Mission Spotlight: McFaddens with Nations in Colorado

Nations Students Colorado 2Ewan & Jodi McFadden serve Native American students on the university campuses of Denver and Boulder, Colorado. They serve with Nations, one of the campus ministries of Cru.

Ewan describes their work with Native American Students:

“There are approximately 1600 Native students in Denver and Boulder. Some of them have grown up very traditionally and come from cultures that are very different from the majority white American culture. Many Native students are somewhere in between—considering themselves Native and caring very deeply about that part of their identity but also having grown up more connected to the majority culture.

  • We build relationships with Native American college students and teach them about Jesus Christ.
  • We help believers to grow in their faith in the Lord and explore how they can serve the Lord and be people who serve their families and communities for Christ.
  • We seek to provide a “home away from home” atmosphere to these students, to welcome them into our home and lives and church to help them to build community while they are at college, and so that they will be able to foster that type of community wherever God leads them next, whether it is in going back to where they grew up or to a different location. 

Ewan & Jodi McFadden FamilyBuilding trust and really investing in individual relationships is a key in our ministry, too. Without this piece we would reach no one, I believe. This is a real shift from other ministries we’ve been involved in, though, where you could just put out a signup sheet for a Bible study and have 8 people signed up on the first day. In Native cultures you need to earn the right to minister to someone by investing in a friendship with that person.

A question for many [of our students] is, “Can I be Native and a Christian, too?”  What does it look like to honor my family and heritage and still follow Jesus Christ?  Not many white people in the U.S. grow up asking the first question, “Can I be a white person and a Christian, too?” We may face a lot of opposition to our faith in Jesus from family or friends, but not as much from our culture, I would say, as many Native people would.

Nations Students ColoradoAs far as the “Can I be Native and a Christian?” question, we go right to the Scriptures to help students explore the answer. We talk about the Jewish community in the Scriptures and how they had many similarities to Native people’s lives. We talk about how Moses was a man trying to follow God who could be said to have been tri-cultural (a Hebrew raised by the Egyptians who then spent many years in the land of Midian and raised a family there). We encourage people that they do not need to give up being Native to become a Christian but rather that a Native person, just like everyone else, can come to Christ through repentance and faith and have a relationship with Him in a culturally authentic way, unashamed of the way God has made him or her.”

Another challenge [our students face] is the pressure and expectations placed on these students by those sending them off to college. A Native friend told me that only 18% of Native freshmen go on to graduate college. And as these students go off to college, they are separated from one of their main sources of support and strength in life—their family.

This is why it requires such effort to rebuild trust with Native peoples in a ministry context:

Many Native people use the words “historical trauma” to refer to the way Native people have been treated over the last 500 years. It is astonishing how little we knew about this history.

Probably the biggest thing that has hurt the Native community in the last 150 years was the boarding school system.

  • There were around 500 schools in the U.S. and Canada, beginning in the 1860s.
  • Children as young as 6 years old were:
    • taken from their families
    • forced to cut their hair
    • no longer [allowed to] wear their traditional clothing
    • no longer [allowed to] speak their own language
    • In some cases, children did not return home until they were 18.
  • What is worse, even though many of these institutions were run by Christian denominations in partnership with the government, many children experienced verbal, physical and sexual abuse during their time there.
  • Some of these schools were still in operation in the 1970s and 80s.
  • Not every Native person’s experience in these schools was terrible, but for so many it was.

It is because of systems like this that many Native Americans refer to Christianity as “the whiteman’s gospel.”

  • One Native believer, Craig Stephen Smith from the Ojibwe tribe in his book “Whiteman’s Gospel”, writes: “For many of my people, the methods that were used (to spread the gospel) historically overshadowed and nullified the message of Christ, so that many won’t give consideration to the wonderful saving message of Christ and Calvary.”

Ministry Background:
Ewan & Jodi have been with Nations in Colorado for the past 2 years but have been serving in cross-cultural ministry with Cru for a total of 15 years. While Ewan served in Ukraine for 2 years, Jodi was serving in East Asia. Then they served African-American students together at Mizzou for 2 years before moving to Russia where they served college students for 8 years in the cities of Krasnodar and St. Petersburg.

Crossing Connection:
Ewan & Jodi attended The Crossing while serving with Cru at Mizzou from 2003-2005. Ewan says, “God used the Crossing to deepen our understanding of Him and challenged us to live out our faith in our daily lives. I have also used a number of the worship songs I learned at the Crossing as I’ve led worship in different places.”

Ways to Pray for Ewan & Jodi:

    • For growing friendships that are Christ-centered.
    • That they would build trust and have fun with students they meet.
    • That they would have favor in the Native communities in Denver and Boulder.
    • That God would help them to disciple students well and challenge students to boldly follow Jesus and serve others around them, sharing their faith and growing in their ability to lead and serve.

Follow the McFaddens’ Blog: Mattew24fourteen

Donate to Ewan & Jodi

Contact info: [email protected]

Source: email interview with (Patrick) Ewan McFadden


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