Reaching Native students with the Gospel

By February 5, 2020

USA (MNN) – A U.S. campus ministry is reaching the hearts of Native American young people.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship began its Native-specific ministry in 2000. Today, the program is changing lives, perceptions, and even worship styles.

One Journey Creates a Path

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Photo courtesy of Patrick Fore via Unsplash

Megan Murdock Krischke joined InterVarsity as a student, then went on to join the staff after graduation. Krischke is the daughter of a Cherokee mother and a Wyandotte father, so it didn’t take long for her to notice there was nothing for Native students among InterVarsity’s multi-ethnic ministries.

“I knew I was Native and just cared about everyone having a place at the table,” Murdock Krischke says.

“My dream for my life… is that by the time I die, Native communities would find it laughable that they ever considered Jesus the ‘white man’s God’. Because the reality is, He’s… an ethnic man, a tribal man.”

In 2016, Murdock Krischke became InterVarsity’s first-ever national Native Ministries Coordinator. She identifies five thresholds each Native person must cross in their journey of faith.

Step One: Trust

The first step is the hardest one: beginning to trust Christians. Given historic relations between Christians and Native communities, this can be a long and difficult process.

“The Church has mistreated Native people and communicated that they’re not made in the image of God… that’s just a big threshold [to cross],” Murdock Krishke says.

Several years ago, Murdock Krishke and her husband began a Native-specific chapter at Fort Lewis College in Colorado.  Describing her experience gaining the community’s trust, Murdock Krishke says, “When we first came to Fort Lewis, they wouldn’t even let us hang a poster in the Native Student Center. But, in year seven, we had a key.”

Step Two: Curiosity

Cultivating curiosity is a little easier, Murdock Krischke says. When believers express their faith through Native culture, it sparks curiosity.

“They have had the Church telling them ‘You can’t do that’, and they’ve had traditionalists saying ‘You can’t do that’,” she says of incorporating faith and Native culture.

InterVarsity’s Native ministry incorporates Native drums in worship and frybread in communion, giving a familiar feel to things that were formerly foreign.

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(Photo courtesy of InterVarsity)

Step Three: Opening to Change

After crossing the first two thresholds, some young people begin to “test the waters” by participating in community worship, Murdock Krischke says. From there, they may attend a Bible study. These steps mark the transition to a deeper level.

Step Four: Targeted Seeking

Change can be difficult, no matter your ethnic background. Many Native young people question how following Christ could impact their relationships at home.

For example, “We had a student whose father was very anti-Christian…before she could make a decision to follow Jesus, she needed to have a conversation with her dad…and seek His blessing,” Murdock Krischke says.

Though it was scary for this student, her father supported her decision. Acceptance can make it easier for students to cross the final threshold: becoming a Jesus-follower.

Step Five: Following Christ

Although these thresholds are common to most Native believers, the path isn’t always linear.

“They can kind of loop around and move forward and backward. But, [this is] a general journey we see students go through as they’re making faith decisions,” Murdock Krischke says.

Your next steps

Murdock Krishke encourages U.S. believers to learn about the Native people of their region. See an interactive map of Native lands here.

Believers can also support organizational leadership. Each staff member raises individual support and, for Native leadership, the combination of wary communities and limited resources can make this difficult. Donate here.

InterVarsity is working to build relationships with tribal colleges. Pray for responsiveness and close relationships. Ask the Lord for an atmosphere of trust, and pray Native students will be loved and served.



Header photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

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