Ministering Among the Tribes
Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries Augustin and Cindy Jorquez know their ministry to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony must go far beyond preaching. Among northern Nevada's tribes, actions declare the gospel far louder than words.
In eight years of pastoring in the colony's Hungry Valley Reservation, a Native American hamlet of 500, the Jorquezes have won souls to Christ — along with growing acceptance and respect from the area's 1,100 Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe.
Augustin Jorquez says from the beginning he has been intentionally relational in building bridges with tribal department directors and elders.
That has meant ministry moves beyond the Hungry Valley Christian Fellowship's Sunday meetings in the tribal community center. The Jorquezes volunteer in public health, education, substance abuse counseling and treatment, and suicide prevention programs. The couple also launched a popular, annual summer Native American Praise and Worship Festival, along with jail and prison outreach ministries.
Jorquez acknowledges his own Apache and Yaqui ancestry has been a plus, but the Holy Spirit is the primary component in reaching Native Americans.
“You can be black, red, yellow, or polka-dotted, and if you have the Holy Spirit, that's when you can make a tremendous difference in transforming lives, bringing smiles to children's faces, knowing there is a greater vision for all nations, to illuminate the truth and empower people,” he says.
That attitude has won admiration from Arlan Melendez, the colony's tribal chairman.
“They interact with our community, getting involved in activities that really aren't affiliated with the church,” Melendez says. “They recognize the importance of building relationships with people. That's a challenge with Native Americans and on the reservation, where only about four percent have ever embraced Christianity.”
Native peoples have come to view the gospel as a religion that initially rode the coattails of conquering armies, first the Spanish and later white Americans. Until recent years, they saw the missionaries among them as interlopers who barely bothered to unpack their bags before moving on to more desirable church or missions assignments.
Jorquez says Assemblies of God churches have worked hard to rectify that in recent years, recognizing the value of long-term pastoral commitments. Still, distrust built up over generations takes time to overcome.
Hungry Valley Christian Fellowship started as a result of the prayers of a Native elder for salvation of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
“Because there wasn't any Christian ministry in the community, she also began praying for a church,” Cindy Jorquez recalls. “After much prayer and discussion and consideration, we knew that God was calling us to move and minister here.”
The couple, who have a 10-year-old daughter, Katie, minister as a team.
They came to Hungry Valley prepared by past missions experience and training. Augustin's résumé includes leadership roles as a college campus pastor and director of Native American Urban Ministries in Hayward, California. Cindy has served on missions trips to Australia and Africa, church leadership teams, as an inner-city evangelist with Teen Challenge International USA, and as an AG missionary associate with Teen Challenge Jamaica.
Among Augustin's passions are talking circles, which he directs under the auspices of the tribal courts to work with drug, alcohol, and gang offenders. Four gangs compete for tribal youth in the colony.
Converts have been hard-won. The Jorquezes counseled a tribal couple through drug addictions, gang involvement, and domestic violence. The couple eventually chose to follow the “Jesus Way,” were married, baptized, and now faithfully attend services in the Hungry Valley church.
The Jorquezes also led a former Special Forces Vietnam War veteran and tribal police chief to Christ. At age 58, he was baptized — along with eight of his children.
Augustin and Cindy’s commitment to both the tribal communities they serve wins praise from Malcom Burleigh, national senior director for AG Intercultural Ministries.
“Augustin and Cindy Jorquez are fulfilling the vision to discover, disciple, deploy, and duplicate indigenous ministers of the gospel,” Burleigh says.
The Jorquezes say their work has just begun.
“We want to help the people here move from victimization to victorious life, to turn the trail of tears into a journey of rejoicing,” Augustin says. “The gospel is not owned by white men, but it is for all tribes, all people.”