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Native Americans release VBS curriculum for their children

Cora Pratt, crowned 2024 Pawnee Nation Princess, shares about how she became the princess and signed a hymn in her native language during the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC) annual meeting June10 at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis. Photo by Elijah Hickman

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Vacation Bible School curriculum for Native American children recently was released by the Fellowship of Native American Christians.

Pawnee Chief Junior Pratt, who developed the study with a team, made the announcement at FoNAC’s June 10 annual meeting at the Westin in Indianapolis.

“Junior Pratt has been an ambassador for Native cultural ministry without compromising the gospel,” Gary Hawkins, FoNAC’s executive director, told the hundred or more people present.

The announcement of the contextualized VBS material was one of several highlights of FoNAC’s ministries over the past year.

“This is a study of the Book of John from Native Americans’ perspective, the ‘I am’ passages,” Pratt told Baptist Press. “For example, Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life.’ Nearly every tribe has fry bread, and it’s the fry bread that makes the meal. That’s something every Native kid knows. So when they hear it would not be a fulfilled life without Jesus, the bread of life, they get it.”

Steve Strickland, missions director for the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association of 71 Native churches from seven Native tribes in North Carolina, invited FoNAC participants to the “Native Voices: Proclaiming the Gospel” conference Sept. 27-28 at Union Light Baptist Church in Maxton, N.C.

 “This is a Native-led conference designed to encourage, challenge and equip individuals and groups involved in Native ministry across the United States and Canada,” Strickland said. FoNAC is the conference’s sponsor.

Hawkins reported on FoNAC’s recent accomplishments. Board members served in 11 states, leading in conferences, revivals, storytelling and cultural exchanges.

“Networking is a vital part of FoNAC’s ministry,” Hawkins said. “Individuals, churches and associations have come alongside FoNAC to aid in accomplishing that which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

Hawkins spoke of efforts FoNAC was involved in over the last year with likeminded entities including mission projects in Bixby and Sapulpa, both in Oklahoma; the first Hope for the Nations video focusing on North and South Dakota has been completed and the next video, featuring Native churches in Arizona and New Mexico, is progressing; and mission teams are involved in short-term projects and building long-term relationships in southwest Colorado, the Dakotas and Alaska.

Hawkins wrote a chapter titled “Biblical Principles in an Indigenous Context” for the book Local Focus, Global Impact edited by Lloyd Harsch, a history professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

President/Treasurer Jordan Kanuho reported churches have contributed $80,000 in each recent year for FoNAC’s ministries; more financial support is being sought for additional ministries across the United States and Canada.

Kanuho also spoke of churches already successfully utilizing the VBS material developed by Pratt and of the Native Voices conference in North Carolina in September.

“We are excited to be among the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association and share the work FoNAC has been doing among our Native people,” Kanuho said.

Following worship led by Native Praise, a women’s choir directed by Augusta Smith that sings primarily in  Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw, and Pawnee Princess Cora Pratt signing “The Lord’s Prayer” sung in Pawnee by her father Junior Pratt, Mike Cummings, a Lumbee Native and former president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention, brought FoNAC’s morning message.

He preached from Psalm 8 about identity formation. The passage opens and closes with, “Lord our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!”

“God wants us to know Him,” Cummings said. “He wants to know us. … It’s a partnership to the work He has called us to.”