Pocatello Church Members Learn to Connect With Native Americans
A small group of church members gathered at the Pocatello (Idaho) Church on Friday evening, Feb. 2, 2018, to participate in a cross-cultural training seminar, led by Monte Church, retired North Pacific Union Conference Native ministries director. The Pocatello Church is near the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, home to the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. Pocatello Church members have for some time had an interest in reaching out to the Native Americans living on the reservation.
Currently, four members of the church regularly visit with inmates at the tribal jail on Friday evenings. Marcia Robles and her son, Brooks Davis, both live on the reservation. Lewis and Denese Eakins join with them for the jail visitation, which includes Bible study.
A great way to gain respect from the Native Americans is to do something for their children. Providing educational programs for children, especially involving arts and crafts, can begin to break through a cultivated mistrust of non-Natives.
The elderly are revered, as they provide wisdom needed to ensure the survival of the tribe. Most tribal councils are made up of the elders of the tribe, who approve anything that involves the tribe or the reservation.
The Pocatello Church has an advantage in beginning an outreach on the reservation. Two of its members live there, and Davis is a member of the tribal council. Davis and Robles were baptized during the 2016 Idaho Conference Camp Meeting by José Rojas.
The training continued Sabbath morning and afternoon. A dinner and meeting followed at the home of Robles. Several other members of the tribe came. Music for the weekend was provided by Bruce Twing, who often travels with Church for events such as this training seminar.
After the meal, a smaller group, including Robles and Davis, met with Church and Marvin Humbert, pastor of the Pocatello district, to begin planning how best to reach the Native Americans on the reservation.
Robles and Davis shared that the greatest need they see is for alcohol and drug rehabilitation. The number of Native Americans who struggle with substance abuse is high. There is a need for a clinic and follow-up support for all. As their physical needs are met, there could be an opening for evangelism. Davis is on the tribal council and can act as a liaison for the church. Others have influence over the tribal funds, which can help in the development of a clinic.
The church members who attended the training seminar learned one needs to be patient, not in a hurry, when working with Native Americans. As with any other culture, it is helpful to understand the customs and traditions to connect with them in a positive way and to act like Jesus would, in a nonjudgmental way, in love.