Casey Church New Wiconi Director
In December, I accepted the call to become the Director of Wiconi International. My family and I are honored to accept this challenge. This is my story:
I am a Pokagon Band Potawatomi Indian from southwest Lower Michigan. My Indian name is Ankwawango, which means, "Hole in the Clouds."
I was born in Allegan, Michigan in 1957, the first son of the late Leonard and Mary Church of Dorr, Michigan. My parents were highly respected community members, supporters and attendees of Salem Indian United Methodist Church. Most of who I am as a person today reflects their Christian influence in my life. I am the middle child of seven siblings, and attended high school in a farming community. I served as a Sergeant E-5 in the United States Marine Corps from 1980 to 1986. I have been a motorcycle, auto and truck mechanic, a die casting machine builder, jack-of-all-trades, tinker and pastor.
Since military service I have maintained my physical conditioning as a (Tibo) fitness instructor, mid-distance triathlon competitor and teammate on the Prince Corporation running team in Holland, Michigan. Today, I also enjoy running with my dog Makwa, "Bear," a two year-old German Shepherd I call my "trainer."
My personal background was God's way of preparing me to develop a contextual evangelism approach that can reach the unreached Native Americans among us. My personal life is also contextual and cross-contextual having
married Lora Morgan, a Navajo from Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1990. Although we are both Native Americans, we come from two very different cultural traditions-Navajo and Potawatomi. We lived in Michigan for 10 years and have now lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico since 2000. Our children are daughters Shandiin, 22; Alilee, 20; Nihoni, 17; Deezbah, 14 and our son Bahozhoni, 10.
I began my studies by earning a degree in Anthropology from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. There I studied the cultures and religions of various Native tribes, especially those of my own Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes region.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I continued my education by attending Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and later Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. I am now seeking to further my calling by pursuing a Doctor of Missiology at Fuller's School of Intercultural Studies.
While working on my seminary degree, I have maintained a personal involvement with the Native American community in Albuquerque. I have learned to incorporate culturally appropriate expressions of worship, which I believe will free Native American people to more fully understand the Creator from within their Native worldview.
During our years in Albuquerque, my wife and I have continued to serve as Wiconi International representatives to the Southwest through various ministry forms in order to promote contextual ministry awareness. We've accomplished this by pastoring a ministry and hosting aMany Nations One Voice
conference. We also host a contextual musical group at our home church in Albuquerque.
I serve on the board of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), and participate in their symposiums. Most recently I presented a paper titled "Creating Native American Expressions of Christian Faith" at the 2014 NAIITS symposium at George Fox Seminary, Newberg, Oregon.
My family and I have been involved with the Wiconi Family Camp and Powwow for the past decade. I worked with Richard Twiss, assisting in various aspects of camp and the powwow. My children "grew up" coming to Family Camp and dancing in the powwow.
Since the passing of Dr. Richard Twiss (Sicangu Lakota), I was asked first to become Family Camp Director and now as the Director of Wiconi. I willingly step into this position in order to use my gifts and talents in leading Wiconi as we make our way forward on this exciting journey.
Despite the many challenges presented, my wife and I are excited about the great potential that exists-the great privilege to follow Dr. Twiss' example of calling out a new generation of young Native American leaders who will love and follow Jesus and share Him in such a way that many Native people will rise up and say, "This is good news!"
To that end we live and to that end we serve. I look forward to working with all those involved with Wiconi International and other ministries. Lora and I ask for your prayers as we serve you and the Lord in this new season of our journey.
Director, Wiconi International