SLEEPING GIANT
By Dan Wooding
In his latest special article, Dan Wooding looks at the extraordinary work
of CHIEF (Christian Hope Indian Eskimo Fellowship) amongst the native
peoples of North and South America and discovers that through this
Christian outreach, they may be right now "Awakening the Sleeping Giant."
For many of us, our picture of "Red Indians" or Native Americans, as they
are called here in the United States, comes from the Cowboy and Indian
films we saw during our childhood. They were glamorous, courageous, and
constantly fighting with the "white man."
Today, the situation for the American Indian, whose name Indian was
first applied to them by Christopher Columbus, who believed mistakenly that
the mainland and islands of America were part of the Indies, in Asia..
They have been conquered and mainly humiliated.. Some 63% of the total
Native population of 2.7 million live in the urban city areas, while most
of the rest of the approximately 550 federally recognized tribes live in
some 320 Indian reservations in the U.S. and 250 Alaska native villages.
Their plight to today is often as bad as found in any Third World
country. "One-third of Native American population live in poverty,"
explained Huron Claus, CEO of CHIEF (Christian Hope Indian Eskimo
Fellowship). "Unemployment on reservations varies from 40% to 70%.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native American and Alaska
native youths. Adolescent suicide is approximately three times higher than
national average in the age group 15-24 years old. Alcoholism is 5.6 times
higher among Native Americans than the rest of the population of the U.S..
"Native Americans have been victimized in the past. Most Native Americans
today remember the victimization, the broken promises, the discrimination
and attempts at extermination, and the lack of understanding of themselves
as people with a unique culture. As a result, they need to reconcile
themselves with the non-native American people and government and vice
versa, but in that process retain their identities as unique peoples."
One "Red Indian" who had managed to cross-over into the world of the "white
man" was Tom Claus. A Mohawk Indian from Canada, he had sung at Billy
Graham crusades with his wife Alfreda and was well accepted by the
non-native community, especially when he wore his Indian feathers.
But Claus couldn't get away from the fact that his people were
suffering and he knew he, as a Christian, needed to do something. So in
March of 1975, Tom, who is now the President and Founder of CHIEF), called
together more than 100 Christian Native leaders, from different areas of
the hemisphere, who represented missions, denominations, schools, colleges,
tribes and government agencies to participate in the Conference on
Christian Indian Leadership and Evangelism held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Delegates came from Eskimo villages in the Canadian Arctic, from
reservations across the U.S and even from the jungles of Central and South
During the three day conference participants gathered together to
pray for and discuss the spiritual, physical and social needs of Native
peoples, and to develop a course of action to meet those needs. By the end
of the conference, the consensus of the delegates was to target and respond
to the areas of greatest need. First, to disciple and develop a strong
leadership for the continued growth of the indigenous church. Then, to
encourage the local churches to send out their own people to evangelize
every tribe and nation.
With this mandate and vision, CHIEF was formed and organized by the
conference delegates. For the past twenty three years, CHIEF has provided
discipleship training, evangelism outreach and a helps ministry for
approximately 400 tribes in the Americas.
So now the work is booming because the need is so great. CHIEF
sees as one of its main roles is to evangelize, disciple, mentor and train
native leaders in a culturally-relevant context.
"This is the key to effective church growth and ongoing evangelism
amongst Native peoples," said Huron Claus, son of Tom Claus. "Many native
pastors are unable to receive viable training from formal institutions of
learning," said Claus. "Also, due to the financial limitations of most
native pastors, the cost-effective training that CHIEF can provide is often
the only biblical training they will receive."
Therefore, CHIEF provides culturally-relevant training at their
centralized training and education center known as the CHIEF Shepherd
Discipleship Center located in Phoenix, Arizona. There are approximately
400 native pastors, leaders, students, and missionary candidates who
attend our training sessions from October to May. They represent
approximately 200 tribes throughout the Americas.
"CHIEF also provides short-term training called, 'School Without
Walls'. This is a two to three-day training session that is provided in
largely populated Native American communities," explained Huron Claus, who
is also a board member of Promise Keepers. "In the past six months, CHIEF
has sponsored 14 schools on native reservations in Canada and the U.S. The
idea behind "School Without Walls" is to provide Biblical
discipleship/leadership training to native individuals who normally could
not attend a four-year formal teaching institution. This training approach
has been received with great response. CHIEF will be sponsoring 20 new
'SWW' sessions this coming year."
If discipleship training is the key that opens that the door to
effective evangelism, CHIEF's primary motivation is to take the gospel to
every native tribe in this generation. Through evangelistic outreach we
empower local church leaders to greater unity and partnership. This past
year CHIEF has worked with over 15,000 Native American men who desire to be
used of God on their reservations and in their cities in where they live.
Recently, CHIEF ministered to the largest native tribe in the
Western Hemisphere, the Quechua Indians of Peru. There are approximately
30 million Quechuas living in four countries of South America. CHIEF sent
a team of North American native leaders to minister and encourage South
American native leaders in the ministry of the gospel. There was a special
cultural gathering of over 100,000 Quechuas coming together to re-enact the
ceremony of their worship to the sun. CHIEF with the help of Quechua
pastors had open-air street evangelistic meetings with those who came to
attend the ceremony. As North American Native Christians we shared our
faith in Christ and receive the very positive response from our South
American native brothers.
One of the highlights of the work of CHIEF as been the "Sonrise"
conventions they have held. I asked Huron Claus to explain what there
"Since 1975 at the beginning of the formation of CHIEF the emphasis
has always been to encourage and empower Native Christian leadership," he
said. "In 1981, on the Oklahoma University campus, CHIEF organized its
first "Sonrise" Native Congress. There were approximately 364 Native
American pastors, leaders, and lay people representing 50 tribes coming
from North, Central, and South America. Together they looked at the needs
among Native American peoples and how best to reach their people through
evangelism and discipleship/leadership training."
Again, in 1992, near Santa Fe, New Mexico, CHIEF sponsored its
second "Sonrise" Native Congress. There were 75 different tribes
representing 35 church denominations looked at areas of church growth,
evangelism, and discipleship training among Native American peoples in
North, Central, and South America. This Congress also brought other tribal
groups similar to the Native American people. Representatives from
Mongolia, New Zealand, and Korea were in attendance.
CHIEF is making plans for its third "Sonrise" Congress to be held
in the summer of the year 2001. The focus will once again be evangelism,
discipleship training, church growth, with the emphasis on world missions
and the sending process of Native Americans to other countries.
Over the years, CHIEF has honored Christian leaders who have shown
compassion and reached to the Native American communities with the gospel
of Jesus Christ. CHIEF's very first recipient was Dr. Billy Graham. He
was instrumental and helped encourage the formulation of CHIEF. Among
others, there was Corrie ten Boom, Brother Andrew, Dr. Luis Palau, Dr. John
MacArthur, Dr. Joseph Stowell, Coach Bill McCartney, Andrae Crouch, and
Steve Green. Each was given different tribal names that told a picture of
their own lives in ministry.
One of the most recent recipients was Phil South, who runs the
CHIEF UK office in Sutton Coldfield and first became involved in the work
of ASSIST when he invited some of the CHIEF leadership to participate the
"Filey Week" convention that he was then helping to run. Later South went
on to start World Action Ministries and soon became the UK representative
"Our prime task has been to encourage prayer interest and support
for CHIEF and for Native American Indians across the Continent." said Phil
South. "We now have a UK mailing list to which we send a quarterly
newsletter and prayer diary. In addition, we have arranged for a number of
visits to the UK by various members of the Claus family, (Tom, Alfreda,
Huron, Lois & Sharolyn) as well as other Christian Indians. Ray and Jean
Smith (Ojibway Indians from Montana), Mary Kaye Henderson (a great Cherokee
singer from Oklahoma) etc. We've visited churches and schools from
Scotland down to Lands End and even across to Jersey in the Channel
"To date, I've visited the CHIEF HQ in Phoenix about 12 times.
It's an excellent Centre for training Christian Indian leadership. The
facilities are fairly basic but really quite comfortable. The site is
still developing and, if planning permission is given for the latest
development plans, then I can see it becoming the main Training Center for
Christian Indians across the USA.
"I've been through a number of the Reservations including the
Navajo(many times), Hopi, Pueblo, Haversupai, Yavapai, Walapai, and a
number of others. "
I asked Dr. Dale W. Kietzman, President, Latin American Indian
Ministries and a founding board member of CHIEF, why Christians in North
American should care for native Americans when they have so many other
problems to deal with? "We need to correct a great historical wrong--a
misunderstanding on our part. The injustices the Native Americans endured
are well documented, but do we often stop to think these were committed in
the name of God and the Gospel?" he said. Even though these were often the
actions of government, not the Church, we
have always prided ourselves on being a Christian country.
"For many Native Americans, they suffered in the same manner as
Muslims at the hands of the Christian Crusaders. Let's do something about
the fallout from that misconception."
He then added, "I am pleased CHIEF is now giving more attention to
Latin America. There are less than 3 million Indians in the US and Canada,
but just under 50 million in Latin America. The believers there need to be
brought into the larger fellowship."
Still, there is a lot of work to do says, Huron Claus. "I am
greatly challenged, as a Native Christian, to understand why after 500
years of evangelism among our Native American people less than five percent
of the total population have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and
Savior," he says. "Historically, there have been conversions made among
native peoples, yet the church has failed in developing a strong indigenous
Christian work by training native peoples the life long process of
discipleship and mentorship within the context of one's own culture. I am
a fifth generation follower of Jesus Christ. I believe the most effective
way to reach Native Americans for Christ is when they see the examples of
their own people living a life that gives God the highest praise and glory.
Native people that demonstrate a great love to God through the greatest
gift given to them by the Creator God, His son, Jesus Christ.
"The greatest moments of Native American history may lie ahead of
us if a great spiritual renewal and awakening should take place. On the
other hand, if my people continue to see Christ as just "the white man's
gospel" we are truly a people with no hope. Jesus Christ is God's greatest
gift to all mankind.
As Dr. Billy Graham has stated, "One of the most encouraging
developments on the Native Americans scene has been the express desire of
many mature Indian men and women to exert Christian leadership in all areas
of Native American life and culture. This fresh response to Christian
responsibility has best been demonstrated in the activities of CHIEF -
Christian Hope Indian Eskimo Fellowship. I commend that group for your
prayers and support.
"The greatest moments of Native American history may lie ahead of
us if a great spiritual revival and awakening should take place."
"The Native American has been like a sleeping giant. He is
awakening. The original Americans could become the evangelist who will
help win America for Christ!"
For more information on CHIEF, write to: CHIEF Inc., 1644 E Campo
Bello Drive, Phoenix, Arizona, USA 85022-2108, Phone: (602) 482-0828. Fax:
(602) 482-0860. Email: CHIEFINC@aol.com. Website: http://www.CHIEF. org.
Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern
California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international
director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times). Wooding is
also the author of some 38 books, the latest of which is "A Light To
India", co-authored with Lillian Doerksen (WinePress Publishing). Dan is
also a syndicated columnist, and a commentator on the UPI Radio Network in
Washington, DC. Dan's e-mail address is: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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