In the Bible, there is a story of when Jesus was teaching a large crowd. At the conclusion of his teaching his disciples observed that it was late in the day, they were in a lonely place and the people were hungry with no food to eat. Jesus responded by telling them, “You feed them.” The disciples immediately panicked and pointed out that doing so would be massively expensive, costing up to 8 months of a man’s wages. They also implied that they did not have enough money to make even a dent in that need. Undeterred, Jesus asked them what they did have. They went out and returned with a young boy who was willing to share his 5 small loaves and 2 little fish. Jesus took it, looked up to heaven, and GAVE THANKS! Then he just started passing out the food. And not only did more than 5,000 people eat to their heart’s content, but afterwards the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers! (See Mark 6:30-44 and John 6:1-15)
Did you ever stop to wonder how the young boy who gave his lunch to Jesus felt? Can you imagine the exhilaration he must have had watching his 5 small loaves and 2 little fish feed a crowd of well over 5,000 people? I bet he went home and told that story over and over and over again. He probably felt like, as long as he was with Jesus, anything was possible. One young boy who was willing to share his simple lunch was all Jesus needed to meet the overwhelming needs of a very hungry crowd.
A new organization: 5 Small Loaves
And it is in this spirit that Rachel and I are startinga new organization, called 5 Small Loaves. This past decade of living on the Navajo reservation has taught us that our community, the church, our country, even the world is in critical need. But God had also been pounding into our heads, that we, people (both individually and collectively), are simply unable to meet the overwhelming needs. But God can. And like the young boy and the 12 disciples He wants to allow us to be a part of the process. Because it’s not just about collecting the resources, or even feeding the people, but it’s about encouraging, empowering and producing faith.
Twelve years ago, we began our ministry in Native America when I accepted a call to pastor the Christian Indian Center, a Native American Christian church in Denver, CO. Two years later, God called our family to move to the Navajo Reservation. We understood that the primary purposes of this call was to experience life on the reservation, learn more about my Navajo language and culture, and identify more closely with our native peoples. Because of this, I made the intentional decision to shed all of my leadership responsibilities and positions. I knew that eventually I would be called again to lead, but first my call was just to “be” among my people and allow the Creator to deepen his work in me. I began blogging during this time and I welcome you to read my thoughts and reflections as I experienced this wilderness journey with my family (Blog article: When I Grow up I want to be a Shepherd).
For the past 5-7 years, I have mostly participated only in dialogues where I was invited to engage. This included joining the Boards of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). I also accepted invitations to speak, and even lead (in partnership with other organizations) on issues of diversity, racial reconciliation, and other faith issues.
But in the past 3-5 years, there have been 3 specific issues that I have been compelled to speak out on and lead into primarily on my own. These issues were so important to me but yet incredibly controversial throughout the broader country that I found if I did not speak then nothing would be said or done. These issues were:
- Creating a space for native voices in national political elections.
- Advocating for the inclusion of the indigenous peoples of this land in the dialogue to comprehensively and justly reform our nation’s immigration laws.
- To publicly and respectfully read the U.S. apology to Native peoples that was buried in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.
The experience of leading each of these 3 conversations in addition to all the other work has been incredibly rewarding but physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually exhausting. And that is why we are starting 5 Small Loaves. We sense that the season of being in the “wilderness” is coming to an end, and a new season of building partnerships and leading is beginning. It is our hope that through this organization, we will be able to not only engage in dialogue where we are invited, but also to initiate and bring these conversations to various communities, groups, institutions and organizations throughout the country. We will also be able to receive people for training and provide education on issues of missions, contextualized worship, and other aspects of culture and faith.
- Reshaping American church missions from a charity, assimilation and parental model to one of humble learners in need of partnership from a rich and culturally-diverse body.
- Giving space for Native Americans to speak and participate in American politics and policy issues such as immigration reform and national elections.
- Equipping and empowering Native American Christians to participate in missions from the context of indigenous cultures and world views
- Encouraging Native Americans to embrace their God-given cultural characteristics that result in authentic worship of the Creator and his son Jesus.
- Empowering Native Americans to embrace their collective role as the host peoples of this land, and offering this “nation of immigrants” wisdom, leadership and adoption.
*In obedience to God, racial reconciliation is a commitment to building cross cultural relationships of forgiveness, repentance, love and hope that result in walking in beauty with our fellow man and God.
Pursuing reconciliation through honest education, intentional conversation and meaningful action.
*See PROJECTS for additional information on each of these topics
WHERE YOU FIT IN
We chose the name, 5 Small Loaves, intentionally, so we would have a constant reminder that the responsibility for solving the problems and needs in this world belongs to God. We also want to remember and communicate that the support and funding for this work is not dependent upon any one person, group, or organization and that no gift is too small.
After the disciples told Jesus that they did not have enough of their own resources to feed to people, he told them to go and find out what they did have. And that is what this letter is all about. We do not have enough resources to accomplish the work listed above, but we know that God wants us to do something. So we are taking inventory. What do we have? Who is willing to stand with us? What resources can be given?
Currently, we have 4 members (Mark and Rachel Charles and Tim and Martha Stoner) committed to 5 Small Loaves. Each of us are ready to give 30-40 hours per week to the projects included within this letter. There are also the administrative, operational, and travel costs to support. We are currently in discussion with another mission organization who could serve as a fiscal partner in order to pursue grants to support larger projects under their non-profit umbrella and to receive administrative support through them. We will know in the next few months if this setup will work for both of our organizations.
There are still several ways that you can partner immediately with and support the vision of 5 Small Loaves.
- Connect with us by filling out our online Google Doc Form.
- Host a Conversation – We are eager to work with partners, individuals and organizations who are interested in hosting a conversation regarding any of the work in which 5 Small Loaves is involved (I.e. Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation, US Apology to Natives, Navajo Time Perception, Mission Models, Diversity, 51st vNAs, etc). Our events coordinator (Rachel Charles) will work with you to setup an event in your local area.
- Arrange Speaking Engagements – Mark Charles, the founder and director of 5 Small Loaves is available for any type of public speaking engagement (preaching, seminar, conference plenary, panel discussion, etc.).
- Prayer Support – If you would like to pray for the work and needs of our ministry you can LIKE our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/5SmallLoaves) or send us your email address and we will keep you updated on latest praises, needs and concerns.
- Financial Support – Instructions for giving to the work of 5 Small Loaves can be found below.
In the beginning stages of our organization, there are 4 options for giving financial gifts.
1. A tax-deductible gift for the “ministry of Mark Charles” can be made payable to the Christian Indian Center and mailed to: PO Box 211248, Denver, CO 80221.
2. A tax-deductible gift for the “ministry of Tim and Martha Stoner” can be made payable to
FREEDOM OF NATIONS and mailed to: 37 ROAD 5297, FARMINGTON, NM 87401
3. A NON tax-deductible gift can be given directly to 5 Small Loaves
c/o Mark Charles, P.O. Box 2672, Fort Defiance, AZ 86504
4. A NON tax-deductible gift can be given thru PAYPAL directly to Mark Charles (designate for the work of 5 Small Loaves in the transfer) Use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Small Loaves can also be found online at:
Thank you for your valued support of this work.
Founder and Director of 5 Small Loaves