John the Baptist said that when he saw Jesus walk up and ask to be baptized by John. Jesus and John were cousins - remember? Cousins. You know, the kids that play together at family gatherings—and get in trouble because they hid the real soda (not the store-brand knock-off stuff), or ate the pie that was supposed to be Aunt Hilda's feature on the potluck dessert table.
"You want me to baptize you? You want to give me the honor of introducing you into public ministry? I don't think so, Cuz. I shouldn't even be undoing your sandal buckles. WHAT are you trying to do here?"
In Jesus' inimitable style, he told him to just do it! "Come on John, don't waste time. This is what HAS to happen, let's get it done." And John did. And God's Spirit showed up in form of a dove and a voice was heard saying, "THIS is my beloved Son. And he REALLY pleases me!"
Everybody heard the Voice, and they all got silent.
Two weeks ago I had the honor of leading a group of men and women representing Native Nations as well as just Americans in a strategic plan designed to help reset the Vision and Mission and Goals of Western Indian Ministries (WIM) out of Window Rock, AZ. Some two dozen leaders gathered together just south of Gallup at the Broken Arrow Bible Camp, and worked for two full days of dialogue, prayer, and careful listening to each other, as they crafted the essential elements of a strategic plan. Some of the attendees weren't members of the leadership team, but were invitees of those who were. This was an eclectic group: retired people, missionaries from foreign assignments, pastors, local church leaders, ministry staff members, and even spouses who had to get baby sitters to watch the kids while they helped CRAFT THE FUTURE for WIM.
My Voice Moment came towards the end of the second day when one of the invitees stood and shared his testimony. After apologizing for his broken English (which is better than he thinks), he told us his story of being raised by Christian parents in Moldova during the 1960's - in the USSR; and how he came to live in the Four Corners now, because of his BURNING DESIRE to "minister to Indians".
Daniel Solyuk's Story
My parents and grandparents were Christians - a part of the Independent Baptist movement in my country. That movement grew to 50,000 - 80,000 strong believers before the KGB said "In this decade we will eradicate Christians from USSR. In 1965 we will show you last Christian on TV before he dies. Then Christianity will be gone in our country." And then they began to infiltrate our church. KGB agents got baptized, and became pastors, and then we couldn't meet in our churches anymore. We had to meet underground - in the woods - at night. My father and my grandparents were harmed by the KGB. We were persecuted for our faith in Jesus. Finally my parents fled to the USA to live in Sacramento, California.
For 25 years I have prayed "LORD, someday I want to minister to Indians. I want to go where You have Indians so I can share Jesus with them." I thought, some day I will go to Africa where there are Indians, so I can minister to them. But for now, I live in USA, and have to work. So I drove a truck. Across country.
When my load made me drive east through Arizona and New Mexico I saw signs: "INDIAN RESERVATION". I pulled my truck over and jumped out of the cab onto my knees and said THANK YOU GOD! You brought me to Indians. And God said, "Yes, and you will minister to them here!" I delivered my load as quickly as I could, and drove home as fast as I could and told everyone,
"INDIANS! I FOUND INDIANS!"
They all said to me, "Daniel, there are no Indians in USA."
"YES! I found them - look!" (as I opened my Atlas to the map) "HERE! HERE THERE ARE INDIANS!!!"
It took three years, but now eight months ago my wife and 8 children moved here. We live in the house Sigi Notah built. Sigi was Navajo interpreter for Grandpa Clark as he taught the Navajo people of Jesus' love for them over 100 years ago. Today, we don't think it is hard to live in Sigi's one-bedroom house. That's not hard for us!
WE CAN MINISTER HERE TO INDIANS!
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS of PRAYER are answered. And more Russian families are coming to visit and to minister with us. We are praying for great revival in this reservation because God brought us here.
My Voice Moment came when Daniel said,
We love American church, and we love Indians so much. Because in our land EVERYONE loves Indians. But the American church needs something . . . .
The American church needs to learn that suffering is good. . .
Persecution helps you grow strong. . . .
That was my moment to be silent. I looked at the people sitting around the table, and no one was speaking. Daniel's words were settling in.
"This is my beloved son, he pleases me."
"Persecution is good for the church - it makes us strong."
Before we walked out of that room, we sang the chorus together—
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my precious Savior,
I surrender all.
WITH GOD'S HELP, WE WILL DO SOMETHING WITH THAT CHALLENGE.
On a Very Personal Note:
My great-grandparents fled Germany in the mid-1800's to be able to worship God freely. They stopped in Ukraine, living in communities along the Volga River for years, and then again (because of Czars' demands) they resolved to move again—this time to America where they could have religious freedom. In the 1860's members of the Jantzen Clan migrated from Ukraine to Kansas, and eventually my grandfather and his wife and children settled in Paso Robles, California.
In a one-on-one chat with Daniel, I asked him 'exactly where is Moldova?' (My ignorance didn't seem to bother him.)
"Moldova is between Russia and Ukraine. In USSR we were all neighbors."
Cousins? Don't know.