Native Strength Network

If you previously have not heard of Native Strength Network (NSN), well, it’s because it never was.

Now it is. It’s a newborn nonprofit organization. The Native Christians Network is seeing an opportunity to reach Native American tribes across the country with the gospel and provide other help.

But isn’t our synod doing that already? Doesn’t the WELS Native American Mission already have a long history of bringing the good news of Jesus – and other help – to tribal lands?

Good question. Answer: Indeed, so. Currently, there are nine congregations, two elementary schools, and an Apache Christian Training School on two reservations, Fort Apache and San Carlos. There are worship services, Sunday Schools, youth groups, ladies’ groups, men’s groups, Bible studies, and sermon studies already going on. Builders for Christ, Kingdom Workers, Lutheran Women’s Mission Society, and so many others have contributed manpower, prayer support, and financial help in various ways at various times.

Then why are we partnering with the Native Strength Network?

Missionary Daniel Rautenberg explains:

“Oftentimes when we’re going through a difficult time someone will tell us, ‘Be strong.’ That’s not always comforting. The truth is we don’t have enough strength on our own. But God does. He is our strength. And when we connect to him and connect with each other in a network we are stronger together.”

Ah, yes…connection. God connects with us through Word and sacrament. At that very same time – through those very same means – we connect with one another. Native Strength Network aspires to see more connections made as Native community members emerge as leaders, service providers, and helpers. Stronger together.

Through a generous grant, the vision of a nonprofit became a reality. In 2023, the Native Strength Network was able to hire an executive director, Andrea Semmann. With her enthusiasm, experience, and especially her love for the Lord driving her, she hit the ground running; she’s been plowing the sticky ground of red tape to meet government requirements and obtain such things as an Employment Identification Number (EIN), a National Provider Identifier Standard (NPI), the Articles of Incorporation, a 501(c)3 tax exempt status, and a community service agency (CSA) status.

Whew.

But that’s not all. The logo that they use? The name that it is? The board of directors? The website? All these things didn’t simply come into existence with a brief four-word command like, “Let there be light.” (Oh, that it could be that easy!) It has taken lots of work, teamwork, to brainstorm and “create” Native Strength Network for what it is. And for what it will become.

And what is that?

Native Strength Network exists to serve Native American communities across the country in a holistic, peer-led approach to wellness, meeting an individual’s identified needs with love and compassion.

Andrea adds these thoughts:

“Every community has its own strengths that can be used to help and support fellow community members. The communities that Native Strength Network intends to serve are no different. With training and support, members of these communities can bring needed care in the areas of mental health, substance use, and overall wellness and resilience. Trained peers and mentors from the community offer support and help navigating the healthcare system to ensure that proper care is received for those struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder. By seeing every individual as a physical, emotional, and spiritual being, Native Strength Network will care for the whole person. This whole person approach is one that creates lasting change throughout a community that is caring for one another. I would love to talk to more community members about opportunities.”

What fuels her passion for Native Strength Network? Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

Ah, yes. Love. Easy to talk about it. Not always easy to show. Especially when it comes to challenging and complicated life situations. So it’s important to keep in mind Martin Luther’s insightful comment:

God doesn’t need your good works…but your neighbor does.

What good works might our Native American brothers and sisters in Christ appreciate? Maybe these following statistics and information give us a hint as to what needs are there and how we, together, can reach out to love one another . . .

Native communities in the U.S. face challenges:

• 300% higher drug addiction rate than the national average.
• Suicide rate over 3.5 times higher, especially in youth aged 10-24.
• 2.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than white adults.
• The unemployment rate frequently exceeds 70%.
• Numerous Native communities are situated in Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs).
• Most Native Americans do have access to healthcare but may need assistance to navigate benefits.

Wow. Where does one even begin?

Hmmm… How about on one’s knees in prayer for Native Strength Network?

Written by Rev. John Holtz, world missionary on the Native American Mission. 

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