Growing up as a Native American, James said he spent most of his life within the shadow of the United States oppression of his people.
The canyon in which James grew up was the same canyon in which the U.S. government rounded up Navajos and sent them to an army enclosure in the late 1800s.
As a child, James walked the same paths his ancestors traveled while trying to hide from those hoping to catch them. James said his father and grandfather taught him that the power he had over the white people was the hatred he had for them.
Then God worked a miracle in James’ life.
While out for a drive after he grew older, James felt a strong urge to pull his truck to the side of the road. At that moment, he felt the Lord call to him, speaking in Navajo, his mother tongue. God convicted him that he needed to forgive those who had abused his ancestors, he said.
After accepting the Lord into his heart, James contacted some Anglo pastors in his county. He started hosting Bible studies and knew he needed to grow deeper in his faith.
Then James heard about the Leadership Development Network (LDN), a pastoral training program supported by Christian Reformed Home Missions that is dedicated to preparing trained leaders to serve congregations in Classis Red Mesa in the southwest.
James and his wife, Darleen, both enrolled in LDN’s first class in 2008. After graduation, James began ministering to a local reservation church. Darleen serves as LDN’s Dean of Students and as an LDN instructor.
Since 2008, 26 students have graduated from LDN with a license to exhort and gone on to minister to the Native American communities.
“Classis Red Mesa used to be a mission field; now we desire to be mission senders,” notes LDN instructor Rev. Lora Copley.
“Reconciliation, truth, forgiveness, and ministry are happening in Classis Red Mesa, and have been for a while. LDN is just a small part of the bigger work God is doing in his community.”