When I was in prison did you…?

by Volkhard Graf

It began about a year ago. Out of the blue we received requests from Native inmates located in prisons in different parts of the country. The letters were sometimes scribbled on half-sheets of notepaper and contained questions, asking for resources to help them in their spiritual walk.

Some asked if we could help supply traditional objects of worship, others spoke of how the inmates had come to know Creator through Jesus while incarcerated. We have no idea how inmates got our contact information, especially since requests came from so many different prisons.

We wrote back, to provide printed study materials that could be helpful in their process of becoming apprentices of Jesus, following him behind prison walls. In some instances regular correspondence began to form. We heard heartbreaking stories of abandonment, neglect, abuse in younger years, often leading to lives of addiction, criminal acts, and prostitution.

Many years ago, when I received my own call, the words of the prophet Isaiah speaking about the Messiah, Creator’s Son, strongly impacted me:

He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners… (Isaiah 61)

We began hearing stories of hope, how the desperation, loneliness, and heartache had literally driven inmates to Jesus. They found acceptance, forgiveness, comfort, and strength in their difficult situations. They also shared their concern for other family members, in one instance, a lady told us of her husband who was incarcerated in another maximum security prison and wanted us to get in touch with him. We have been able to provide Bibles, Books, and other relevant materials, particularly from a Native perspective and have heard back that they are helpful and that there is a desire for more. Because of security restrictions, these materials often need to be shipped directly from the publishers, which is more costly. If you would like to financially support this outreach, you can donate securely here.

A gift of $25 covers a paperback discipleship Study Bible, or Richard Twiss’ book: “Many Tribes–One Church, Following Jesus the way God made you”

Falling Into Place–A Story of Overcoming

Nez Perce, Author: Falling Into Place

Nez Perce, Author: Falling Into Place

For someone on the outside looking in, she had it all. Beauty, notoriety, influence, financial security. Millions of people regularly watched her news reports on the national TV show, CBS This Morning. She had won several Emmy Awards for her outstanding work, rubbed shoulders with Presidents, First Ladies, Actors and Musicians and covered human interest stories from wildfires to crimes. However, when her husband of seventeen years unexpectedly asked for a divorce, she was thrown into a deep emotional crisis, questioning her identity and value.

Growing up in poverty in Seattle’s “projects,” as the daughter of a Nez Perce woman and a German and Dutch father, she remembers her parents struggle with alcohol, neglect, hunger, and going without electricity and water. The rare times when she

and her siblings got to go back to Idaho to see their grandparents, were like an oasis for a thirsty traveler. There she experiencedbook-cover unconditional love, plenty to eat, comfy beds, forests to explore and rivers to swim. Another light during dark days was her Aunt Teddy, who deeply cared for her and her siblings. She would shower them with attention, take them on little discursions, and encourage them to memorize words from the Bible, such as the 23rd Psalm. Although the words didn’t make much sense to her at the time, somehow, her current crisis brought them back. She began to meditate on them and find encouragement and strength. As she reflected on her childhood and the seemingly random experiences she had made while covering news stories, she began to see a pattern emerge that showed her that God had always been near. One night while covering the Oscars Awards show in Hollywood, she felt drawn to a church near the auditorium and experienced a profound touch by God, coming to her rescue, blessing her in a powerful way.

By now you might have figured out that I am talking about Mrs. Hattie Kauffman. She has been telling her story in a newly released book entitled “Falling into Place—a Memoir of Overcoming.” During a promotional interview she was asked: “Did you find God or did God find you?” Hattie stated:

“God didn’t have to find me… He knew where I was all the time. He knew that I was a hungry girl, trying to control her world, scrambling to get somewhere and be someone. It was only when I was so broken in spirit that I could no longer even pretend to be in control…that I looked upward. God? Are you real?”

I hope you take the time to read Hattie’s insightful, deeply moving story, but even more importantly that you to realize God is there for you too, right now, waiting for you to respond to his extended hand.

From Desparation To Freedom

By Donna Ireland, Lumbee and African American. We are grateful for Donna’s permission to post her hopeful journey from despair to freedom in Creator’s Son Jesus. (Donna is preparing to complete a Crossroads Discipleship Training School at YWAM Tyler, TX and feels called to serve among Native people)


Donna Ireland with Son Emmanuel

My name is Donna. I am 39 years old and I have a seventeen-year-old son. When I was 6 weeks old a loving Christian couple adopted me. I am half African American and half Native American. My parents are Caucasian. My parents adopted a boy from South America and they have a biological son. My family went to church every Sunday. We went on family vacations.

On the outside my family appeared great. On the inside we were not great. My dad struggled with alcoholism. He was a great provider but he was hard to live with. When I was in middle school the most important thing to me was fitting in with the crowd. I felt different then other kids, I felt a void in my life. In my early teens I thought I found where I belonged. I found a crowd that smoked marijuana, cigarettes and drank alcohol. We hated life and authority. I rebelled against my parents and God. I cursed my mother out daily. I thought I was invincible. I was angry at my birth parents and took it out on any one who tried to love me. I had cool friends. I went to all the keg parties and I fit in.

I didn’t know than that a lifestyle of partying would turn into a life lived in desperation. I became desperate for a drink, desperate to get high, and desperate for someone to love me. My spirit was desperate for Jesus. He was calling me, but I was to busy being desperate for the wrong things to hear his voice.

When I was 22 I gave birth to a son. I wasn’t married. I thought having a baby might fill the emptiness I felt. My addictions took the place of my son. My parents adopted him after the state took my parental rights away from me. During this time my father quit drinking and rededicated his life to Jesus. I should have followed his lead but instead I made the streets my home. I slept behind dumpsters, in bushes, and at stranger’s houses. I smoked crack every day. I drank beer from the time I woke up until I went to sleep. I would stay awake for days. I lived like this for about four years. My parents lived a few miles away from me, but I didn’t think I had a problem and I liked the way I was living. My parents finally convinced me to enter into a detox center. I weighed 90 pounds. I was so weak that I was in a wheel chair the first few days. After detox I went into a one-year faith based rehabilitation center.

It was there that I found my healer and my Savior. I found what was missing in me all along. His name is Jesus Christ. I surrendered my life and my will to Jesus. When I surrendered to Jesus he forgave me for all that I did. I am a new creation today. I graduated Bible School. I have worked in full time addiction ministry. I am healthy. God is working on my relationship with my son. My relationship with my parents has been completely restored.

Jesus has done amazing things in my life within five years. If he can do these things for me imagine what he can do for you. Jesus has a plan for you. There is hope for everyone. I pray that you will surrender your life to Jesus and receive the wonderful plans he has just for you.

I did awful things in my addiction and God forgave me. When I surrendered my life to Jesus he wiped away all my sins.

No matter what you’ve done or where you come from you are beautiful in God’s eyes. You are important and you deserve an abundant life in Jesus. Jesus has a glorious plan waiting for you. He’s just waiting for you to call on him.

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)


Volunteer champions making a real difference

Copyright: Marc Walters Photography | Used With Permission

Copyright: Marc Walters Photography | Used With Permission

“Do you ever have need for adult volunteers” the short message sent via our website asked!

Responding to the request, we listed a few areas where our ministry can make use of volunteer workers. We also asked about particular our responders areas of interest . While exchanging emails, we found out that Marc is a professional photographer and his wife Jill a nurse. This gave rise to a few more ideas how they could contribute and led to their first visit in Kamiah during the annual Looking Glass Pow-Wow. Marc began to take pictures, listened to suggestions and thought deeper about what could be done.

Several weeks later he contacted us again, to see if he could come with all his equipment and cameras to do a professional photo shoot for any Nez Perce Tribal members who might be interested. We began contacting the local tribal Community Center and they graciously entered into partnership with us to provide the place for shooting the pictures and helping promote the event. Emails were sent, calls where made, facebook announcements posted, and on Nov. 5 and 6, Marc and Jill took 374 different images of a a number of Nez Perce people, some dressed casually, some in regalia. One re-known Choctaw artist, Roger Amerman, had his beadwork photographed, which had just recently been returned to him from the Smithsonian

As part of Marc’s service, he offered a free print to each person or family and all his images will be made available to individual participants on a CD, making it possible for them to have them printed for Christmas cards, sent in emails or posted on facebook and webpages by their owners, without the expenses and restrictions of a regular commercial shoot.

All in all a great blessing to all participants, who expressed their gratefulness to Marc at the photo shoot.

Take a look at Marc’s great work and “like” his facebook page. (Check back soon for a link to some of the images taken here)

We hope Marc and Jill’s generous example encourages or reminds you of something you can contribute to make a real difference in the lives of people. What could you contribute? Consider your gifts, interests, talents, or simply the willingness to give some of your time or resources. Whether it is through our ministry or the many other possible avenues of involvement, you can make a difference with what you have been given for others!

If you have a question, how you can possibly assist our local work, feel free to contact us with your suggestions. There are things that can be done even without being physically present at our location.

(Photograph, Courtesy of Marc Walters Photography)


YWAMers in Native Ministry gather in Flagstaff

This Fall, YWAMers in Native Ministry from across the US gathered at YWAM Tribalwinds in Flagstaff, Arizona. As a group we visited one of the Hopi communities,

YWAM Native Ministries Conference 2012

YWAM Native Ministries Conference 2012

presented protocol gifts and expressed publicly our sorrow for sins, injustices, and shortcomings of the distant and recent past. We were also able to share that we desire to be among them and serve in the attitude and humility of Jesus. Many of the traditional elders present had tears in their eyes. Although their traditions have many, sometimes hidden hints pointing to Jesus, they have often not been recognized and accepted by non-native sent-ones. The gospel therefore always had the air of something foreign for Native people and its transforming power was never able to find deep roots.

We were treated to traditional Hopi delicacies, such as blue corn dishes, spices, meats, and of course deserts. We are learning more and more that we are not called to just present the message of Jesus but also to seek connection, even permission from local elders and leaders. One of our leaders shared that when he did that in a Native community, he was told that in over one hundred years of missionary presence in the community, never had any official introduction been made or permission sought. Our friend was commended for being the first Christian who had ever done so. He also was told that he would enjoy the blessing and protection of the village leader in case of misunderstandings.

Merrill Sequi, Hopi, leading us in worship

Merrill (Mayo) Sequi, Hopi

One of our greatest joys was the participation of Native people from the Hopi and Navajo Nation, who just recently had completed their Discipleship Training Program (DTS). Despite the mistakes we as non-natives have made, they expressed their interest to work together in reaching more Native people. We blessed and covenanted with each other to labor together in the Spirit of Jesus and to be there for one another. Our Native friends than did something that deeply touched and humbled us. They felt led to wash our “non-native feet”. Everything within us cried out: “No, it is us who need to wash your feet.” As a sign of forgiveness, despite centuries of injustices, paternalism, and misunderstandings, our co-workers wanted to show their love in this tangible way. It was a deep, emotionally and spiritually touching time for us. (You can see more pictures of the conference here)