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