Drive-by Missions: Rethinking Mission Trips to Native American People Groups

Jacob Eckeberger
November 11th, 2016

Last month, NYWC speakers Coby Cagle and Corey Greaves of Mending Wings joined me for a Hangout On Air to talk about an important topic that they’ll be discussing in their Drive-by Mission seminar.

Corey and Coby shared a lot of really important ideas, and here are a few that were the most impactful for me personally:

The importance of asking for permission.

I have been a part of countless agenda based mission trips, where we went into a community with our own ideas of what they needed. Corey reminded me about how significant it is to ask for permission to come long before we decide on the trip. This allows the community we want to serve the opportunity to invite us in, describe their greatest need and help us meet it.

It should be noted that when working with Native American people groups, you need the permission of the entire tribal council, not just one person or pastor on the reservation.

We’re not talking about a singular event, we’re talking about discipleship.

Coby shared that from his experience, he needed to shift his understanding of mission trips from a cool trip to a catalyst for a life-style of service and discipleship. This process helped him redefine what a mission trip should be, and as a result, he created service trips where he partners with organizations like Mending Wings that help their students experience different cultures through this lens.

It’s not just about the kids, it’s also about going on a journey of discovery as a youth worker.  

“What does it mean to be the person and the people God created you to be?”

Coby shared that his relationship with Corey and the Yakama Reservation helped him realize that it was OK for him to be a white man from the south. There is an incredible amount of beauty in every culture, and God can speak through it all. It’s just a matter of being open to those around us enough to learn from it.

Reciprocal relationships are the key.

One of the lessons Coby shared from his own experience is the importance of understanding what it takes to build authentic reciprocal relationships with the communities that your ministry serves. This ingredient is what helps transform the connection with a community from a harmful mission trip experience to a thriving discipleship relationship.

Yeshua is Jesus’ tribal name.

I hadn’t connected this idea before, but Corey made a powerful observation that as a Native American, he connects with Jesus’ tribal nature. This creates an incredible link between their cultures and places the story of Christ in a really fascinating perspective.

The western form of Christian theology may not be the only right, or orthodox form of Christian theology.

Corey shared a powerful historical description of what Christianity has looked like to Native American people groups. He covered the first colonial encounters, the mission of boarding schools to “kill the Indian but save the man,” manifest destiny, and more, catching us up to today. In the process, Corey reminded me about the importance of that history and its impact on their own Christian theology.

Join us at this year’s National Youth Workers Convention to hear Corey and Coby talk more about Drive-by Missions: You’re Killing Us!

jacob-eckeberger_200_200JACOB ECKEBERGER is the Content Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.

Jacob Eckeberger

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