When a Native American broke my heart


“What are humans that You are mindful of them... You made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5
Rev. Roger RussellWe were on a mission trip to the Lakota Indian Reservation of Spirit Lake in North Dakota. Touring the reservation our host and guide led us into a housing development for low in-come wage earners. She pointed out the beautiful playground equipment in the center of the compound. Our guide told us a United Methodist work team from Wisconsin had erected the playground set last year.
She went on to say, that while the team was working on the playground many of the children and youth came out of their homes to watch. After a while one young teenage Native American boy came to our guide, who was working along with the mission team and questioned her, “Why are you building this playground equipment here?”
She responded, “Because we want the children of this area to have something to play on.” The young man continued his questioning, “I understand that but why are you building that playground here?” She again answered him with a different answer, “Because we are Christians and we want to bring some happiness to this area.”
That answer still did not satisfy the young man, “You don’t understand lady, why are you building that playground set in this neighborhood?” She responded, “Because Jesus has called us to love Him and we love Him by showing that love to others.”
Finally the young man stopped our guide and said, “What I mean is, why are you doing this for us? We are only Indians.” It was at that point our guide said she broke down and wept. Hearing her story broke our hearts.
That story has made wonder:

  • “What has happened to a people “made a little lower than angels” for them to come to the place of having an attitude, “We are only Indians?”
  • Who has created in the Native American that type of consciousness?
  • How can that attitude be changed?
  • How can I help to change that attitude?
  • How can I tell them and show them they are “Special in God’s sight.”
  • What other people groups have been led to believe “they are only……” and of little worth?
  • Am I guilty?
 This story did more than break my heart it made me more aware of how I need to bestow worth on all people in general and specifically how I can bring worth to my Native American brothers and sisters.
The best way I know how to bestow worth is to convey in word and deed the worth God, through Jesus Christ, has placed upon them. “For God so loved the world.”

(Rev. Roger Russell is a clergy member of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and serves as conference superintendent assigned to the Cache River District)