Haskell Indian Nations University is an all-Native school that was once a source of great pain for Native people. It was one of many boarding schools aimed at forcing Native children to assimilate, often through means of abuse. This once boarding school has been turned into a four-year university to serve only Native students. Students that attend here are very spiritual and love the Creator. Jesus, however, is a whole different story.
One Wednesday night during the fall semester, we were continuing our chronological look at the book of John. That night we were studying John 5:31-47 in Roe Cloud, a dorm on campus. That night was like any other night at Haskell. Students came to the study in pairs, 20 or 30 minutes after we had started. Jessica* and Michael* came about 30 minutes into our discussion. Jessica is a quiet freshman with a minimal church background. She had been invited by James*, a student leader, to come and had come sporadically. Jessica rarely spoke in the group but seemed to enjoy being in the group.
After Jessica and Michael came, we shifted into the second part of our discussion. In this second section, we focused on how Jesus is talking about being a testimony about Himself. I asked the students, “Is Jesus a testimony to you in your life?” While most of the discussion has been easy and free flowing, this question made most the students pause. Something about this question seemed to resonate and caused the Holy Spirit to stir in the students.
In response to this stirring that seemed to be happening in each student, I changed my application question. Instead of focusing on where the campus needed a testimony of Jesus, I had each student focus on themselves. I had each student write an answer to the question: "Who is Jesus to you?" After a few moments, Jessica volunteered first and responded with great enthusiasm, "Someone I need in my life!" This took me by surprise. First, she chose to speak and then to so simply state that she needed Jesus, was something I did not expect from her. I asked her to repeat herself to make sure I heard her correctly. She repeated, “Jesus is someone I need in my life.” I was struck by the simplicity of the response and told her we would talk afterwards.
After the end of the application time, James and I pulled her aside. I asked her why she decided to make her decision that night. She replied, “I’ve realized that I’m not perfect and will never be perfect. I’ve heard again and again that Jesus takes us as we are, not perfect. I want to stop trying to be perfect and let Jesus work in me.” After reassuring her that Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect, James and I led her through a prayer time of repentance and accepting Jesus into her life.
I am so glad I went with the Spirit moving inside the students. Jessica needed space to respond to the work that God had been doing in her life. I think that this really helped me to remember that even in a small group “full of Christians” it is still important to share the gospel and move when the Spirit says move.
Click for more information about Native Ministries
*Names changed to protect the students