Native Evangelistic Gathering

June 01, 2003 | Robert Martinez

Miracles, fishes, souls! These are some of the amazing results of a month-long Native evangelistic gathering at Northside Church in Anchorage in March. As many as 65 non-Adventist Natives, as well as Adventist Natives and non-Natives, attended the meetings, which featured Canadian evangelist Bryan Bechthold and his wife, Denise.

Since food is a key element in Native culture, the gathering included nightly potlucks of Native dishes. Northside member Joan Tobuk got help from community services leader Betty Wood, who managed to find low-cost, good-quality salmon. “We had more than enough food to feed our Native visitors,” said Tobuk. “It reminded us of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes!”

Northside pastor Robert Martinez found that music is another vital part of Alaska Native culture. “We discovered that they just love simple, old-fashioned gospel songs like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘The Old Rugged Cross,’” he said. “Those gospel songs touch their hearts as deeply as the sermons do, maybe even more so.” The meetings included music in Native tongues.

In an effort to keep close to interested attendees, a newly-established Native Sabbath school class uses the Native New Day lessons to strengthen prospective native church members. Martinez stated, “The gathering has taught us that we can reach the Alaska Natives more effectively by first better understanding and genuinely respecting their culture and then by using this understanding to reach out to them in love.”