Reaching Out to the Native Indian Community

Mar 10, 2003 02:13 PM EST

OMAHA, Neb.— A Native Indian Christian couple reaches out to the reservations with hearts of hope. Ton and Alpha Goombi, featured missionaries during the North American Mission Board’s Missionaries Week of Prayer, March 2-9, minister to three Indian reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota.

The Goombis say they have an opportunity to share the gospel with the Native Indian because they are natives and descents of Oklahoman tribes; Ron is a Kiowa Choctaw from Oklahoma, Alpha is a Kiowa and Apache.

"Our background helps get our foot in the door, but beyond that, people watch us to make sure our Christian testimony is real," said Ron, who has been director since 1993.

"They really don't want to hear about Jesus because [they believe] he's a white man's God," Alpha said. "It's hard to bring Christianity to Native Americans because they see it as a threat to their identity. Many people mistrust things that come from the white man. It is rare to see Native American Christian people. When Indian women see me come in their door on their reservation, they can see that God has helped me, so he can help them, too."

In the reservations, Ron and Alpha testify and give an account of their faith. Alpha, who did not accept Christ until the age of 27, explain God’s comfort during the hardships in her life, such as sexual abuse, poverty, alcohol and prejudice – the same hardships many Native Americans feel as well.

"I had a very painful life before my conversion, and I am able to share truthfully with people who are lost and hurting," she said. "I want to serve God because of what he's done in my life."

Alpha’s conversion marked a turning point in her life and in their marriage. The couple soon afterwards attended a church near their home God called Ron into ministry.

"I didn't surrender to the ministry," said Ron. "I just answered God's call. There was so much need among Native American people in general, and I just felt the overwhelming responsibility to minister to multicultural people."

They answered the call by enrolling in the Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo, and beginning the All Nations Church as an integral part of the Omaha Baptist Center Ministry. Even their three sons, Kurtis, 24, Daniel, 18, and Jonathan, 9, participated. The Center offers bible clubs, after-school girls and boys clubs, tutoring, discipleship training and services for All Nations Church and a food pantry. Alpha serves as the church’s worship leader and women’s Sunday school teacher.

The Goombis say they see the work needed in Indian reservations everyday. High rate of unemployment, school truancy, alcohol and drugs constantly plague the reservations.

"The ills of society are magnified on reservations because they are such small communities," Alpha said.

The Omahas work to bring more churches onto the reservations. "We have leased 1.5 acres from the Omaha tribe, and we are praying for funds to build a church building," Ron said. "We have mission groups waiting to come and do the labor, but we don't have funds for materials. It's an ongoing dream to see fulltime work on the reservations."

"There are more than 550 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. alone," Alpha said. "Each has its own language, customs, worldview and religion. Each is like a nation unto itself. I'd say that less than 7 percent are being effectively reached with the gospel."

The Goombis however, hold high hopes for the reservations; they envision expanding their work to new mission points on other reservations by recruiting new pastors for a fulltime mission on Omaha Indian reservations, and brining in volunteers to assist with the ongoing ministries on the reservations.

"Many Native Americans are very spiritual in nature. And yet we come in and we let them know that we have the true revelation of Jesus Christ the Son of God," Ron said. "And that is the one thing that can change someone's life for the better."

By Pauline J.