Last week I was on a conference call with some colleagues from a Christian organization that I partner with. We were discussing an educational project we are working on regarding the long history of injustice against Native Americans by the United States government and the Christian church. During the discussion it became clear that some conversations needed to be facilitated with some native leaders in the area where I live on the Navajo reservation and then a face to face meeting would be necessary with other members of our team. I offered both to facilitate these conversations as well as to fly to the city where our face to face meetings would be held. The organization offered to cover the cost of my airline ticket, but asked, with some trepidation, if they would also be responsible to compensate me for my time as a consultant. I quickly assured them that I normally do not charge for work on projects such as these.
A few months ago I accepted an invitation to speak at a conference for a nationally known evangelical organization. The wanted me to speak about the Doctrine of Discovery and the history of injustice by our nation and the church against Native Americans. They were willing to help cover some of the travel expenses to get to the conference, but we’re not able to pay an honorarium for speaking.
A year and a half ago, in front of the capitol building in Washington DC, I hosted a public reading of the U.S. apology to Native peoples that was buried in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. I spent most of 2012 traveling throughout the United States inviting our nation to this event. I spoke with evangelical, political, church, academic and business leaders throughout the country. But on the day of the event the overwhelming majority of people who showed up were from the grass roots level.
These are just a few examples of the many opportunities that are presented to our organization on a weekly, and sometimes even a daily, basis. In fact, it is opportunities like these that prompted my wife and I start 5 Small Loaves in the first place.
God is at work. He is softening the hearts of people, organizations and institutions throughout the United States. And there is a growing openness to have conversations regarding topics like the Doctrine of Discovery and systemic injustice against Native Americans. But this openness is still young and conversations like these need to be nurtured, coaxed and gently encouraged. So while there is a growing willingness to talk about these issues, there are almost no institutions, agencies or organizations willing to pay for them.
And that is where I would like to ask for your help. 5 Small Loaves is committed to pursuing reconciliation through honest education, intentional conversation, and meaningful action. Our desire is to encourage, initiate, and foster these types of educational opportunities and conversations in churches, academic institutions and other organizations on local, regional, and even national levels. But we cannot do it alone. We need people to help make introductions into these conversations. We need partners to help cover our expenses, compensate our time, and fund the development of educational resources. We also need prayer warriors who are willing to beseech the Creator on our behalf that doors may be opened, hearts may be softened, and that true change will begin to take place.
This week, we are at a decision point for our young organization. We have been operating for nearly 2 months and have more than enough work to do, but so far we have not received a sustainable amount of donations. Because of this we do not have funds to compensate myself or Rachel for the time we have been investing, and we have some bills and other life expenses that need to be paid. The good news is that no matter what happens, this work will continue. If the funds are not available then I will merely go back to my work as a computer programmer and Rachel will look for a part-time job. We will continue to initiate, lead, and encourage these conversations, just at a slower pace and on a part-time basis. But if the funds do become available then we will be able to continue to write articles, travel, initiate conversations, and host people on the reservation at the same pace we have been doing for the past 2 months.
Here is a taste of some of the projects which are on our horizon.
• Our new partners in 5 Small Loaves, Tim and Martha Stoner, will be moving to the Fort Defiance area within a couple of weeks to join us in our work. (Prayers are still needed that a home will open up for them to rent)
• On June 18, I will be speaking on a panel at a conference in Washington DC on Theology, Ethics, and Implicit Bias.
• I will continue to work on the planning for the next Would Jesus Eat Frybread? Conference for InterVarsity and Cru Native American students in November.
• Tim and Martha will begin to work on developing a mission team comprised of Native Americans to respond to an invitation from the Philippines to assist with rebuilding projects in remote villages after its recent devastating typhoon.
• In July, 5 Small Loaves will begin operating a coffee shop a few days a week at a nearby church facility. This is a project they had started once before and needs revitalization. We saw this as an opportunity to engage with our local community as an organization, and in exchange for our work we will use office space at this site.
• Plans are underway to host a regional Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference on the reservation next April. This conference will serve to educate partner CCD ministries in the Southwest region as well as many rural practitioners from around the nation about the history of our nation and the church with Native Americans. As well as provide training and give a context for future relationship building with Native communities.
We invite you to pray with us. We invite you to pray for us. And we invite you to consider partnering with us. God is at work. We have seen it and are experiencing it.
Thank you for reading this letter. As our name implies, we are not looking for any one individual or organization to come and rescue us. But rather we are seeking anyone who is willing to share their “five small loaves or two little fish”. For in the hands of the Creator, even a small lunch given in faith is more than sufficient.
Mark and Rachel Charles
Co-Founders of 5 Small Loaves