We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Wisconsin-N. Michigan Network Church Reaching Members of Menominee Nation Through Relationship Evangelism

Small church makes inroads with an Indigenous Nation of North America territory through genuine, positive relationships.
A small Wisconsin-N. Michigan Network Assemblies of God church that has been building bridges with the Menominee people for years is now seeing the fruit of its ministry through relationship evangelism.

Located within the Menominee Nation territory, Keshena Assembly of God has about 45 attendees.

The church is pastored by Matthew L. Golie, a U.S. Missions missionary with Intercultural Ministries.

Since Matt and his wife Terri, who have three sons, came to Keshena Assembly in October 2018, they have been seeking to make inroads with the gospel at the Menominee territory—which has a population of about 5,000 people.

Golie, 38, worked for four years as a school bus driver and his wife served three years as an elementary schoolteacher on the territory prior to pastoring Keshena Assembly.

Last September, Golie was able to learn how to do birch bark porcupine quill work from a Menominee elder, one of very few tribal members who teaches the craft on the territory.

He had built a relationship with Paula Waukau and he has showed a genuine interest in the art form for years.

“Paula shared with me that in all the years that she has done quill work, no one has ever asked her to teach them, except for me,” says Golie, who has since taught quill working to his oldest son, Josiah. The art form dates back more than 300 years.

“I personally believe this is a huge deal because one of the things I have heard time and time again is that the church has tried to kill everything native. So when I, as the head of our church, take time to learn aspects of the culture, I believe it brings opportunity for healing to come to these historical wounds.”

Miriam Waupoose, 31, a culture teacher at the territory, agrees.

“I find it very, very powerful,” she says. “I have watched him immerse into our culture to meet the people who he is serving. He takes the time and understands our ways, past, and future on his own. He has shown our people a whole different side of Christianity. Our community hasn’t seen that here. They have seen the church as someone who was harsh on our people and said we need to change.”

Kayshia M. Wayka, a social worker in the Menominee territory, notes that Golie and Keshena Assembly have shown a real heart for the community.

“I have witnessed pastor Matt show great empathy to those struggling with addiction, always offering as much support as possible,” she says. “I see him doing so much for the Menominee community, which makes me proud that we have someone so compassionate to help the tribe I am from.”

Wayka met Golie in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic when he offered to open his church doors for a support group for people struggling with addiction.

“During the height of the pandemic, facilities were closing their doors to the public with limited services,” she recalls. “The pandemic was brutal for everyone but incredibly hard for those struggling with addiction and mental health challenges. I genuinely believe Pastor Matt helped save lives by having his doors remain open with the social
distancing restrictions for the addiction group members.”

Diane M Hietpa, 60, a community member, says Keshena Assembly has made an impact in the community.

“Pastor Matt opens his church to all community members, regardless of if they are a member of the church,” she adds. “Many events such as clothing drives, community meals, Christmas gift drives and family nights are held at the church. By being familiar with the native culture, pastor Matt can easily start conversations with community members, make them feel welcome and accepted in the church environment. People who are new to attending events at the church often return for future events.”

Francisco Alegria, who is the tribal nutritionist of the Menominee territory, notes that Golie has been “building more positive relationships” with the community.

“He is very supportive of our culture,” adds Alegria, 38, who recently attended Keshena Assembly for the first time. “He is learning from community members, elders, and youth, which is the traditional way to learn our culture. He doesn't just sit at the church and rely on us to come to him.”

Waupoose has been impacted by the church.

“I really got to know pastor Matt during the COVID-19 pandemic at an addiction support group that was at the church,” she recalls. “Pastor Matt showed up in my life when I was praying for a genuine friend.”

Waupoose, who had struggled with prescription opiates, notes that Golie and his wife cultivated a relationship with her.

More than 22 percent of Menominee residents fall within the poverty lines, and drug abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy are high, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I felt and trusted pastor Matt because I could see how he really lives a life for Christ,” says Waupoose, who accepted Jesus as her savior in February 2023. “There are so many aspects that pastor Matt and Terri have helped me with, but mainly accepting Jesus’ grace…God’s light shines through him and his whole family. I now witness God’s light and power in my life.”

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.