USA (MNN) — "Natalie" is not her real name. She is, however, a very real Native American young woman. She is in college, dresses in some of the latest fashions, calls friends on her cellphone, and worries about her relationships. She is also very similar to other young women on her reservation in that she has hopes and dreams that are often very difficult to attain; few job opportunities and even fewer prospects for education or employment are the norm.
In another sense, she is very different: she is the only member of her family in America who has turned away from the traditional Native American religion and embraced Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Before that, she was deeply involved in her tribal religion, but it left her empty. "I wasn't free." Natalie didn't have hope. "Everytime I did go inside and participate in these practices, these ceremonies, do the chanting, do the prayers, do the songs, I felt empty; deep down inside, I just felt there was some missing link to it all."
She attended the Ron Hutchcraft Warrior Leadership Conference a few years back and heard the message that Jesus loved her, despite her feelings that things wouldn't change. A history of alcoholism, no family support, and no prospects for marriage left her with feelings of hopelessness and a sense that life would return to what it once was.
She also still lived with some of the traditional aspects of her culture. But she realized she needed to get rid of the traditional icons and practices that have weighed her down. "At my mother's home, I had a museum of my stuff: cachinca dolls of pottery, of eagle feather, NAC (Native American Church) water bucket, pail, corn pollen, a Navajo traditional wedding basket that was blessed over." But with that came something unexpected: spirits. At night she continued to see dark figures hovering over her bed.
But as she began to read and learn more of the Scriptures, she understood she couldn't live her life with the traditional objects and be a true believer. The bondage these objects held had an aspect of slavery. "Perfect love casts out fear," says Natalie, and, "I realized these objects were based on fear." She has since thrown away the objects and has experienced true freedom in Christ.
Natalie says God has since broken her heart for Native American people. Seeing the heartache of her native people and hearing their cry for hope, she now believes God has called her to full-time ministry. She plans to become a teacher and use education as a means to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to her culture. Experiencing true deliverance and with a thankful heart, Natalie has found what she was looking for: "a future and a hope."