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Four years ago, missionary Doug Millar was frustrated by the lackluster amount of conversions in his Mayan village of Chan Chen, Mexico. Despite a steady stream of short-term mission teams, next to no one in the village had become a Christian.
Ministry partner Randy Carruth suggested a solution: Invite Native Americans.
In March 2013, after three such trips by Carruth's I Am Able Ministries, 25 to 30 Mayans attended the village's first worship service. Less than a year later, Millar's church has grown to 200.
It's not an isolated case. With many Native American communities reporting signs of revival and church growth, missions leaders are increasingly trying to send these missionaries to other indigenous groups worldwide.
"Native people typically are not unfamiliar with pain and suffering and injustice, with what it looks like to be poor," said Josh Charette, a church planter and pastor in Montana who is half Turtle Mountain Chippewa. "This gives them an incredible platform, and they are typically welcomed into a lot of places Anglo people are not."
Last fall, the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board brought together 50 Native American pastors and leaders for evangelism training in New Mexico. Similar conferences took place in February and March. These gatherings are the first of their kind, says Carruth, since they are trying not just to recruit Native groups but to approach missions and leadership development from a Native perspective.
Carruth has helped teams of Native Americans take short-term mission trips to indigenous groups in Mexico and Canada, and has requests from Chile and Australia. But they're working outside indigenous communities, too. Hundreds of Ukrainians became Christians after a dozen people from several Oklahoma tribes visited on a medical missions trip last April, said Augusta Smith, head of Native American LINK, Inc.
If they do become a missions force, it'll ...