Learning From A Native American
- 2005 6 Jun
I recently stood, tears trailing down my cheeks, as I listened to Darrell Auginash, an Ojibwe Native American, sing Amazing Grace to the rhythm of his traditional drum. Darrell, a minister on the Red Lake Reservation where the March 21st high school massacre occurred, is teaching me a lot about my call to my family.
Darrell’s life has not been easy. Though raised by an attentive and loving father, he succumbed to the pressures of reservation life as a teen, taking up drugs and alcohol. He became a Christian at 27 years old thanks to the faithful testimony of his wife, Corky. The first 20 or more years after his conversion were spent “getting the world out” of him. Eventually, Darrell matured and God called him to attend seminary and to then return to his people to share the gospel.
Darrell reminds me of the verse in Ephesians 6 that tells us to “stand” and then says, “and after you’ve done everything, stand.” Sharing the gospel with a culture that is embittered against Christianity was never an easy task for Darrell. Add a teenage killer and the horror of a massacre and the job becomes daunting. Now multiply the problem with a surrounding community that struggles to reach out to the people of the reservation due to racial tension and you’ve got a prescription for despair.
But Darrell stands.
And he walks forward, sharing his love with hurting kids, exhorting his people to forgive, and planning a plethora of ways to minister to those traumatized by the tragedy.
Darrell teaches me to stand.
As a home schooling mother, I haven’t faced a killer’s gun. My personal circle includes mostly Christian moms, many of them homeschoolers, and we’re all dedicated to sharing Christ with our children. Yet, there are many days I find it difficult to stand. The responsibility to teach and train my children can be overwhelming. I get discouraged by bad attitudes (mine and theirs!), the magnitude of tasks that pull at me, and academic concepts that seem beyond our grasp.
But, listening to Darrell reminds me that God is bigger than the things that pull me down. He is powerful enough to move mightily through Darrell on the Red Lake Reservation, and to work through me to bless my family. Just as God is leading Darrell, showing him ways to answer the needs in his community, God will empower me to meet the needs of my family. I can stand.
Darrell also teaches me about suffering. His nephew, Ryan, was one of the wounded in the Red Lake tragedy. Darrell could have gone inside of himself focusing on his own pain, or the pain of his immediate family. But, instead of pulling away from others who are hurting, Darrel enters their pain as well, spending countless hours visiting in their homes, talking with the survivors, weeping with the families, taking the teens fishing—doing whatever he can to bring them comfort and encouragement.
His actions remind me that the Bible tells us to weep with those who weep.
As a home schooling mom I have to ask myself, am I willing to enter into the suffering of others?
Recently, Darrell exhorted me, “In this secular society it is every man for himself. We’ve lost the heart to serve. We get into our own little worlds and become like the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan. We walk on by.”
His words remind me to teach my children to be the Good Samaritan, not the religious scribe who won’t dirty his holy robes. While we need to share tragedy with our kids in an age appropriate manner, I believe informing our children of the world’s pain, and helping them find ways help, is an important step in their spiritual training. It takes them out of the natural tendency to self-centeredness and teaches them to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world.
There is a temptation to protect my children (and myself) from the pain of the world. But that wouldn’t be following Jesus, who left perfection to live in our messes and save us from the world’s hopeless condition. I believe entering into the suffering of others needs to become an important part of my children’s homeschooling curriculum.
I’m learning to allow my heart to be broken over the pain of others and to let suffering become an opportunity to ask the Lord, “How do you want our family to respond?” I see my children’s hearts becoming tender as well.
Living the call
As I visited with Darrell, it became clear that his life is focused on a couple of important values: relationship with God and family. Darrell believes Jesus is the only real answer for his people. As he seeks to share Christ, he focuses on the needs of families and children.
Darrell is starting a private school with a strong home schooling component. He plans to offer a curriculum to help the parents learn how to disciple their kids. He firmly believes that teaching children of Christ in the context of every day life is key. He pleads with parents to make their children the priority saying, “The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to spend time with them.”
I, too, believe Jesus is the only answer for the hurting world and for my family. Like Darrell, I believe that a strong family focus is more important than money, success, or the myriad of activities that entice us. But it’s easy for me to get caught up in the business of running my family and accomplishing the many tasks that fill my day. Too often, I’m busy doing “stuff” that gets in the way of spending quality time with my children. I constantly seek to balance the children’s need to discover their own talents and passions with our needs as a family. It’s never an easy task.
Talking with Darrell this week has returned my focus to the call. God has called me to spend time with my children. Lots of it! He wants them to know that they are precious to Him and a delight to their parent’s heart. They taught this through the relationship my husband and I give them. May we live out the call.
To support Darrell as he ministers to the families of the Red Lake Reservation, you may donate to First Nations Ministries. You may contact Darrell Auginash at firstname.lastname@example.org, call him at 218-586-3334, or write First Nations Ministries, 11559 Sandpiper Rd NE, Bemidji, Mn 56601. For a more detailed look at the Red Lake tragedy and its comparisons to Columbine, visit Torchgrab ministries at http://www.torchgrab.org/redlake.htm.
A mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer writes from her home in Colorado. Her website, www.soulscents.us offers a free weekly devotional as well as Christian book reviews, home schooling hints, and a parenting page. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us