Tag Archives: Native Americans

Review: And God Was There

And God Was There: A Biography of Charles and Coralie Lee, by Coralie Ann Lee. San Francisco: Blurb, Inc, 2011.

This compelling book gives the life story and ministry of Charles Lee, a noted Navajo artist and Assemblies of God pastor, along with his wife, Coralie. This work is a biography of their lives before and after they met and married, and it tells about their experiences at they labored on the reservation from 1953-1989 and beyond.

Raised in the traditional Navajo culture, as a youth, Charlie Lee searched in nature and other places until he finally was confronted with the reality of Christ and His atoning work on the cross. He attended church during his high school years, but he was not strongly committed.

During the summer after his graduation, an Apache school friend invited Charlie to visit the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. There he was encountered  a more vibrant form of worship at the Pentecostal church. He came into contact with people who joyfully lived their Christian faith. He was impressed by the Pentecostal approach to Christianity, and this led him to commit his life to Christ on New Year’s Day, 1948.

Lee had observed that his people, the Navajos, lived far below the standard of other Americans. They experienced poverty and sickness, as well as low moral standards. He began to feel a strong burden for his people, and he longed for a way to help them. Lee’s dream and vision was to build a church on the reservation where his people, the Navajo, could come and find Christ as their Savior. In his lifetime he was able to accomplish this and much more.

In his search for more of God, he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This gave him an enablement and power from God which would help him to accomplish his goal. He felt a calling into ministry and decided to attend Central Bible Institute (now Central Bible College) in Springfield, Missouri.

After graduating from Bible school in 1951, he traveled extensively in the West and Midwest as well as Canada to evangelize among Native American peoples. In 1953, he returned to New Mexico to launch out into his life’s calling. He was joined by his new bride, Coralie, and together they established Mesa View Assembly of God at Ship Rock, New Mexico.

They first traveled from Cortez, Colorado, which was 70 miles away. Later they used their station wagon for living quarters. Eventually they built a small two-room house. The Navajos, bound by superstition, alcohol, and other problems, were slow to respond. The missionary couple labored 18 months before claiming their first convert. As time went on, under his leadership the church became fully self-supporting and self-governing, and grew to more than 200 members.

In his 36 years of ministering at Ship Rock, he helped develop indigenous church leadership among the Navajos. His congregation became the first AG Native American church on a federally recognized reservation to become a General Council affiliated church. He also served as the first officially appointed national home missionary for the Assemblies of God. Today there are almost 200 Native American churches in the Assemblies of God.

In 1989 he retired as pastor, and turned the church over to his son, Eric Lee, who continues to pastor the church which today is called Four Corners Community Church. After his retirement, Charlie served as a board member at American Indian Bible College and as a chaplain at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

Charlie Lee passed away in 2003 at the age of 79, having given over 50 years of service in ministry to Native Americans. Coralie, his widow, continues to live in Shiprock, New Mexico, and attends Four Corners Community Church, which she and her husband founded almost 60 years ago.

This inspiring and captivating biography of Charlie Lee will be of interest to anyone interested in learning more about Native Americans or evangelizing among them.

Reviewed by Glenn Gohr

150 pages, illustrated. $11.99 (paperback); $28.99 (hard cover dust jacket); $29.99 (hard cover image wrap). Plus shipping. Order from: blurb.com

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Review: Mel and Corliss Erickson

Living the Call: Mel and Corliss Erickson, by Karen Koczwara. Beaverton, OR: Good Book Publishing, 2010.

For more than 40 years, Mel and Corliss Erickson have been synonymous with Assemblies of God ministry to Native Americans in North Dakota. Mel, a native of Kulm, North Dakota, and Corliss, from Hallock, Minnesota, met at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis and married in 1967.

The trajectory for their lives was set on one Sunday evening in August 1966, when Mel received a distinct call to minister to Native Americans. He recounted, “I suddenly felt God say to me, ‘I want you to go to minister to the American Indians.’ I was so shocked I nearly bolted out of my seat.” He had little exposure to Native Americans, and he asked God three times whether he had heard correctly. He reasoned that he should go to Africa, India, or South America, instead of remaining so close to home. God confirmed this call, and Mel remained true to it.

The Ericksons spent the first twenty years of their ministry as pastors of Tokio Assembly of God, located on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation near Devils Lake, North Dakota. Mel became the coordinator of the North Dakota District’s outreach to Native Americans. After resigning from the Tokio church in 1987, Erickson oversaw the planting of All Tribes Assembly of God in Bismarck and the construction of new church buildings for Native American congregations in Belcourt and Fort Totten.

Living the Call tells the engaging, faith-inspiring story of the Ericksons and their six children, as they learned to live and minister in their cross-cultural calling. This book will be of interest to those who knew the Ericksons and to those who desire to know more about life and ministry in the rural Great Plains and among Native Americans.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Paperback, 230 pages, illustrated. $15 plus postage. Order from: Dakota Missionary Evangelism

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Review: American Indian College history

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes, edited by Joseph J. Saggio and Jim Dempsey. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2008.

American Indian College, the first regionally accredited Bible College for Native Americans in the United States, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2007. Since its founding as All Tribes Bible School by Assemblies of God missionary Alta Washburn, the school has played an important role in the training of Native American pastors and the development of indigenous Pentecostal churches.

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes is a valuable collection of historical accounts, interpretive essays, and personal narratives that will evoke memories for those who lived the history. It will also become an essential resource for students and scholars who wish to better understand the history and future of Native American higher education and Pentecostalism. The book was edited by former longtime AIC faculty member Joseph J. Saggio (and now a professor at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington) and Jim Dempsey, longtime faculty member currently serving as AIC Campus Pastor.

The content of this volume falls into three major categories: 1) three previously-published histories of the school; 2) short essays or “reflections” by people associated with the school; and 3) an overview of the school’s history, mission and aims, written by the editors.

The three histories, reprinted with introductions in this volume, are: Trail to the Tribes, by Alta M. Washburn; A Trail of Beauty: A Short History of American Indian Bible College, by Pauline Dunn; and Indian Harvest: A History of American Indian Bible College, by Carolyn D. Baker.

The reflections were written by: board members (T. Ray Rachels, Rodger A. Cree, Sr., Curtis W. Ringness, and Marvin Begay); presidents (Don Ramsey, Simon Peter, Carl E. and Alice Collins, David J. Moore, Jim H. Lopez, and James V. Comer); faculty (Alma F. Thomas, Eugene Hunter, Betty J. Hanna, Belinda F. Lopez, Nancy J. Saggio, and Everett F. Peralta); staff (M. Nadine Waldrop, Sandra K. Ticeahkie, Sandra M. Gonzales, Donald P. Merino); and alumni (Lillie Ward Neal, Jimmy Yellowhair, Vince Roubideaux, James J. Bollinger, Marco J. Burnette, and Jameson D. Lopez).

George O. Wood authored the foreword. Appendices include a historical timeline, lists of members of the Board of Regents, administration and faculty, staff, and graduates. The book also includes invaluable name and photo indices.

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes deserves to be widely distributed, as it provides a rare treatment of the intersection of three important subjects, each of which merits attention in its own right: Native Americans, higher education, and Pentecostalism.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, xiv, 433 pages, illustrated. $18 plus $7 shipping and handling. Order from: American Indian College, Attn: Sylvia Rivera, 10020 N. 15th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021-2199. Checks should include the phrase “AIC Book” in the memo line. For more information or to order a book, contact Sylvia Rivera by phone (602-944-3335, ext. 221) or by email (srivera@aicag.edu).

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