Northern Lights: You once shared with our readers about your salvation experience. In Winnipeg you had been regularly giving rides to a couple to and from their church. One Sunday you got tired of waiting for them outside, went in, heard the Gospel, and made a decision to follow the Lord. What happened after that?
Conrad: I knew Christ was real in my life, but I didn’t get connected with a church. I read my Bible, and tried to talk to others about my new faith, but I couldn’t explain it. I already knew about “religion,” but no one was teaching me what it means to be a follower of Christ.
I had a new desire to help people, and I enrolled in two courses: Teaching Life Skills and Community Development. Along with that came some New Age and Native Traditional teaching. I knew some things weren’t right – God’s Word was burning in my heart.
That year, though, I did go along with my cousins to a Pastors Conference in Alberta put on by Native Evangelical Fellowship (NEFC). I shared with the group, and they prayed for me. I’d thought about quitting my course, but stuck with it because I thought it’d be a better testimony.
NLs: But you didn’t stay in Winnipeg.
Conrad: No, a year or so after I got saved we moved to Garden Hill, northern Manitoba, where I’d been a kid. It began with a practicum for my course, and turned into a job with the Island Lake Band.
I connected with the believers there right away, some who I already knew and was related to. It was in the NEFC church there that I found fellowship and got my theology – what I still believe about God today. It was Pastor Arnold Flett and four other church elders who taught me. I would visit each of them in their homes and they all took time for me. If I asked a question that they thought another one could answer better, they would send me over to his house.
They taught me God’s Word, and how to live the Christian life. I was pretty young and newly married. I felt kind of alone as a young Christian. My wife, Florence, was still not a believer then (but became one soon after). To encourage me, the elders showed me Tribal Trails videos with the testimonies of other young First Nations believers.
Also known as … “leadership development,” the primary goal is continuation of Bible teaching and curriculum development, discipling of new believers, development of church leaders, and their own mission endeavours to other communities.
The missionary does not take the role of pastor – the newly formed church develops its own ministries: worship, leadership, and outreach.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”
NLs: So they taught you to be a follower of Christ. When did you realize that you could be a church leader?
Conrad: It began when one of the elders talked about reaching the youth in the community, and asked me to help plan a floor hockey tournament. It took a lot of organizing, but over 200 people signed up! Then the community didn’t want us to stop, so we started a floor hockey league.
It wasn’t until later, in another location, that I would be considered a church leader. Before that, Florence and I attended Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute. The Fellowship elders really knew the Word of God, and I wanted to be like them. Most of them had been to Bible school; others had studied through NCEM’s Bible Education by Extension (BEE).
After Bible school we joined NCEM to serve with Tribal Trails TV in Prince Albert (SK). It was in “P.A.” at New Life Indian Alliance Fellowship that I first served as a local church elder.
My elders at Garden Hill had prepared me for that role. I’d seen a self-governing and self-propagating church in action. I’d learned how they’d made decisions through prayer and by seeking God’s will together. They’d taught and shown me that Christ is the head of the Church, and His Word carries authority.
NLs: Besides your involvement with your local church in Prince Albert and Tribal Trails, you’re also traveling around a lot to First Nations communities where you meet with Christian men. Is your purpose to encourage them to be involved in local church leadership?
Conrad: Actually, I think of it more as just being with the guys. I get calls, and they just want to have coffee and visit. Most of them don’t have much fellowship. I know what it’s supposed to be like on a Reserve, with a local church. I had the experience of being cared for, and that’s what they lack. Some of them have been to Bible school, but they feel alone in the community. There may be believers, but they’re not active, and there’s no structure for fellowship.
As we talk about these things, the first part is that we’re called to be spiritual leaders in our own homes, servant leaders. Being a church leader begins at home with your relationship with your wife, your children. So we talk, and they invite me back. I’m committed to them as a brother in Christ, without putting pressure on them to become church leaders. But I think they are already considered Christian leaders in their communities.
NLs: What might keep someone from stepping forward to say, “Let’s have a church in our reserve/community”?
Conrad: They need support from local people but, among other things, they need to be taught ecclesiology – what the church is. So, when I’m visiting, I teach about the church. We talk about how it should be structured, and about taking ownership – that we need to know why we’re doing church work, and not just because someone says, “You should have a church” … They’ve heard that enough.
These men are wondering to themselves, “Do I have the authority to do that?” There’s a need to instill in them some authority from God so that they come to the place to say, “I am responsible to God to do ministry in my own house, my community, my local church.”
NLs: Part of our Stage 4 says, “The missionary does not take the role of pastor – the newly formed church develops its own ministries: worship, leadership, and outreach.” Your thoughts on that?
Conrad: There has to be the thinking that, “You can do this.” I try to think that way with the things that I do for others. I don’t say it out loud, but it should be our goal. It comes with a strong relationship between the missionary and the future leader. In our Native cultures, relationships are important. We need to know what others need, learning how to build others up.
And when they’re ready, they’ll say, “We should do this.” There’ll be a growing responsibility and obedience to God’s desire for building the church.
NLs: Finally, how can we pray for potential church leaders?
Conrad: People in the community will say about the potential church leader, “Who does he think he is? … We know about his past life.” That’s where discipling comes in – building that person up in Christ, so that they can answer all those doubts from people with the Word of God.
And we need to pray that God would instill in them the passion to lead, to have that burning desire to do something for the Lord.
(from Northern Lights Issue #520). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.