Greetings to our Fellow Believers,
The last weekend of October is a special time of rejoicing throughout our Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod but especially for us in Arizona and for our brothers and sisters on both the San Carlos Apache Reservation and the Fort Apache Reservation. It was 125 years ago in 1893 that our WELS sent several pastors to Arizona to begin the spreading of the Gospel to the Apache tribes.
In one of the synod’s conventions (in 1876 I believe) a decision was made to seek an Indian tribe in the United States or territories (Arizona was not a state yet but a territory) among whom no other Christian church body was present. “This is the worst time to begin an Indian Mission,” said a veteran missionary to WELS in synod convention as they contemplated their first world mission effort. Seven days later, Native Americans defeated U.S. forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn which often is referred to as Custer’s Last Stand. It was found that the message of Jesus was not being preached among the Apaches in Arizona and it was decided that here was the place to begin our Synod’s first outreach (Beyond the Midwest states).
So the missionaries came. I speculate that they knew the German language better than English, but that made no difference for the Apache understood neither. However, with the use of interpreters and with great patience the pastors spread the powerful Word of God. The Holy Spirit brought people to faith in Jesus and continued to do so. Congregations were established. The oldest Lutheran churches in Arizona of any synod are not in Phoenix or Tucson areas but on the Apache reservations such as at San Carlos and Peridot. It was following the outreach work on the reservations that in 1911 a Lutheran Church was established in Phoenix (Zion Lutheran on Van Buren just to the west of 7th
Avenue – it no longer exists) and a Lutheran Church was established in Tucson, (Grace Lutheran Church near the U of A campus which is flourishing).
Today there are over 3000 souls who are part of the congregations on the Apache reservations at places such as San Carlos, Peridot, Bylas, East Fork, Whiteriver, Canyon Day, Cibecue, Cedar Creek, and McNary. Lutheran Schools are in Peridot and East Fork. . In addition, there are Apache Christians in many congregations outside of the reservations such as here at Emmanuel. What a privilege it is to worship our Lord with them.
Established has been the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) for the training of adults with emphasis on taking leadership roles in the congregations and also for the training of men to become pastors. There are now two Apache pastors. Our Thursday morning Bible Class that meets at Denny’s contributes weekly to the ACTS program. ACTS will also play a key role in the training of workers to share the gospel with other Native American communities. There are 500 reservations in North America . It is said that 95% of Native Americans are not Christians and therefore do not have the comfort of salvation through Jesus. Let’s reach out to them with the Word. We pray that the Holy Spirit who brought us to faith will touch the hearts of msny Native Americans and bring them to faith.
Go on line to find out more about our brothers and sisters in Apacheland and also to find out more about the celebration on October 27-28. Check out things also by using the following: https://www.facebook.com/NativeChristiansWELS/
God’s Blessings to you,
Pastor Dan Pautz