Walking Alongside Our Indigenous Siblings

EMQ » April–July 2024 » Volume 60 Issue 2

Brazil: Tribal church leaders from Suriname share over Zoom about how their network of churches is reaching out to other indigenous communities both near and far. Photo By Heather Pubols

Summary: Across the Americas, God is calling foreign, national, and Indigenous believers to find a place alongside and not ahead of each other as they work together to grow the kingdom of God.

By Heather Pubols

In July 2023, I attended three back-to-back meetings in Brazil for foreign, national, and Indigenous missionaries. During that time, they celebrated more than 30 years of collaboration among these groups. This collaboration came about because of outside pressures. The region’s remaining groups without a gospel presence were increasingly off-limits to foreigners and non-Indigenous. Missions strategy would have to look different.

God did not take this difficulty away. Instead, he accompanied his people into a new season of relationships – ones that challenged foreign, national, and Indigenous people to find a place alongside and not ahead of each other. 

What started in Brazil has spread to other countries in the Amazon and lowland regions of South America – including Colombia, Peru, and Suriname. Even Indigenous people in the highlands are looking into collaborative strategies. Foreign, national, and Indigenous people are finding ways to work together to reach the remaining unreached people groups across the continent while strengthening the existing church.

In the final meeting I attended in Brazil, I listened to tribal church leaders in Suriname talk over Zoom about the work they are already doing to share the gospel with other Indigenous communities near them. They further shared that they sent a couple to study English in Canada with a goal of reaching out to Native communities in Northern Canada. And they are needed there.

While the Joshua project lists no unreached Indigenous people groups in the US and Canada,[i] the need for faithful gospel witnesses among Indigenous communities in North America remains. Government attempts at assimilation (with historical help from missionaries and churches) left festering wounds that need healing. These show up in high suicide rates, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug use, and more.

Like in South America, missionary partners in North America recommend participating from a posture of mutual interdependency. Walking alongside our Indigenous siblings, we can provide support through building genuine relationships, encouraging, compassionate service, and training and equipping. Listening to and acknowledging the pain of the past is also a profoundly important way we can demonstrate the gospel in action and participate in God’s ministry of reconciliation.

This issue of EMQ lets you have a peek at how this is playing out on the ground across the Americas right now. Our contributors explain what has gone right, what has gone wrong, and ways we can move forward together.

Our extras section contains two articles which complement our theme. They explore what cultural intelligence and acculturation look like when missionaries cross not just one, but many cultures.

Read the April 2024 issue of EMQ

Heather Pubols
Editorial Director

[i] “People Cluster: North American Indigenous,” Joshua Project, accessed February 13, 2023, https://joshuaproject.net/clusters/246.

EMQ, Volume 60, Issue 2. Copyright © 2024 by Missio Nexus. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from Missio Nexus. Email: EMQ@MissioNexus.org.